One Thing at a Time: Being Goal-Free in 2019

This year, to mix things up a little, I have decided against any New-Year goal-setting.
For a number of reasons, the main one being my tendency to put too much pressure on myself, another being the straightforward unnecessary-ness of it all, I have decided to have a NO-GOALS year.
No goals whatsoever. Sort of.

Alright, I have some things I want to get done, and you might call them “goals”, but I won’t be writing them down anywhere, they won’t be measurable, there won’t be a time-span, they won’t provide me with all that much direction or clarity and I won’t be held “accountable” if they don’t get done. So they’re barely even goals. Just little projects with zero pressure and therefore zero stress.

In the words of Stephen Fry:

“..if I meet my goals, what then? Is that it, is my life over? I met my goal, do I just set another one? What’s the meaning of the first goal if the second one has to be set? Or if I don’t meet it, am I a failure?”

That’s sort of why I’m flipping my usual ritual on it’s head this year, doing away with tradition. I’m tired of feeling like a semi-failure. I’ve been setting far too many goals each January, and although I tend to meet a handful of them, the rest niggle away at me and by the end of the year at the back of my head lies a blurry but significant sense of incompleteness. Like a part-furnished room or a drawer littered with odd socks. Just ergh.

Set too many goals and you’re doomed, set none at all and…well you can pretty much just live your life non-existent-un-met-goal-niggle-free can’t you.

I suppose it depends upon the goals in question.

Examples of goals set in the past include:
1.) Read a book a week. And make sure it’s a “worthy book”. And chick-lit doesn’t count, way too enjoyable you’ve got to feel like you’re “growing” and learning from the book.
2.) Give up sugar, all day, every day, forever and ever. Just stop all the joy.
3.) Get up to London as much as possible to see plays, just live on that train. Fuck it just move to London at some stage.
4.) Work towards a body you love. That body exists with 10lbs less tummy doesn’t it.
5.) Be more present with Maia. Be more patient. Just be the perfect mother at all times and never ever lose your shit ever. Calm down. Just be very very different.
6.) Drink exactly the right amount of water, 6-8 litres, which seems like rather a lot, for the perfect glowing skin you know you could have.
7.) EVERY DAY: Meditate for 10 minutes, practice yoga, write in gratitude journal and practice mindfulness. Make them all a part of your routine and STICK TO IT.
8.) Make more green smoothies and use Nutribullet more so you don’t feel you over-spent on an under-used kitchen appliance.
9.) Set time each morning to read a newspaper so you feel you’re keeping up with current affairs and could adequately converse on any given topic should the need arise.
10.) LEARN SPANISH. Just learn the whole language in all that spare time you have.

Alright, I worded these a little differently when I wrote them down originally. – One, two, three self-critiquing-rich years ago. Most are still reasonably relevant. I just care a lot less now for some of them. Progress over perfection. A happy medium over anxiety- inducing all or nothing thinking. More freedom to just be. 

I won’t be trying to give up sugar entirely again any time soon. I may try and reduce my intake, but will not see it as a failure should I devour anything and everything, sugar content irrelevant, as and when I see fit.

Wanting to read a book a week was an admirable intention, but a rather ridiculous goal in hind-sight. Other than fast readers, editors and other-people-whose-job-it-is-to-read-books, who on earth gets to read a book a week? Books are and always will be magic to me, the perfect escapism. They are to be enjoyed not used as some kind of benchmark for intellectual development. There will be no more ‘READ THIS MANY BOOKS OR ELSE…”. Oh and whilst on the topic of books, I’ve finally reached a point where I will quite readily give up on a book, at ANY stage. Life is too short and we have such limited time for reading as it is.

Though I will always aim for calm, I’m not going to attempt to be “present” with my daughter each and every minute that I am with her and then beat myself up for every minute that I am very much not. I’m doing my best, that is the permanent parenting and general-life goal.

As much as I would love a flawless complexion, and highly rate staying hydrated, I am not going to drink what can feel like gallons of water in an attempt to attain “perfect” skin and then spend every few minutes going back and forth to the toilet, then get frustrated when I find my skin is not in fact and never will be “perfect”.

I’d love to learn Spanish eventually, have a regular yoga routine, and sip green smoothies whilst reading the Guardian in the mornings, but I’m just not there yet. (I also have a five year old, so no time for the paper in the morning, barely time for food let alone current affairs).
I think much of my previous goal setting is just impatience. It’s been me, wanting to do and achieve ALL THE THINGS in 12 months. Be a significantly “better” version of myself by the end of the year.

I thought being a better-me would make me happy.
It’s taken a while, but I’ve slowly come to realise, this is it, this is me and I can be happy, just the way I am. (Like Bridget Jones but without the granny pants.)
Not when processed sugar is a distant memory.
Not when I’ve read more of the classics.
Not when I’ve had articles published in X, Y or Z.
Right now, as I am, a perfectly imperfect human just like everyone else.
Flawed n shit.

Goals can be brilliant. They can provide clarity and focus and direction. It’s an amazing feeling having something to work towards. (As most people do, in at least one area of their life, even without realising it). 

I think that’s the key. Something. As in, one thing. One thing at a time.
I’m not very good at one thing at a time.
I like to do all the things, all at the same time.
(Then get frustrated when inevitably things take considerably longer to get finished.)

This year, of course I’ve got my little projects, and my slightly bigger dreams, but I won’t be setting myself up for failure with any of it. I won’t be too disheartened if I don’t manage to fit as much into the next 12 months as I’d like. There is always next year. At 25, life doesn’t have to be such a rush. I used to despise this expression but one really can just go with the flow. I plan to enjoy the journey, whilst it’s still so enjoyable.



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