December in January: A goal is something you want to hit

a soccer goal net

Just before the end of the past year, I decided to forgo my usual habit of cramming my annual planning into the most riotously busy time of the year. Hence, “December in January,” where I spend the first month of the chronological new year planning my own, to begin in February.

My friend, Naomi, wrote a post about making unstupid goals whose central thesis has been ringing in my head for the week since I read it:

A goal is something you want to hit.

I’m paraphrasing, as is my wont, but I think it’s a fair translation of Naomi’s philosophy and so let’s work with my version, and do some of that unpacking we spoke of yesterday:

  1. A goal is something YOU want to hit. It’s about the thing you want, not that your mother, the IRS, or your cardiologist wants for you.
  2. A goal is something you WANT to hit. It’s not something you feel obligated to do; you want it, and in the way that makes your heart beat faster with joy and anticipation and promise.

As Naomi admits, there are also things you should do to keep a roof over your kid’s head and yourself out of the emergency room. I’ll add that there are things you might seriously want to think about doing because you will end up alone and despised without them. These are not goals, they’re responsibilities. They fall under the rubric of being a grownup, and to be a grownup, you put on your Big-Girl Pants and TCB.

Jinny Ditzler, author of my beloved and cursed Your Best Year Yet, agrees that goals should be motivating. As she says, when you’re done with the process, the long and often arduous process, of corralling your data and drawing your goals from it, you should look down at that list of 10 things and want to do cartwheels. (I’m paraphrasing again, of course, but I think Jinny would approve.) You should be so fired up about these things that you can’t wait to get started. Doesn’t mean they won’t be every bit as hard to accomplish as the responsibilities are sometimes to bear (or the #@$!( process itself is to get through), but they should be challenging in the good way.

I’d say I didn’t know how I missed that these last two years that I’ve been carving out my goals, but I do: I ignored the obvious. I’m really good at ignoring the obvious, as it turns out; I can do it for two years (and change) and still look like a high-functioning, can-do dynamo of…something-or-other. Like anyone else, I get invested in outcome, attached to comfort and all of a sudden, another two years have gone by and I’m still in the same place.

I am still not 100% sure what My Best Groundhog Year Yet is going to look like exactly. I have a lot of time in airports and on planes and in hotel rooms over the next couple of weeks to think about it. There’s a really good chance that certain things on my dining room table are going to make it onto the final list, though, because I am really excited about them.

I’m excited about reading 52 books. I am loving reading, period, I’d forgotten how much I missed an uninterrupted half-hour or hour daily to read. And while some days I get anxious before picking up my book, thinking about all the things I have to do, and how late I just slept in, and how I could really use that half-hour or hour to do some of them, thus far I’ve been able to gently (for the most part) set that anxiety to the side and just read. (It helps that I’m reading really good books so far!)

I’m excited about continuing to study Nei Kung. It’s only been six weeks so far, but already, I’m so much better at it than any other physical activity I’ve tried. I wanted to be a runner and a bicyclist and a yogini, but I’m just not built for them. Apparently, I’m built like a Chinese martial arts enthusiast. Go figger.

I’m (still) excited about writing on my blog. So you can either rejoice or curse, but I’m not going anywhere. I may change the way I approach the blog, most likely, I will have to, if I want to write anything else, but write, I will.

Other things are more up in the air right now. I have several project ideas starting to shape up; they’ll have to finish baking before I can decide which ones I want to roll with. I also have several concepts I’ve been mulling over, trying to suss out what their corresponding real-world actions are. Is the answer to “piano?” really “piano!” or is is some other manifestation of “music.” I tried and abandoned the 10-minutes-of-guitar-per-day experiment just two months into ’09; while part of me wants to JUST TRY IT AGAIN, another part of me feels that I’m really responding to the cheesy symmetry of 10 in ’10. Once an adhole, always an adhole.

I am curious to hear how other people handle the Exciting Goal vs. Big-Girl-Pants Obligation divide. Which is in each column for you, and how many of each? And how are you carving them up? Part of the reason the 52 books/year jumped to the head of the line was because of Julien’s genius-simple 40pp/day rule. Are there others of these I’m missing?

Whaddya got for me?


Image by ewiemann via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. It’s pretty amazing when the big girl panties and the hitting the goal thing happen at the same time.

    I had that moment yesterday when before presenting a workshop where a friend happened to be, she mentioned I looked all professional (we cycle together, so she typically sees me those sexy shorts).

    I mentioned I had my big girl panties on, meaning I was working-to pay for the roof- but also, part of work shopping is growing my business in new ways, a goal I put out there for 2010.

    As for how many in each column, I too haven’t got to the deep BYY, planning. I like the idea of February…

  2. My goal is to make my own goals! I’ve been doing this unproductive thing lately, finding people exactly my age and comparing my life to theirs. And at 27, a lot of people are getting married and starting families, buying houses, or taking off in the career that they’ve worked toward since college or before. None of these apply to me, and it’s always the Big Responsible Life Things that I see as my failures. But I’m finding that if I really dig down and identify the goals that jazz me, I can (sort of) forget that other outside expectation stuff. Crowd it out with the excitement of ALLOWING myself to want something else. Making a coherent plan to meet my goals = whole other ball of wax.

    As for the guitar thing – could it just be the wrong instrument? Does guitar not do it for you? I always tell my violin students to practice 10 minutes per day if nothing else, but sometimes the think method of practicing is okay. Just imagine the music and yourself playing it.

  3. I’m on Day 4 of my new goal and while it’s physically kicking my fanny, I’m still pretty excited about it. The hubs and I gave up eating carbs, sugar & dairy…and holy shit, the awareness this challenge is bringing to my body and what I put in it is amazing.

    Of course, I’m expecting to be a bitch in a couple of days when a sugar craving hits me hard, but even working through that sounds like fun. My co-workers might not agree.

    We’re doing this in preparation for our honeymoon and I feel, with that kind of reward laying in wait for me, I don’t need no stinkin’ bread.

    (She types while dreaming of baguettes…)

  4. I’m excited about getting in the best shape of my life…and excited, but also scared shitless, about writing (AND FINISHING) a novel. I’m just now looking into the “Book a Week” thing as I have a pretty huge stack of unread books that just keeps on growing. I’d love to see your reading list, are you planning to share it on the blog?

  5. Hey.

    Just wanted to say that you being really visible about giving yourself permission to do it your way REALLY helps for me to do it my way.

    I remember Naomi talking about reading autobiographies of famous people in lieu of the almost impossible ‘surround yourself with positive and sucessful people’ mantra.

    Just realising that reading blogs by people ‘like’ you are doing the same thing for me – helping me to find my way and carry on walking it.

  6. I’m excited to hear more about your Nei Kung experiences. I’m a sometimes practicioner of Qi-Gong and yoga and am interested in hearing about other internal systems.

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