or, Purposeful Goal-Setting
New Year's resolutions are tricky. They are often lofty, ill-planned, half-assed, and very difficult to keep. We want the new year to bring about a new us, but how to we stick it out?
2014 was a big one for me - a big move, a big resolution, a big lifestyle change. (And beyond that, a big question to which I said "yes". Read my wedding story soon). We had just moved to Vancouver for hubby's (then boyfriend's) career. We had always talked about food, health and ethics, and I had been doing quite a bit of reading and research into food ethics, specifically. When it came time to pick a new year's resolution I decided to put my money where my mouth was. Or put my fork where my head was.
"If I really believe in the ethical treatment of animals for food, I guess I gotta practice what I preach. I can't be a hypocrite."
That simple realization changed the entire way I nourish my body and make food choices for my household. I decided to only eat meat that was raised in ethical ways. This officially made me fall into the [undesired] category of "Flexitarian". Due to the selection of produce where I was living I was living almost as a complete vegetarian. It changed the way I shopped, cooked. It changed my metabolism, my energy, how much I ate out. I am proud to say that two years later I am still living by that decision (though not quite as militantly). That was a big resolution, one that was difficult to keep. It became part of my identity and served to interest or alienate the people around me. 2014 was an example of a capital "R" Resolution; a finite decision that I stuck to without question. I've decided that 2014 will be my Last Resolution.
So what now, as we enter 2016? I've done a lot of thinking, meditating and journaling on the concept of plans vs goals. And this year I am firmly replacing the word "Resolution" with "Goal".
After moving around the province, country and continent for many years I learned that plans rarely come to fruition. Let alone help us to live content lives. This was a deep struggle for me for a long time as a self-admitted list maker. It was always so tempting and easy for me to sit down with my journal and make plans. Make lists. And the more I planned listed the more I wanted to plan and list. Before I knew it these pen and paper plans had become etched in stone and I began to hang my hopes and future upon them. So when actual life happened, life events that crumpled my plans and tossed them aside, it was even more devastating to comprehend. Some time around the last Resolution of 2014 I began to submit. Life was going to happen, I wouldn't always be in control, and - the most significant of them all - if I was going to live in a committed relationship for the rest of my life, I would need to compromise my plans. How then to reconcile all of this? The concept of Goals was hence born.
I divided Goals into time frames: Long-Term, Medium-Term, and Short-Term. To challenge my own A-type obsessive tendencies I left them purposefully vague. (There's no specific year or month value associated). Long-Term Goals are those that you wish to work toward throughout life. Perhaps we cannot envision ourselves many years or decades into the future, but we can all picture the core elements of our lives. Medium-Term goals are more specific and tangible; things I can see myself achieving with clarity. They exist in a future that I can see in clearer focus. Short-Term goals are the goals of the present. What do I want currently to enrich my life? What can I do now/as soon as possible? For me this goal-setting has been a very calming influence on my psyche. Recently my husband was talking about daily productivity and suggested we add "Immediate Goals". These being more organizational in nature, and along the lines of scheduling. What do I need to do this week? Today? Right now? And, even more helpful is posing the question "Must I do this right now, in this moment/today/this week? Is this a time-sensitive immediate goal, or something I can file into the Short-Term Category?" The goals of course overlap and feed each other, and help guide us to take actions every day that support these goals.
This addition of Immediate Goal was brought up in response to our number one 2016 goal: To better prioritize our time.
2015 was a doozy of a year for us. We experienced death and illness on every side of our combined families. When people ask I tend to answer bleakly with "It was a good career year". And it was, but it led to terrible time prioritization for both of us (mostly me). My husband started a year-long contract at a great company close by. Though excellent for us financially the regular 9-6 monotony wore him down. I was working many part-time jobs at the beginning of the year before transitioning full time to two positions: an entrepreneurial artistic position, and a directing/managing educational position. Couple that with a personally devastating loss in the family, and I was buried. By the time this semester was upon me I was working 12+ hours, 7 days a week simply too much. Having a few hours to spend with my husband was a rarity. I didn't see friends outside of work, barely saw family members, and didn't have time for myself, let alone the people around me. My husband and I slipped into lazy routines of watching too much Netflix, eating too many quick meals, and frankly not communicating very well. Neither of us exercised or had energy too go out. I can only fully understand now, with hindsight, was a dark storm these past month have been.
Our saving grace was a full week off together over the holidays. It felt like a second honeymoon just to have time to spend together at home. The more we talked (and continue to talk) about it, the clearer our 2016 goals became: Prioritize our time for ourselves, each other, the people around us and personal projects.
My 2016 Goals (Short-Term)
1. Prioritize my time. Identify Immediate vs Short Term goals and be accountable to them. Make clear and defined boundaries for personal time and work time. Some of the strategies I am applying:
Personal Time: I work extra-curricular hours (generally 2-9 or later). Set clear office hours during the day and work no more than 8 hours a day at any one thing. Take personal time in the morning and feel good about it. Take an official day off (Friday) with no work related emails, texts or phone calls.
Time with my spouse: Check in with each other at the beginning of every week and set goals together. Get up earlier together in the morning. Schedule a date night every week and make it just as important as work (Fridays).
Time with loved ones: Set one day a week to spend time with friends and family. Make it just as important as work.
Time with my body: Schedule a weekly yoga class and monthly spa day. Make it just as important as work.
2. Have personal projects apart from my spouse and work. We have both identified that this is important to us and our identities. It's easy to not book something for yourself because your spouse isn't available to do it, or because you feel guilty about spending free time apart. But it is important to nurture personal passions and keep pushing ourselves creatively. My projects are to take weekly vocal lessons and achieve my RCM Grade 8 Voice, and re-vamp the blog and regularly write.
3. Treat myself with kindness.
4. No consumables at the grocery store. (I couldn't have a year without a food ethics goal!) We live very close to St Lawrence Market, but even closer to a No Frills. This year we are endeavouring to buy all of our consumables (food) at the Market, farmer's markets, and specialty stores.
And as an example, here are some of my
Long, Medium, Short and Immediate Goals
Have a life in music. Have a purposeful, enriching and loving marriage.
Live an urban lifestyle. Pay off our condo. Become a mother.
Short-Term (besides those listed above)
Be the best teacher, mentor and example I can be to my students. Re-design and install better kitchen storage (Accomplished over holiday break!)
See travel clinic in preparation for trip over March Break. Sell/donate old cabinets. Plan board game night this weekend.
Whatever your resolution or goals may be, here's to a year of productivity, happiness, love and health.