Goals are pretty universally seen as a good thing. They help you be mindful of what you’d like to achieve, they keep you on track, and they’re a great way of measuring your accomplishments.
In my experience, though, goals have sometimes caused undue stress. In fact, some past goals of mine have actually been harmful to me. Especially for people with perfectionistic tendencies, goals may not be the best way to work towards improvement. So I’d like to share my experience and offer some suggestions for alternative ways of tracking your aspirations.
I’m a cat person in a dog person’s world. If you’re not a cat lover, you probably aren’t bothered by the amount of hate that cats get from, well, everywhere. But let me tell you, there are few things that get me fired up faster than someone saying that all cats are mean jerks who couldn’t care less about the humans around them.
(Picture steam coming from my nostrils and ears even as I’m just thinking about this).
Why don’t cat haters realize how reductionist they are when they say these things? Sure, it’s a stereotype that cats can be aloof or aggressive. And there are two reasons for those stereotypes that I will explain later. But what about the stereotype that certain dogs are dangerous? Or the idea that some dogs make you look prissy? Why don’t dogs get as much general hate as cats?
The world is afraid to love cats because cats are less likely to universally love the world back.
If you’re reading this on its publish date, my 26th birthday is tomorrow. My birthday last year was exciting because so many people consider 25 to be the prime of your life. But what about 26? I think the only thing that most of us associate with turning 26 (in the US at least) is that it’s the age when you get kicked off your parents’ insurance.
Truly exciting. So what else can we say about 26? I’m now closer to 30 than to 20. Honestly, I get little waves of nervousness thinking about 30, but then I remember that a lot can change in 4 years. I mean, 4 years ago I was 22. I’m certainly very different than I was in my last semester of college, so I’m sure I’ll be ready for 30 when I get there (fingers crossed).
Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m really starting to settle into my life, but I’ve been reflecting on my identity a lot. I want to make this year about self-care, self-empowerment, and self-formation. I think I’ve gotten the hang of self-care and self-empowerment, but how do I know where to start for self-formation? I think back to when I was a kid.
To start the year off, I made it my goal to practice positive self-talk in the month of January. I wanted to begin 2019 with the mindset that I am beautiful, I can be who I want to, and I choose faith over fear. I aimed to pay more attention to what I was saying about myself to myself and replace any negativity with these positive phrases I had chosen.
To be perfectly honest, it was hard for me to stay mindful of that. While January was a wonderful month of Jake and I staying home and just enjoying life together in our house and our city, this quiet somehow muffled my self-talk.
I believe that everyone has creativity, whether you consider yourself a creative person or not. And one thing I think we can all agree on is that creativity comes and goes. It’s like this blessing of a mood that gets bestowed upon you. Sometimes, you can call and call and call for it and it won’t show up. But what’s one way that you can bring it upon yourself? You can make sure that you show up every day. If you’re ready to be creative every day, you’ll never miss creativity’s surprise appearance. But if you don’t allow yourself the time to welcome it, it’s going to find that your door is locked and move on without a visit.
When I was in high school, I had tons of creative energy. I used to write prose poetry nearly every day, and I’d write short stories that I don’t know how I’d ever come up with today. In the past 6 months or so, I’ve been trying to reclaim the imagination I had when I was younger. If you’re in a bit of a creative rut, here’s what has helped me.
Most people love the warmth, sunshine, and liveliness that come with summer. Maybe it’s because of my tendency to be contrarian, but I come alive in the colder months. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great beach vacation or day spent kayaking on a lake, but I’d so much rather be sitting by a fire or even enjoying a chilly stroll around the neighborhood.
I know a lot of people are impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter, but did you know that it can also affect people in summer too? I don’t know if my aversion to summer is SAD, but I think it’s good for everyone to keep in mind that for every person who agrees with you, there is bound to be someone who feels the opposite. If you’re someone who has trouble when the days get shorter and the temperature drops, maybe hearing what I love about winter will help you through this season.
Smart kids get good grades. Good grades get you into good colleges. Going to a good college gets you a good job when you graduate. Getting a good job gets you a good career. Getting a good career gets you a good life.
Sound familiar? We’re pretty much all taught to think this way in the US. And if you’re a bright kid, you’ve probably internalized this mentality and formed your life plan around it. You set goals constantly, have a straight and narrow path that is both comforting and stress-inducing to follow. You know exactly how to get what you want from life.
So we’re a few weeks into 2019. Life is getting back to its normal routine, and if you’re like me, you’re finding that some of the changes that you wanted to make were easier imagined when you were in the dream-like state that comes around the holidays. There’s something about the brightness of December coupled with the mixture of uncertainty and optimism from the New Year that makes us feel a little unstoppable. Our hearts are warmed by the December holidays, and we see ourselves looking over this edge into a landscape of possibilities.
But even an exciting edge is still an edge. There’s fear there, when you’re standing at a precipice. When you visit the Grand Canyon, you’re in awe of what lies before you, but you’re also a little afraid. That’s kind of what I think happens to us when we make New Year’s resolutions.
Happy New Year everyone!
This month’s goal is related to something that we all do: talk to ourselves. I don’t care if you don’t like to admit it, we all talk to ourselves. And sometimes we don’t say the nicest things. Often, we say things to ourselves that we’d never say about other people. So why is it ok for me to tear myself down when I’d never do that to someone I love?
How you talk to (and about) yourself is a great barometer for how much self-love you’re in need of. I’m not someone who constantly insults myself and has trouble saying anything positive, but I know that the things I say when no one else is around could use some tuning. And I’ll bet that once I really start paying attention to what I’m telling myself that I’ll realize I say worse things than I thought.
Sometimes I’m kind of shocked when I reflect back to high school and remember how many friends I had. While I always had just a couple of really close friends, I had a good 10 or so friends who I spent time with regularly. What? Who was I?
It was great for that time in my life, but that’s not really what would work for me now. Truthfully, I prefer to have very few very close friends than a lot of friends who I’m not quite as close to. And now that we’ve all gone to college, graduated, and settled, my friend group has become just that. Here’s the thing–even though I have a few absolutely fantastic close friends, none of them live in the same state as me. Bummer. We keep in contact regularly, but I don’t think any of them would argue if I were to say that it’s important for all of us to have friends where we are as well.