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.
People often talk about living in the past like it’s one of the biggest mistakes you could make. But there are so many ways you can interpret “living in the past.” Unfortunately, I think the blanket conclusion for all of these interpretations is that thinking too much about what has happened before can keep you from living well in the present and future.
I don’t know if I agree with this generalization.
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.
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.
Lately, I’ve been seeing people online choose a word that they want to represent their experience in 2019. It’s like a new spin on resolutions—what do you want your future year to boil down to in one word? I’ve seen lots of great words like “create,” “inspire,” and “grow” that make the chooser’s goals fairly easy to imagine. They make sense; they’re positive, and goals centered around that idea would naturally lead to good things.
On the other hand, the word I chose for 2019 is “no.” That’s right, I chose the word from which most negativity in our language comes. And I chose it because I think it will bring a great deal of positivity to my life in 2019. I chose it because there are some things I need to learn to say “no” to if I’m ever going to move forward.
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.