2020 is here! With the turning of the calendar comes our habit of making resolutions. For some people, it doesn’t make sense to use an arbitrary date to recalibrate and create what might feel like an intimidating to-do list. But I like to work rhythms and habits. I think healthy ones can foster reflection and rejuvenation. For me, during the weeks leading up to the New Year, I do reflect. I review the list of things I’ve accomplished and take an honest inventory of places I fell short. This process helps me to form my resolutions for the New Year.
Rather than share my specific plans for 2020, I’m going to share my thoughts on how I approach making resolutions.
First off, I usually don’t list specific goals. Rather, I identify a series of intentions. I do this in order to leave room for unforeseen opportunities, or because I’m not sure yet how a particular intention might manifest. For example, last year, I recognized that I missed teaching and created an intention to bring teaching back into my life. When I set this intention, I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but I looked for opportunities where I could say yes to opportunities. Most of these opportunities came in the form of leading writing workshops, panels, and conference programs, but I was also offered a chance to teach a semester of Latin (my undergrad degree is in Classics). While this classroom opportunity didn’t directly relate to my writing work, it nourished the teacher in me and I was pleased to accept the offer.
Another year, I really needed to get a handle on my overall health, both mental and physical. I wasn’t sure what approach would work best so I didn’t set a specific goal. Again, I committed myself to the intention of working toward better health and then continued to investigate options. During that time, I discovered I responded positively to acupuncture and Eastern medicine. Combined with my yoga practice, and by adjusting my daily schedule, my overall health was much better by year’s end. Notice my goal wasn’t go to the gym six times per week or lose ten pounds because I wasn’t sure either of those things would actually fix what was wrong. But because I was open to possibilities, I found something effective.
Real goals can be motivating.
Sometimes, specific goals are necessary. For example, this year I have a book project ready to launch and I have to hit my deadlines. These definitely count as goals for 2020. When I list an actual goal on my New Year’s resolution list, I make sure it’s challenging but achievable. I don’t believe in setting goals that are so difficult they are out of reach. I don’t want to set myself up to fail. At the same time, goals are often a stretch. They can motivate us to reach just little further, work just a little harder, or maybe step outside our comfort zone a bit. My publishing schedule is aggressive this year. It will definitely push me out of my comfort zone, but I believe I can do it if I commit to it.
Focus on things you can control in 2020.
I talk about this a lot with regard to writing. There are many things in the writing world I can’t control. I can’t predict how people will react to my work, what kind of reviews they’ll leave, if sales will be robust, if I’ll make it onto a coveted list, or win an award. But I can commit myself to improving my craft, to learning the latest marketing and promotional trends, to behaving professionally, and to working hard.
So, when I make resolutions around my writing life, I stick to things over which I can have an impact. For example, last year I wanted to focus on creating content more quickly. I knew if I pushed myself a little, I could increase my word count and productivity, so I set some reasonable yet challenging goals based on that intention. This idea translates beyond writing. Focus on those things you can control, and set your resolutions accordingly.
By reflecting on the lessons of the past year, focusing on things we can control, and setting challenging yet achievable intentions, we can look forward to a productive and satisfying 2020. Happy New Year!