By Lisa Alber
Do you set goals for the New Year? I used to — very specific and unobtainable goals. Every next year was going to be the year I transformed into the best Me specimen I could imagine. Organized and non-procrastinating. Energetic and exercise-obsessed. Self-disciplined and prolific. Vegan (or at least vegetarian) and skinny.
What a losing proposition! Talk about a nice way to begin the New Year in self-sabotage mode.
Old habits die hard, however, so here I am thinking about 2016 and what I’d like to accomplish. As I write this post, I’m sitting at my kitchen counter. The Christmas cactus blooms have fallen, but it still looks festive in its red-foiled pot. The dog sits on my lap because she’s a little nervous about the dudes in my backyard who are cutting down a cedar that is rotted from the inside out.
Symbolically, seems like a fitting way to end 2015. Not that 2015 was a rotten year — not at all! — just that even the most beautiful of things and times end. We move on whether we want to or not, just like that poor tree is coming down whether I like it or not. Change seems to come around faster the older I get, so I’m wondering what 2016 has in store for me …
Since I most emphatically do not set goals anymore, I’ve decided I’ll think in terms of what I’ll lean into for 2016. Have you heard that phrase before? Lean into? It seems to be the latest therapeutic craze. Go ahead, Google it. I see leaning into discomfort, leaning into pain, leaning into health, even leaning into stupid ideas. (I like that one.)
Some things I know I’ll accomplish in 2016: Writing because I’m under book deadline and responsible budgeting because I bought a house this year so I’m relatively house poor right now.
External stuff is pretty easy, but what about the internal stuff? That’s where I’ll need to lean into improvements. Semantically, I like saying I’m going to lean into improvements rather than set goals. Doesn’t the phrasing feel more warm and friendly, like it’s inviting you to try something new and fun? Like it’s opening you up to new possibilities?
It does to me. For example, my goal is to lose XX pounds and get in shape. As soon as I say that to myself, a sense of doom overcomes me. But if I say to myself, I’m going to lean into a healthier lifestyle and lose weight in the process. Well then … OK. That sounds pretty darned good to me. That’s what I want in my heart of hearts — a healthier lifestyle.
Setting goals is all about the finish line — you either make the finish line or you don’t. Black or white. Success or failure. On the other hand, leaning in implies a process of improvement rather than a state of perfection. As I learn over and over as a writer, it’s the process that counts. It’s about time I expand that notion into my life.
So, in addition to a healthier lifestyle, I’ve decided that I’m going to also lean into accepting non-perfection. Living in a world of many shades of gray (not to be confused with a certain pesky novel), rather than black and white. My therapist has a lot to say on this topic, hehe.
That’s it for my 2016 goal setting, and that feels good. Wishing you a leaning-into New Year!
What’s your take on setting goals? Do you do it? How does it work out for you?