I’m not a person who sets New Year’s resolutions. I used to, and they invariably failed. A single failure or setback on the road to some lofty goal, and I immediately fall into despair that I’m not good enough. The goal then gets abandoned because I’m disgusted with myself. Concrete goals intimidate me more than they motivate me. I’m still learning how to balance my need to achieve something with the pressure well-defined goals tend to put on me.

My current approach is to leave my goals a bit loose and free-form; I don’t say “I’m going to finish my Danish course this year”, I say “I’m going to try to do my Danish lessons a bit more regularly”. It’s not “I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week”, it’s “I’m going to try to prioritize the gym better.”

One thing this does is make failure less defined so I can be easier on myself. If the goal is to go to the gym three times and I only go once, my brain can, and will, yell at me that I only achieved 33% of my goal, so I am therefore a 66% failure. And we might as well round that up to 100%. If I know it will take X number of days to finish my Danish course, and I didn’t do my lesson today, now I’m Y days behind. It’s too measurable. The pressure eats at me, and the anxiety mounts with every perceived failure.

The loose goals are enough that it brings the task to the forefront of my mind. If I’ve got a half hour and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it, I’ll remember I could squeeze in a Danish lesson. If my plans get cancelled and I suddenly find myself with a free evening, I’ll consider that I could go to the gym now. This makes success easier, and failure less defined, so I put less pressure on myself, and accomplish more. This approach is definitely not for everyone, but it’s had decent success for me. It’s one of the ways I’ve found to be gentler with myself, which is one of my ongoing projects.

Despite my ambivalence to New Year’s resolutions, I do find this to be a good time to take a deep breath and figure out how I want to move on from the mad dash of the holidays. For me, today marks my return to my writing routine and the beginning of what I intend for a writing goal this year: I want to start submitting stories for publication.

I don’t have a set number of stories to submit, or a set number of publications I intend to submit to. Last year I only submitted to one thing, so it’s a very low bar for me to exceed that number. I’m fine with that. The first submission is going to be hard, and it’s going to take me way longer than it should, because that’s how I work. Then the second submission will be easier, and the third easier again, until submitting becomes old hat and just part of my usual routine.

Whether you’ve set resolutions or not, and be they well-defined goals or loose ones, I wish you the best in achieving what you want, in whatever way you do it. Be gentle on yourself, you’re doing the best you know how.

2 thoughts on “Resolution: On setting goals for myself

  1. Setbacks - Erin Tells Lies

    […] two weeks have been a good demonstration of why I don’t set firm resolutions, as I discussed in my last post. Three days after I posted that, I tested positive for Covid. I’m fine, don’t worry, but my […]

  2. And So It Begins - Erin Tells Lies

    […] we are, beginning another year. I’ve said in the past that I don’t really set New Year’s resolutions for myself. That hasn’t changed. There’s […]

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