Goal Setting for a Chaotic (Yet Hopeful) New Year

a road twists through rolling fields
(Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash.)

As a lover of lists and goal setting, I’m generally excited at the shift into a new year as a new opportunity to consider the road ahead an make some plans. Over the past several years, however, how I approach the process of setting goals has been evolving — and with this new year dragging forward a continued sense of uncertainty, I’m considering things from a new angle.

Over the years, I’ve continued to reassess how approach my goals for each new year — shifting from massive detailed lists with every tiny little thing to more shorter more refined goals, and eventually to reaching a sense trepidation about goal making, as in last year. (Although, in the end, the uncertainty I felt then turned out to be well matched to the overall hellscape that was 2020.)

I find value in looking back on the past year (and what I managed to achieve) and then considering the road ahead and planning out the journey I’m going to take. However, at this point I’m not sure that setting specific goals for an entire year is a useful approach for me — especially considering the fact that 2021 is already presenting its own challenges. It’s hard to know how to plan for December, when I don’t even know what February will bring.

If I unfold the map and lay it out in front of me, I know the destination I have in mind (published novels, poetry books, etc.). Sometimes it all just seems so far — unreachable. It can be disheartening.

Setting up points of interest and rest stops along the way can be vital. Which is why, for 2021, I’m focusing more on the stretch road immediately ahead of me, assembling goals that I can accomplish within a month, week, or even day — while keeping the ultimate destination in mind.

For example, for the month of January, one of my goals is to finish adapting one of my short stories into an interactive fiction game (a project I start in December), with a secondary goal of writing one new chapter in my novel. These are attainable goals in bite size pieces, and finishing them will provide me will move me forward on the next stretch of my route.

When the next month rolls around, I’ll assess the landscape, adjust my plans, set some new goals.

My hope and my plan is that by focusing on smaller, short term goals, I’ll be able to put energy into what I’m passionate about, enjoy the journey more, and be able to adapt to any roadblocks or detours that come my way during the course of the year.

Where are you aiming your focus in the new year? What roads (metaphorical or real) are you hoping to travel?

Good Reads

An Xiao Mina shares insights and a meditation for times of heartbreak: “Why do our hearts break? This past year, I’ve had many conversations with heartbroken friends, and the best reason I can come up with this: that the story we held for ourselves, the life we thought we had, has fallen apart.

Erin at A Poem Miasma writes about the generosity of endings: burning could be a celebration, an exorcism, or a clearing of space. Of course I am also, often & always, thinking about trees. How the scrub burns so the tall hardwoods can thrive in the sun.