Now we enter the last few days before the new year begins.
It’s time for goals, plans, and resolutions!
I can’t help myself. I start thinking about plans and ideals for the next year – the next “fresh start” – while wrapping presents, rolling cookies, and cleaning house for Christmas. I’ve made new year resolutions or goals for years now, and my track record is about 50%.
Are New Year resolutions worth the effort?
The perfect situation to choose between optimism and pessimism. Is that half-empty or half-full? Is that failure or better-than-it-would-have-been?
I choose to think of it is “better than it would have been” without those targets to shoot for, even if I rarely make the target. It’s one way to be intentional and set a direction. I might not have reached the end I was going for, but it got me moving in that direction and that is huge.
I started reading Ready, Aim, Fire: by Erik Fisher – it seemed like a good, quick, New Year’s read – and I liked this quote:
Goals encourage growth. You should set goals that make you stretch in order to reach them.
This is what I have found. Expressing my goals has helped move me down the path of growth rather than the easy road of just coasting and letting life happen without direction. So even if I don’t reach them all, they were good for me still.
Two Types of Goals
There are two types of goals: measurable and directional.
Measurable goals are those SMART goals most people recommend: Specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. What gets measured gets done, right? But in our lives as mothers so many of the results are not in our hands. So many of the deep goals we are afraid to name – those for our children, our families, our efforts – are not the sort of thing SMART goals are made of. After all, we are not really the ones achieving them. We are asking God to use our service for His will and His good in His timing – not SMART, but wise.
Directional goals are about getting on and moving in the right paths. If we have hopes for where we want to be when the kids are grown, for what we want our relationship with them and others to be like, then we have to make sure we’re headed that direction. If we want to reap a certain harvest, we must ensure we’re sowing the right seed and keeping it watered. These might be more tricky to nail down, and they aren’t boxes that can be checked off, but they are ways to grow. And we should be growing.
A Word of the Year
One example of this was my word of the year for 2014: Habitus.
Actually, less than halfway through the year I stopped looking at my 2014 overview note and forgot about it. I had started off with a list of ways to grow in this area and with a reason why I wanted to. But out of sight became out of mind and I didn’t even remember I had a word of the year until earlier this month when I went to look over my resolutions list for 2014 (something I make myself do before starting one for the next year).
At first I felt like, “Well, that one was a wash. I didn’t even remember it!” But as the week wore on, I realized that the small habits I’d wanted to build toward improving our home atmosphere are now habits. I didn’t do the big things that I overthought and gave up on, but if I look at it as a directional, growing sort of goal, then it has been a “successful” year. So even simply starting out the first few months with some momentum toward a vision can still have a positive effect on the entire year.
For that reason, I like the word-of-the-year theme concept. Generally, one has simply come to me, that wraps up what I’ve been thinking about lately with what I want to do the next year. But I didn’t have one, so I wasn’t going to force it. However, it came to me yesterday:
Virtue. Aristotle defined virtue as acting in accordance with what one knows, and this is the theme of Norms and Nobility: that we teach children to know, but we also teach them to act according to what they know. Right action must be the result of right knowledge, or the education is worthless, says classical education. And that is about so much more than math and Latin and history.
- Virtue is the goal of classical education, which is my “day job” as a homeschooling mother. The goal isn’t the math lesson, the goal is growing the person doing the math lesson.
- Virtue is not only knowing Christ, but acting like it. If we know Christ, we must act in accordance with Him. Virtue is becoming Christlike.
- Virtue is putting into practice what we know. So, say I know I need to exercise and eat right to be healthy and strong and energetic (and slimmer would be nice) – that doesn’t help unless I act on that knowledge. I know what I need to do to maintain a reasonably clean home, but I still have to do it for it to happen. I know where to put my keys so I won’t lose them, but unless I do put them there every time, I will still lose them.
I’ve got a lot of the knowing, and it’s time for doing. It’s not busy-work doing or nose-to-the-grindstone doing, though. It’s doing that is grounded in knowing. It’s intentional, directional, purposeful, decided doing: taking what I know and living it out more and more.
It’s a goal that can last a lifetime. It’s not one that can be checked off. But a kick start can help us build momentum down our chosen path, even though there will still be bumps and hiccups and detours along the way.
How to get clear enough to make goals.
Sometimes there are so many things going on in our lives or even just in our heads that we can’t find the mental space to think about goals or plans. It’s like our heads have only so much space, and if we are juggling lots of commitments, vague guilt, and reminders in our heads, we don’t have room to put things in order and move forward.
This is why I’m a huge fan of the brain dump. It’s something I learned in Getting Things Done and it’s a simple practice that leads to huge mental relief.
Write everything down and get it out of your head.
Use your head for thinking and not for holding.