There’s A Thin Line Between Making New Year’s Resolutions & Feeling Like A Failure

11 Jan

“2011:  another 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 52,600 minutes, 3,153,600 seconds of struggle, growth, progress, and experience” – TumblrSays on Twitter

I saw this tweet the last week of 2010 and my first thought was, Great.  Another 3,153,600 seconds of struggle.  Can’t wait! But that was shortly followed by relief.  Because it described something so real:  a year of ups and downs, goods and bads, struggle and progress.  A year of a whole-wide range of experiences.

This sounded so much better than trying to make 2011 THE BEST YEAR OF ALL-TIME!!!  I’ve seen a lot of talking/tweeting/Facebooking about making this year THE GREATEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE!  And full disclosure:  I may have once written a post that mentioned having a big year.  But I’m over it.  Now the mere thought of trying to have a big amazing year just makes me want to take a nap.  Until December.  Why does this year have to be FABULOUS and BIG and THE BEST?  Why can’t it just be regular and real and experience-filled?

For many years, I read and did the goal-setting exercises in the book Your Best Year Yet! where you wind up with a plan for your year (to make it the best one yet!) that includes your top ten goals.  In the past, I enjoyed a lot of things about this process.  But I had no desire whatsoever to do it this year, or to make any kind of BIG resolutions.

Last year, as I always do, I typed up my ten Best Year Yet! goals in pretty fonts and cheerful colors, and posted them on my bulletin board.  In September, I looked at them, and realized that I had only achieved one sub-point each on three goals thus far.  Goals that had A LOT of sub-points, so one on each was not statistically significant.  Since I was not on track with my goal-achieving for the first 3/4 of 2010, that meant that I’d have to make it my best October-December yet!  Instead I ripped my bright and cheery goals off my bulletin board and stuffed them in a file folder.  In the back of my file cabinet where the sun don’t shine.

I will come clean and say that I sat down a few weeks ago with my notebook and wrote out a few goals.  In black pen.  No pretty fonts or bright colors.  These goals are very small.  They are micro-goals.  Things I can do every week.  I am thinking of them as non-oppressive goals.  Doing them won’t make me have the BIGGEST, BEST, MOST AMAZING YEAR EVER!!!  But not doing them won’t make me feel like an abject failure.  And hopefully they will do what goals at their best do – give me direction and focus and spark enthusiasm.  As someone who loves a hearty To Do list, they will give me something to write down on my list and check off, week after week.  When I read them over, I felt excited and enthusiastic and not oppressed, which is a good sign that I am on the right track.

This post is not meant to be a criticism of that book.  The problem I have is with a society that constantly bombards us with messages that we and our years and our lives have to be BIG, BETTER, THE BEST, which leads to feelings that anything less, anything regular and simple and ordinary, doesn’t matter, doesn’t measure up, doesn’t even count.

Looking back at 2010, I had a year of…experiences.  Some joyful, some painful, and a lot of in-between.  In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes, “Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.”  2011 doesn’t need to be my BEST YEAR OF ALL-TIME FOREVER AND EVER!  I just want it to be a year of experiences.  I hope to have more good days than bad.  I hope to experience more moments of contentment and peace than of depression and anxiety.  I hope to be able to spend time doing things I love, feeling engaged, excited, and enthusiastic.  I hope for curiosity, learning, healing, and growth.  I hope for connectedness and community.  And I hope to let go of chasing down brightly colored extraordinary moments, so that I can be blissful surprised by bursts of joy in the most ordinary of moments.

6 Responses to “There’s A Thin Line Between Making New Year’s Resolutions & Feeling Like A Failure”

  1. Sandra Williams January 28, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Very well put! I’ve been coming to some of the same conclusions lately. Real is better, always. Motivational rah-rah is still just rah-rah: empty side-line jumping up and down for the air-in-the-brain-hyper-ventilating effect. Nah. Go to the core: the ugly, the naked low-down REAL that can catapult you into new awarenesses, the from- down-under view you never saw before. And that brings little micro-bursts of joy! Keep it up! Good post!

  2. Jennifer Garam January 28, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks Sandra! YES, the low-down REAL, as gritty and painful as it may be, can bring true awareness, healing, growth, and transformation. And I LOVE your take on micro-bursts of joy! I hope to have some REAL micro-joy-bursts today 🙂

  3. tt January 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Jen I LOVE your blogs. I too am a big fan of the NYR, with mixed success. (I’ve had more success with”be more creative” than “write a novel.”) My word for this year is “gracious.” A bit shamed by some of my cranky interactions/reactions in 2010, I’m trying to channel Jackie O. (Why her? I dunno, I’m not even a big fan, she just popped into my head when I thought about what constitutes gracious behavior) and be a little kinder and calmer, particularly with (randomly rude) strangers. We’ll see. If I can pull it off at least some of the time, I’ll reward myself with a pillbox hat. 🙂

  4. stephanie January 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Hi jen — this post really resonated with me. This year I also didn’t make any resolutions, but what I did do, in the minutes before the ball dropped, was write a gratitude list of what I was grateful for and how I grew in 2010. If each year gives us experiences, then there is always growth and movement forward. The idea of having to constantly do, be, grow, strive can often be exhausting and takes us away from the here and now. There might be other times for that, but for now, 2011 is my chapter for taking it easy. Thanks for the reminder Jen!

  5. @fearofwriting February 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Jen, I loved this post and you said it all for me.

    I just found Your Best Year Yet at the beginning of 2011 and at first I thought I loved it. (I agree, it is a great book.) I did the entire workshop in my notebook and spent a lot of time on it. I really, really thought that my final list of Top 10 Goals was reasonable and doable, and I had lots of baby steps written up on how to achieve it all in one year.

    I even started having amazing results. I cleaned my house more; I wrote one-third of my new screenplay in less than a week; I put my creative writing first every day, ahead of the usual email and blog visits. Wow. I was being so productive, what could be missing from this glossy magazine photo?

    But then I started coming apart emotionally. I think it was just too much change all at once. Even good change can go sour if internally you’re not ready to process it all. I needed a week in my pajamas scribbling with crayons and just sitting around doing not much at all to recover.

    Now I’m like you – I have a few goals written down. But this time they’re on PostIt notes scattered around my desk. My house got dirty again, but that’s OK. Today I cleaned the toilet and I feel really good about my achievement :~)

    P.S. Love the new look for your blog!

  6. Jennifer Garam February 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    @tt – Thanks! Sounds great re: graciousness, can’t wait to see your pillbox hat!

    @Steph – It’s so exhausting to always be striving, and when you get trapped in that loop it never ends, because there’s always more to do/have/be. So happy to hear this is your year for taking it easy, hope you are thoroughly enjoying it!

    @fearofwriting – Hi Milli! Even positive goals and the best of intentions can be turned against ourselves. Glad you had some recovery time to recuperate, and sounds like you have found a nice balance that works for you. And thanks re: my blog design!

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