Monday, December 31, 2012

It's 2013 and I've got no goals

It's almost a new year! I was going to write some long post about how we shouldn't make resolutions, and it's ridiculous to set metrics by which to judge our lives. But you know what? Yeah, you probably should set resolutions and make them specific and with measurable outcomes and all that jazz. I'm sure it's good to do.

Personally though, I won't be resolving to do anything. I made no resolutions last year and somehow, probably primarily through momentum and stubbornness, got pretty much everything I needed to get done in 2012 finished. Minus this lit review chapter that is making me ornery at the moment, I had 2012 under control. And somehow, not a single resolution was made. Why? Because at some point I stopped caring about the specifics of what happens in my life. That might sound like bad news, but I promise it's not. As long as I'm doing my best and things are moving in a general forward direction, then quite frankly my dear, I don't give a fuck.

No goals, no masters

Honestly, I think I can credit a lot of the things I have accomplished to the fact that I have no resolutions, no bucket list, no 30 before 30. To do lists yes, but not overarching goals. And you know, don't get me wrong, I'm probably the least spontaneous person you will ever meet. The point is though that if you meet every task that comes across your door/desk/email as something important that requires your best, then you will do brilliantly. Further, there's no regret when you don't get a specific goal accomplished. It makes you flexible and resilient. 

The things you get done? Excellent! The things you don't? What things, I never heard of any things...?

Case in point. Applying to doctoral programs was never a specific goal of mine. I applied when I did because my GRE scores were going to expire and I didn't feel like taking them again. I also didn't really have a school I favored over any others. Somehow that worked out. No regrets. I came into this not really knowing what I wanted to do study, but I figured it out. I just worked hard, at everything, and I'm on track to being done in four years. And sure, getting it shape would be awesome and I have things that I specifically think would be helpful, but I don't have a set date that is has to happen by. I don't have a target weight. I don't even own a scale. 

If you just try, you'll get things done. The things that need doing. I don't need to make a resolution to tell me to find a job by spring. I don't need a resolution to learn how to drive, it'll happen. And if I need to drive for a job, it will happen sooner rather than later. Besides, if you really want to do something, you will, resolution or no. Don't we have enough externally arising obligations in our lives without inventing new ones for ourselves?

Life is not a program

Somehow program evaluation principles made into the self help literature and now we're all supposed to set goals that are, wait for it... SMART.  Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Realistic/Time-phased. These principles were designed for programs thoughHere's a link to a CDC handout on setting SMART objectives for your program. So if you have a program to encourage smoking cessation among teenagers you need to decide what the goals are (who will stop smoking, how many will stop smoking, what counts as cessation, by when will they do it). This makes sense right? If you want to know if the program is working you need to have a metric to measure it by. And here's an old post mentioning SMART by the indomitable Gala Darling if you don't believe me.

Screw that though. I want my life to be intangible, aspirational, and unscheduled. I mean, what do you do if you fail to meet your SMART goal? Fire yourself? Cut your funding? It just doesn't, and I would argue shouldn't, apply to lives. It's such an inorganic constraint on things. 

This isn't an excuse to be a slacker though. If anything it's the opposite. You're relying on yourself to maintain some kind of general standard to ensure that you, as Bill and Ted would say, have an excellent year. So yeah, get off your butt, start something, work harder, do more, but leave it open ended. 

via tumblr

Just go with it

So I'll take whatever 2013 throws at me. Follow through on what I started and see where it takes me. Do my best at all endeavors that I feel like doing. And set absolutely no specific predetermined goals for what I will or will not do in 2013. And look, I wrote a long ornery post about not setting resolutions after all!

In conclusion, may you all have an excellent new year's eve and 2013.


  1. Oh I completely agree Thessaly! I posted about if you're going to set goals for yourself (or I more think of them as dreams because I'm not much of a planner of life- but I am a big and constant dreamer) then make them measurable, achievable and specific.

    With that said, you make WONDERFUL points that I completely agree with and live by while still working on my dreams. I don't believe in setting goals to set them or structuring out your life and goals don't necessarily equal structure (it depends on your goals, how you set them and how you approach them). I consider myself a free spirit and just go with the flow but even with goals I do that. In fact I was going to write a post on why I don't plan my posts, why I don't keep a schedule, why I don't own a planner and never will because, though I have goals that help me stay on track with certain things I'm passionate about, I want to just live and thrive, not have my day scheduled out and be bound to something every five seconds.

    I was hesitant to do a 30 before 30 list (and a bucket list which is only in my head) because everyone and their mom does them. So if I'm going to do it, as with anything, I do it for me.

    I love when you said, "I want my life to be intangible, aspirational, and unscheduled." I avoid the word resolutions only because I'm not resolving anything and I don't make my goals spur of the moment at the New Year. I make them throughout life and give myself something measurable so that I can get to where I want with those things. For example, had I not done NaNoWriMo (which is a goal in itself) I probably never would have started writing. I don't schedule my writing or plan at all but by golly it started me writing. So what I'm saying is that you can be a free spirit, go with the flow person and have a life that is aspirational, intangible and unscheduled. I could never live a life that is not that way.

    Nevertheless, I think this post brings light to, like I said, what I'd like to discuss on my blog, which is the importance of living unscheduled. I even started writing that post for fear that people will read my few goals I set and think things that are untrue. Granted, I generally don't care what others think when I'm making decisions for myself. I hope you get what I mean. I think you might enjoy that post (and now I'm thinking of bumping it up in when I post it) because it just always saddens me to see people bound to a life so scheduled. I could never live that way.

    1. I think I know exactly what you're saying! I mean, I get so much done that I think it's pretty clear that I'm not lacking goals in the grandest sense of the word. I just don't buy that turning your year into a checklist of things you probably won't get done and then will feel bad about is a good way to life.

      I legitimately have no bucket list or 30 before 30 though! I really couldn't care less! Whatever I do I'll be happy with it as long as I tried. I don't need to travel the world to feel like my life was worthwhile.

      I can totally see how NaNoWriMo would be helpful. Every time I've tried to do it I've abandoned it in like a week though (because I don't do goals maybe). It just doesn't work for me. I only find that goals enforced by circumstances help me structure my life (e.g. I need to have my dissertation done by a certain date). But I think since circumstances are ever changing it just makes sense to be as flexible as possible in your own personal life!

      You should definitely write that post! And don't worry about what people will think!

    2. I hear ya Thessaly! I don't buy it either and I definitely don't assume that people who don't publicly set goals are lacking them or are any less ambitious.

      Again I think it really depends on your approach to goals that makes your life either scheduled or flexible. I live the latter. For example, I went into NaNo with a very different goal than most people (many would probably consider it a lackadaisical approach- but, meh, that's them), which I talk about in my NaNoWriMo Wrap-up post. I didn't intend to finish the goal NaNo set of 50,000 words in 30 days. That wasn't my goal. I normally set goals to get me started on something. Then if they do get me started then I've succeeded. Most of my goals I set for 2013 I set to get me started, what I do with them after is up to me. Also, goals aren't set in stone. I set them but never consider them permanent or fixed in anyway because I'm not fixed, life isn't fixed but that's not the purpose of setting them. Heck I've already changed two of my 30 before 30 goals. Really what you do with the goals is up to you. Heck most of my goals I set and made public are ones I already started on months ago and just decided to put out there. The approach I think is the key to saying, I'm going to live a scheduled life or a free one. For example, I set a goal of reading 120 books. Am I going to sweat it if I don't reach that number? Nope. It's just to get me reading more than this year. Would I like and try to reach that goal? Sure. Because, like you pointed out, it's the satisfaction (at least for me) of knowing I tried that is rewarding to me. If I met it, sure that feels good. However, if I tried and gave whatever it is my all then I'm a happy camper. :)

      I already wrote the post but just didn't share it yet. :) I look forward to sharing it because it's a topic I'm super passionate about, which is why I'm glad you wrote this post. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Somehow they all felt particularly appropriate for new year's eve!


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