It’s way too late in the new year to be still hashing over resolutions. I’m not really doing that, because I tend to not make them in the first place–I like to think of it more as applying new habits.
But I am reconsidering how and why I set goals.
I recently found a newish-looking notepad buried in a drawer. On it I had scratched out a list of reasonable writing resolutions, on the general idea that doing so helps to solidify commitments. There was nothing obviously unattainable about the list; nothing that I could not push myself to make progress on. It seemed a good foundation.
It was dated 2001. And I had crossed nothing off. I put it aside at some point and forgot about it.
The discovery made me reflect on my entire purpose.
Back then I was full of intent, having just married and started my new family as I began a more technical career path. Intent alone, oddly, was not enough. The wave of new responsibilities and distractions gave me every excuse to put off what I needed to do to start the work life I actually wanted. Since, time has zoomed by all the faster. Moves, jobs, and the daily needs of three busy kids haven’t slowed it.
The other side of writing things down is that you get to see what you haven’t accomplished.
I focused my list on writing resolutions, abstractions of what I thought to be good habits or foundations on which I could build. I gave myself plenty to do, and pictured doing well enough to get out of a regular job. How could anyone have trouble doing this for a living?
That was bad enough, but what I really failed to do (aside from including anything specific or measurable) was fully think through why I wanted to do any of it. I dreamed up no big picture on which I could frame any of my ambition, no real motivation other than just wanting to write. The act alone would fulfill my needs and open doors, as if merely composing sentences on random subjects could alter my path.
Looking at my list now, it’s little wonder that I had not achieved any of it.
But instead of beating myself up for all of the wasted time, I decided to use this as an opportunity to clarify my purpose, what I was put here for. Productivity and leadership guru Michael Hyatt explains it as discovering the why.
For me, this means actively recognizing the reasons to put my butt in the chair for the projects that mean something.
Once I thought specifically about this, figuring it out and accepting it wasn’t hard. I just had to understand the signs—like noticing how I am watched during baseball practice to make sure I see all of those straight pitches, how I have to share the big chair just right when reading a story, or take the time to make scrambled eggs correctly.
By working more, but more intently on the ideas that mean the most to me, the efforts will be because I chose to make them, for results that I want to share. If I do this often and well, it may lead to a place where I can free up time and space for my family.
And I can’t think of a better purpose than that.