New years resolutions are tricky. If you’re struggling with guilt over unfinished goals from last year, here’s hope that you’re not a failure.
Happy New Year! We celebrated at home with friends by crowding ten people around a fondue pot (yikes!) and going to sleep long before midnight. Real life with little kids, people.
How many of you actually stayed up to see the new year?
Like most people, the new year always makes me a little reflective–considering the past twelve months and planning what I want to focus on during the coming year.
2018 was a BIG year of change for our family. We sold our house, built a new house, and moved…which meant getting used to a new school for the kids, and a new church congregation for all of us. We also welcomed my husband’s brother–who has some disabilities–into our home and family. All of that has required a lot of planning over the past several years and a lot of adjustment over the last few months as we’ve tried to work out new routines and adjust to the new normal. Add that to the “normal” things that we’re up to…like trying to raise three kids six and under.
Let’s just say that in the midst of all the craziness this year, some of my goals for the year didn’t quite come to fruition.
New years resolutions are a tricky business that way. It’s hard to anticipate at the beginning of a year what that year will hold for you and those you love. Unexpected challenges arise, and your best laid plans may get blown to pieces.
Goals are important, surely. In fact, studies have shown the value of writing down specific goals and making a plan for accomplishing them.
I’m a big proponent of setting goals and working hard to make them happen. Thomas Edison (wise man) said something to that point: “Opportunity,” he said, “is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
I’m not making excuses for laziness or saying that we can accomplish great things in life without putting in the elbow grease.
HOWEVER, I am giving all of us the freedom and grace to admit that sometimes things aren’t going to play out the way we hope.
The problem with goals
My point is simply this…don’t let your imperfectly executed goals get you down. Just because you didn’t finish your entire goal doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
I have a friend who set a goal to read fifty books last year. Hooray! Reading is awesome! I love books.
However, reading a book almost every week is a high standard to set, especially for someone who has young kids at home. So, what would you say to this woman if she accomplished reading 40 books during the year?
Wow, that’s 12 short of your goal. You totally failed!
Hardly. The woman read FORTY books for crying out loud! That’s a serious accomplishment.
Sometimes, when we don’t achieve our goals in their entirety, it’s tempting to feel discouraged… like we just aren’t good enough. I mean, if I really had my stuff together, surely I would have been able to accomplish my goals, right?
When we step back, we can see that is false thinking, but in the moment it’s easy to feel inadequate.
Even if it’s true that you dropped the ball a little bit, lost your motivation, or your system fell apart. Helloooo, we’re all human! Cut yourself some slack.
Making goals isn’t about setting some arbitrary bar to measure our capability, and certainly not our worth.
Making goals is about encouraging growth. It’s about getting out of our comfort zones and trying. It’s about LEARNING.
The solution to guilt over unfinished goals
This year, rather than saying, “Ugh, I failed,” I’m shifting my perspective. I’m realizing that imperfect accomplishment is STILL accomplishment.
Remember the cliché about looking at the glass as half full instead of half empty? What if we applied that to how we look at our accomplishments?
Half of a goal is still HALF done!
And that’s worth celebrating.
So, if you’re struggling with guilt over unfinished goals this new years, I encourage you to ask yourself three questions:
- What did you accomplish?
- What did you learn?
- Where will you go from here?
Here’s how those questions have helped me find meaning in my unfinished goals:
I had a goal this year to read an entire book of scripture (The Book of Mormon) before the end of the year. It’s something that many women I know who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set as a goal after this address was given in the general women’s meeting in October.
I tried to make it a priority and plan out my time. I tried to squeeze in bits of reading here and there and listened to the audio in my car whenever I could. But, by the end of December, I was just over half way through.
At first, I felt like a failure. Surely, I thought, if I had been more faithful, I would have finished my goal.
But then I realized, the REAL point of this goal was NOT to read a set number of pages. It was never about the book itself. It was about increasing my faith by increasing my effort.
What did you accomplish?
So, what did I accomplish? I read over 250 pages of scripture. I spent more time reading and pondering my faith than I had the first half of the year. I tried new strategies for making scripture study work as the mom of three young kids. Also, as a side effect of my own study, I started reading the scriptures with my kids more.
When I look at what I did do, I realize I didn’t fail at all. I took several steps in the right direction. And even if it’s two steps forward and one step back as I stumble and fall in my imperfection…I’m still growing.
What did you learn?
I learned that I don’t get as much out of scripture study when I listen to the scriptures as when I actually read the words.
I learned that I really like having a few minutes to myself before my kids get up to wake up my mind and my body. It’s something that is SO hard with babies, but I want to try to do it more this year now that my baby is actually sleeping through the night most of the time.
I learned that when I turn off social media, I have a lot more time to do other things…like read.
These lessons are valuable. I didn’t have to complete my goal entirely to learn from the experience.
Where will you go from here?
Once you have acknowledged what you accomplished and learned, it’s important to make a plan for what to do next.
Will you continue working toward this same goal? Do you just need more time, or do you need to make a more specific actionable plan for how to accomplish your goal? Do you need to break it down? Schedule it into your day? Get an accountability partner?
Consider what will help you be most successful.
Or maybe you realize now is NOT the right time for that particular goal. Maybe you just need to appreciate the lessons the experience taught you and move on to something new. That’s okay, too.
For my goal, I know that I want to keep working on it, and I know that it would be helpful to schedule a time for me to read more. If it’s not scheduled, other “mommy tasks” take up all my time.
Looking forward to this year’s resolutions
As we think about resolutions for the new year, let’s not be afraid of failing…at least a little. In fact, perhaps we ought to focus a little less on racing to the destination and a little more on learning as much as we can along the journey.
Let’s accept that our imperfect efforts may yield imperfect results, but that over time we are slowly coming closer to our goals.
Be patient with yourself. It may take an entire lifetime (or maybe even longer), but we’ll get there.