The Art of Goals
It started in a million tiny ways, this insecurity. And it culminated after a wild move out to the front range of the Colorado Mountains. Two years after an energetic leap from the proverbial nest, my courage had sputtered like a car on its last run: people loved to tell me how brave I was because they weren’t the ones faced daily by the petrifying fear of failure. No. That was me.
I am a goal-setting kind of girl. If a thing is achievable, I want to achieve it. You may have heard of Enneagram 3s. The ones who want to succeed whatever the cost? Yes. Hi. Nice to meet you. When I made my New Year’s goals as a child, my satisfaction grew with the length of the list. Forget just finishing the goals, having a long list of them was a success in itself! But after a few years of failing to reach more than one or two of my twenty yearly goals, I backed off. Failing didn’t sit well with me. I made “more realistic” goals—literally “graduate high school!” when I had one semester left, or “Take a road trip!” Road trips were a given in our family.
Fear had bitten into my life and wouldn’t let go. I learned over those years that trying new things was scary—sports, writing techniques, habits, styles; all had a learning curve. All required boldness, a willingness to fail publicly. I wasn’t down for that.
Last year I sat with an old art journal bereft of any actual art and wrote at the top of the page “2018: the year of new.” I had made one simple goal: try one new thing every month. It was allowed to be little. It was allowed to fail. The goal wasn’t to succeed, just to try. I wasn’t even sure I could manage 12 things, but I wrote down a list of ideas anyway.
Have a veggie garden
Play a new game
White water rafting!
Take a dance class
Try a new ethnic food
For the first few months I kept track. There was a cookbook I’d ordered once upon a time. I began to look for simple recipes—failsafe ones. Anything I could make without screwing it up. I discovered a hamburger skillet recipe, chalk full of zucchini and spinach, that both my husband and I loved. I took a deep breath after that meal. Pushed our empty bowls towards the center of the table. Sipped wine in the yellow light of the kitchen. Maybe I can do this.
In July, I worked up my courage to walk into my regular coffee shop and order a “Medium coconut milk matcha, please.” I tried to pretend it wasn’t so green-looking while I took the first sip. It was delicious—bewilderingly so. In fact, the venison stroganoff in sour cream sauce I threw together last week—sans recipe—was delicious too.
Create your own recipe: check.
Try a coffee drink you wouldn’t normally get: check.
I forgot to keep track after a while. Goals are like that. You use that gym membership for a few months and forget about it for a few months and cancel it for a few months before January knocks on the door like you’re a new man.
Yeah, I forgot to keep track, but the list in the squiggly black handwriting had done its work. 2018 is teeming with the brand-new things I tried: I joined an arts guild, fearless new member in a crowd of veteran writers. I tried and failed three times to follow a recipe for a gluten-free peanut butter cookies. I learned four new knitting techniques. I, once a self-proclaimed “curvy” girl, tucked my shirt into my pants anyway, muffin-top notwithstanding. I tried new recipes and wore new styles of clothing and just last week I trimmed the soft hair growing too shaggy on my toddler’s wee head for the very first time.
It is mid-December. In a week and a half, we’ll all be looking back over these last twelve months wondering how we got all the way around the sun to another sparkling midnight celebration. We’ll be wondering what next year will hold, wondering what we’ll create and build in the glimmering, new 2019.
I am going to begin like I did last year: pen poised, gaze out over the lingering Christmas lights strung through the dark, heart open to all the pulsing possibility of 365 more days. I’m going to dream. I’m going to set my goals like signal flairs—intended less to be reached and more to point me in a new direction. I don’t love failure any more than I did as a kid, but I’m willing now because I’ve seen where it can get me. True, I never got those peanut butter cookies to come out right, but I must say my boy’s impromptu haircut looks good.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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