The older I get, the less value I see in pursuing goals. Sure, it’s great to have something to work toward, and there are a variety of instances in which goals can be useful. But generally speaking, I’ve come to believe that setting goals is simply an attempt to create extrinsic motivation to accomplish something that you’re not intrinsically motivated to achieve, and that’s just crazy.
Thus, I no longer make a list of resolutions for the new year. I used to come up with whole catalogs of things I wanted to change about myself. In time, I reduced that to just a handful of annual goals. Now I don’t set any resolutions at all. Instead, I hope to make a lifestyle out of doing the things I want, when I want.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this attitude means that I’m much more flexible and adaptable than I once was. I “go with the flow”. I’m more concerned about what is happening in the present than what will happen in the future.
Having said all that, I do have a general idea of the direction my life is headed. I have a destination in mind. (The difference between the present and the past, however, is that I’m not wedded to this destination; I’m open to a change in paths at a moment’s notice.)
So, where am I headed in 2014? Though I can’t say for certain, here’s my current itinerary:
- I’m going to learn to play the guitar. My father used to play the guitar at family gatherings. I loved listening to the cousins sing while he strummed along. In grade school, I played violin. In high school, I sang (poorly) in the concert choir. In college, I took a semester of piano lessons. But mostly, I’ve ignored the musical side of me, and that’s too bad. I love music. It’s an important part of my life. Kim too comes from a musical family. This year, I’m going to spend a lot of time learning the guitar, just as I learned Spanish in 2011 and 2012. I had my first lesson yesterday — my fingers are sore! — and I’ve scheduled a second for next Thursday. I intend to practice about an hour a day. My hope is that by the summer, I can sit with friends around a campfire and play guitar while they sing.
- I’m going to refresh my Spanish skills. Speaking of Spanish lessons: I haven’t much practice with the language since I stopped working with my tutor about eighteen months ago. That’s too bad. Learning Spanish was invigorating. It made my mind come alive. I miss it. I need to find ways to practice formal grammar, but also to practice speaking. My plan is to practice Spanish a bit every day, too. I have dozens of Spanish-language comics and novels. Plus, I have access to Spanish-language music and television (which helped me learn in the first place). I’m going to tap into these resources daily. And if this doesn’t work, I’m going to sign up for a class to force me to practice.
- I’m letting go of deadlines. One of my big realizations last year was that I just do not work well with deadlines. Maybe it’s my ADHD, but I like a looser work environment, one that allows me the freedom to explore. Deadlines don’t do that. Deadlines loom like the executioner’s axe, and they make me feel frantic. When I miss them, I sink into a guilty depression. So, I’m going to finish with the few deadlines remaining in my life, and then not take on any more. (Exception: In some cases, like speaking at a conference, there’s no way to avoid a deadline. I’m okay with that.)
- I’m going to work for myself. After decades of working for other people, I spent a few years working only for myself. It was wonderful. Over the past couple of years, though, I’ve allowed myself to slip into situations where most of my work goes toward the projects of others. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I’m not as happy as when I was pursuing my own agenda for my own edification. I want to return to that, so I’m going to finish my current obligations and then focus on my own projects.
- I’m going to focus on fitness. I say this every year, and for good reason. Left to my own devices, I’d happily eat junk food and drink booze until I was the size of a house. By constantly putting fitness at the top of my priority list, I’m able to arrest some of my bad behavior. Last year, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I didn’t gain any weight, but because I did very little exercise during the first nine months of the year, my muscle began to convert to fat. For the past three months, I’ve been lifting weights four times a week. My muscle is returning. I’ve also been doing a “bulking” program, but I don’t like how fat that’s made me. So, I’m going to cut back on the calories. I’m also going to re-introduce cardio to my life. I feel strong right now, and am confident that within a couple of months, I’ll be as fit as I was in 2012. And I’ll keep it that way.
- I’m going to re-visit the world of fiction. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Since first discovering the fun of inventing my own stories when I was in the third grade, I’ve wanted to write fantasy and science-fiction novels. In high school and college, I loved to write poetry. It’s only by accident that I stumbled into non-fiction writing as a career. While I’m glad to have had a decade to explore this avenue, I feel ready to return to the world of fiction. As soon as I finish my current obligations, most of my writing time will be spent telling stories. Should be fun!
- I’m going to post regularly at More Than Money. When I quit my full-time work at Get Rich Slowly, I intended to write regularly at this site. As regular readers know, I haven’t been wholly successful. Part of this is because I’m still doing deadline-based work for other people. But part of it is due to lack of direction. Well, I now have direction. While working on my current e-book project, I produced a ton of material about personal and financial independence (based around the talk I gave in Ecuador last September). This material isn’t appropriate for the ebook. But it is appropriate for More Than Money. In fact, I realized recently I have enough material for one post a week for all of 2014. I’m going to use it. And I’m going to supplement it with book reviews (on financial books and success manuals, etc.) and interviews and stories. In short: After fifteen months as a sandbox, More Than Money is about to become a real blog. Yay!
As you can tell, I’ve thought a lot about each of these things. I’m an introspective fellow, and I’ve spent the past few months thinking about what excites me and how I can better make use of my time. These are the activities that make me eager to get out of bed every morning.
What about you? What plans do you have for 2014? Do you set resolutions or goals? Or do you simply use the new year as a time to reflect on your direction and make course corrections?
Whatever the case, I wish you joy and happiness in the days to come.