(Obligatory “Welcome to a new year!”) For some, yesterday was just another day. For most of us, it’s a time to review the previous year and then turn to face the oncoming one as it barrels toward us in the dark.
Some of you will look back and give yourself a solid thumbs-up. Others will frown, wonder where you went wrong, and maybe grumble about the futility of resolutions, or maybe vow to try, try again this year. It can be a vicious circle of starting and petering out, over and over, and I don’t fault you for losing heart.
It’s hard to renew your enthusiasm when you’re on your fourth, fifth, or sixtieth attempt at something. Much easier to despair and label yourself by your “failures.” And there’s a lot of trite advice being thrown onto sunset photos, about never giving up and success being defined as falling down 99 times and getting up 100 (not sure of the physics on that one).
Unfortunately, any attempt at motivation tends to come out hokey, no matter how true. We do need to learn that trying at all is winning a little; that not meeting our goals does not mean we never will; that every time we fall short, we have to scrounge in our pockets for the will to give it another go.
When I was a preteen (I believe we call them “tweens” now, poor dears), I loved to doodle. Later, I liked to draw, but at that age I just liked having something to do with my hands while I pondered, and I liked the feel of dragging pencil across paper. I would draw circles a lot, and I got to thinking I could maybe draw a perfect circle, with 360-degrees of perfectly smooth graphite arcs. I imagined if I did it, the ring would illuminate on the page, a rift would open in the space-time continuum, and a band of angels might come down to sing a chorus of something loud and fearful.
(Or something like that.)
So, I kept drawing loop after loop. I wondered if anyone had ever done it before–drawn a perfect circle. And if they had, had they known what they had done? Did they even notice? If I did it, would I? Maybe I already had, but nothing magical had happened.
Of course, now I understand it would be impossible to make a perfect shape of any kind with such imperfect instruments. Paper isn’t very smooth, pencil lead leaves gaps and smudges, and human hands, while marvelous at grasping door knobs and scratching dogs behind the ears, are not laser-precise.
But it was fun to try.
I can’t imagine the practice made me any worse at drawing, and, at minimum, I developed focus and eye-hand coordination (although I got plenty of both from trying to beat Scar on my Sega Lion King game).
Point is, I aimed for the impossible, and even though I never achieved it–haven’t heard any celestial hallelujahs to date–and never will, the exercise wasn’t wasted. It never is.
Because goals aren’t really about meeting your word quota or your goal weight, which is just a made-up number anyway. (It can’t possibly be that everyone’s ideal weight happens to end in a zero or a five; someone’s has gotta be a 6.4 or 2.7.) It’s about doing what brings you joy, being healthier, or feeling better about yourself. You can do that without sliding into those size 8 jeans.
I’m not saying “don’t exercise” or “don’t try because you’ll never succeed anyway.” I’m saying do those things, shoot for the moon, and give yourself credit for just making an effort. Don’t hold out praise for your accomplishments, always moving the carrot just out of reach–carrots are good for you, eat them. Enjoy the journey and stop being so hard on yourself for drawing an imperfect circle on imperfect paper with an imperfect tool. Can people tell it’s a circle and not, say, a pentagram? Did you not accidentally summon Satan? Wonderful. Job: well done.
If you made goals last year and didn’t meet them, let me be one to congratulate you for trying. I hope you will dream again this year because dreaming is half the fun of life. (The other half is puppies and laughing babies.)
And if you made goals last year and met every last one of them, might I suggest aiming higher? If you’re not failing a little, you’re not doing it right. Or so says some Pinterest picture I saved.