2019: The Year of Intention (and not goals)
Happy New Year! Hope your 2019 is off to a great start. I had a wonderful two weeks off with my family and am settling in to a new office and job. Excited to get back in the swing of writing on a somewhat regular basis. So, without further ado...
2018 went by in a flash for me. The first month was filled with anticipation of my son’s arrival, and after his birth on Feb 9, the rest of the year flew by in a mainly happy, yet frenzied pace of new motherhood, a new job, and a new creative undertaking. Looking back, it’s amazing how much changed in the past year. And nothing marks the passage of time faster than being able to watch a tiny little human grow. In just 11 months, a blob that was barely 6 pounds has grown into a 20-plus pound little boy who is curious about life and makes me laugh. It’s quite extraordinary if you stop to think about it.
Because I had this amazing responsibility to focus on last year, I didn’t set any concrete goals at the start of the year like I normally do. Instead of aiming for “a staff job” or “finishing three pilots” (goals that have been steadily on my list for the past five years), I wrote down things like, “create a loving environment for my son to learn and grow” (seriously) and “find creative joy in a workplace where I feel respected” (please don’t punch me). And as hogwash as it sounds (trust me, I know how hogwash it sounds even now), these “goals” were actually attained making 2018 one of my best years to date. I mean, how could it not be? I birthed both my son and a play reading, neither of which I had any previous experience with.
But that’s what happens when you focus more on an intention, rather than a concrete goal. Those cheesy bumper stickers, “it’s all about the journey” may actually have a point. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to have goals. I love my goals. And I have several concrete ones this year, like buying a house and finishing my novel. But, I also know focusing more on the outward (pounds lost, getting a certain something) instead of the inward (how those tangible things make me feel), could be potentially setting myself up for failure, which ends up making me feel like a failure. I have no control if I get staffed or not. Or if I sell a pilot. Or if my son will hit certain milestones. I do have control over where I work, how much I write, and how much time I’m able to devote to my son. I have control over the experience, not the end result.
It’s taken me almost 34 years to realize I don’t need certain things or accomplishments to be happy. If I want to be happy, all I have to do is choose to be happy. It’s so simple. But, you can curate a life around that happiness and that starts by focusing more on the things you have, instead of the things you want. My husband never sets goals. And that’s not because he’s lazy or undisciplined… just the opposite. It’s because he’s content with everything he already has and anything extra is just icing on his already delicious cake. It baffles me sometimes (and irritates me, if I’m being honest), but it’s such a better way to live than my constant state of stress and envy.
My almost-toddler gets so happy when he figures out how to turn off a light-switch, a simple act I do multiple times a day. But, that celebration is an important lesson: it doesn’t matter what the accomplishment is, as long as you are continuing to grow and learn. It takes expectation away and leaves more room for discovery and joy. Things that once seemed impossible, like raising a baby on an assistant’s salary or producing a staged reading of a play when you are not a playwright, are not only possible, but joyful and fun, as well.
We can’t control what happens to us. We can control our perception of what happens to us. So, if you’re in a positive and productive mindset, everything will seem positive and productive. As an exercise, take one of your concrete goals like, “buying a house.” There are so many factors in the actual home-buying process that it can be stressful and unattainable. But, if you adjust the goal to an intention, like “Explore the possibility of owning a place I can raise my young family in,” it not only becomes more specific to what I actually want, but it also doesn’t feel like I failed if I don’t actually accomplish the goal. Even glancing at Redfin for 5 minutes a day is a step in the right direction when I frame it that way.
In the world of intention-setting, anything is possible. You can actually aim even higher than your original goals. And instead of feeling my usual pressure or dread to accomplish something, I’m filled with excitement about the possibility.
If you live in the L.A. area and are interested in finding your intention for the year, my friend Luisa is leading a Vision Board and Intention setting workshop on Saturday, Jan 12 from 5.30-7.30. Sign up here.