night snow

Why Having Less Goals is Working for Me

I think many of us mean well when we start a new year.

Whether you’re into that whole goal/resolution/intention setting thing or not, when we turn our calendars and write the wrong damn year on everything for at least a month, we know that it’s a different time. And that in itself can move us to change.

I’ve written some sort of beginning of the year declaration on this blog the past few years, but for 2017 I didn’t. I typically set a sankalpa, or positive intention, for the year…

2014 – To Love More

2015 – To Simply Enjoy

2016 – To Live Consciously

cafe in the snow

Before you dive too deep into my ulterior motive for not writing anything, I actually wasn’t in the “let’s move on from 2016” camp. It was one of my most trying years of adulting, which included being laid off and almost losing my dad.

No matter what happens that is in our control our outside of it, I’m a firm believer in accepting life’s curve balls with a bit of grace. I say “a bit,” because I do my best but it’s not always graceful.

I really loved this blog from my girl Zen, who wrote in Defense of 2016

“Every day in 2016, someone got married, had their first kiss, gave birth, overcame cancer, reunited with their best friend, landed a new job, explored the world, stepped down from the brink of suicide, celebrated a birthday or an anniversary, saved a life, won the lottery, laughed till they cried, wrote a book, graduated… for every bad thing that happened, something equally good happened. In the midst of all the chaos, why not celebrate our small victories?” 

Pep Talks with the Voices in Your Head

I did set an intention for 2017 though. It was this…To Have Less Goals

So, that’s why I didn’t write this post at a more relevant time, like closer to the turn of the year. I’m writing this on a Wednesday, January 18, at the butt crack of dawn. Because that was when I was able to get to it without forcing anything.

And that might seem like no big deal to some of you. But it’s downright poignant for me, because I let go for once.

I gave myself a pep talk and said: Don’t sweat it. Just now, while writing this post and starting to feel anxious about starting my work day, I said: You’re doing so good.

We all have voices in our heads, don’t we? Funny, how they can be a missed opportunity when all we need is a pep talk.

books in the snow

Meaningful Goals vs. Lots of Goals

I shared this Harvard Business Review article, Don’t Set Too Many Goals for Yourself, at the end of the year. It spoke to me, because well…I’m too goal-oriented.

It’s the reason I didn’t sign up for the Goodreads reading challenge this year. The challenge did what I needed it to do initially, which was read more and track my progress.

Years later it morphed into this strange, unforeseen form of competition in an already competitive world. A competition with myself, with reading—something that usually brings me more peace than anything.

Oooh, dang. So close, Britt! But, you didn’t reach your annual reading goal…AGAIN.

goodreads reading

I mean…come on!

Anyway, while goals are really great for a lot of people, for me I tread the choppy waters of doing too much and not enjoying life enough. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals, because you should. But those goals should be meaningful.

“In order to accomplish our most meaningful goals, we need to fight back against two dangerous impulses: hewing too closely to a fixed plan and attempting to do too much at once.” – Dorie Clark

The HBR article warned of the dangers of busyness, of the unimportant victories we claim when crossing off tasks on our to-do lists. Instead the recommendation was to focus on bigger goals, no more than two for each 6-month period.

Maybe you’re trying to finish a book—maybe it’s your fourth or your first. That can be one of your big six-month goals, because let’s face it…finishing a novel ain’t easy. And like me, you are probably working on this book in your precious free time.

So then, you can ask yourself: Does this other thing I’m spending time on help me finish my book? Or, does it keep me from finishing it?

You might have one of those “well, I’ll be damned” moments. Because you investigated and found something, an oversight you’d missed before.

Making Tough Choices to Stay Focused

Asking yourself if something you’re doing voluntarily is keeping you from your big goal isn’t always a fun question to answer. A lot of times, you won’t even want to ask it.

With the book example, I’ve had to investigate my blogging and social media efforts. While there is a correlation—because it’s marketing and branding, which do matter when publishing a novel—until I finish my book during this 6-month period, I’m easing off the gas pedal.

night snow

I had to set some parameters (not goals) to stay focused, one of which is only blogging once each month. And, that’s the max.

I felt so much relief when I made this decision, because blogging has a way of haunting you as a writer if you’re not careful. What should I write about next? Hell, when am I going to write it? The cycle can be pretty vicious, as many of you know.

So, setting those meaningful goals can be a truly grounding experience. And the effort is pretty minimal for the reward.

“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.” – Patti Smith

It’s true that as we get older, time appears like it’s moving faster. I remember the occasional adult saying things like “enjoy it now” and “it’s all downhill from here” with a sing-song voice that always made me cringe a little as a kid. At the time, I didn’t understand why they said those things that way.

But I know now. And while it’s easy to fall into that crotchety reasoning that time magically moves faster as we age, it’s really just us that keeps moving faster.

So, don’t sweat it. You’re doing so good.

Slow down, hug it out with your hopes, dreams, and wishes, and aim for the life you want to live.

What are your thoughts on goal-setting? Like it, don’t like…somewhere in between?

40 thoughts on “Why Having Less Goals is Working for Me

  1. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    So you’ll be blogging once a month from now on… I’ll miss reading you more often but I completely relate to you. I’m still posting once a week and have a looooot to cover still about the latest travels but I’m always happy during summertime when I take that break (2017 will be 3rd summer in a row and I love the idea).

    As for goal settings… I don’t make resolutions. I don’t make plans, at least not really and not consciously. I have dreams I’d like to see come true but I try to not have too many at a time, especially now that I’m not the only one involved and that hubby is a little less restless than me.
    Less goals, less clutter = more space. To think, to enjoy, to do.
    Let’s do just that and take it easy on ourselves.
    Less goals in 2017, let’s just make them count fabulously!

    Enjoy the day!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Once I finish my book, that will free up my free time. Then I’ll have more options to blog. I figured once a month was a better move, then leaving for several months. But…I’m sure I’ll still take off some time in the summer because I want to be outside as much as possible. 😉

      Goals can be useful, but they can be too much sometimes as well. All about the balance, right? Xo

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    “And while it’s easy to fall into that crotchety reasoning that time magically moves faster as we age, it’s really just us that keeps moving faster.”—I love this line. It’s so true. We become busier and busier until life blurs by so quickly, we’re not living it. Thank you for an important reminder to slow down and not fill our days will little goals that won’t mean much in the long run.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, so glad you liked it, hon! Funny, because when I was reading through the post, I thought Carrie is probably going to be into this “crotchety reasoning” thing. 😉

      The little goals can get in the way, absolutely. I have to be careful of falling into taskmaster mode. Good for kicking ass, but it has it’s drawbacks as well.

  3. Clanmother says:

    I am glad that we are on the 2017 journey together. My word for this year is “resilience.” This is the quote that I’ve taken to heart: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” Joseph Campbell

  4. Sheila says:

    It’s true that we can drive ourselves crazy with all these goals. I was going to try to do a post once a week, but that’s quickly turning into once a month. 🙂 I already know I’ll fail at my Goodreads challenge, but hopefully it’ll get me to read a few more than usual (and 28 books is great)! Thank you for this reminder to slow down with all of it. I’ll try to force the voices in my head into more pep talks!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      We totally drive ourselves crazy, don’t we? Once a week…ah, yes. How it was when we were blogger pups. I remember those days. I notice that trend with so many of us that have been blogging for a while, especially those that write longer posts (i.e. Not a photography blog.)

      Have fun with those pep talks, doll! They can be some of the best conversations. 🙂

  5. eden baylee says:

    2016 was neither a horrible nor an excellent year for me. With social media, it’s hard to escape the bad news of the world, the deaths of celebrities, the political shenanigans, but we have to step away at times to remain sane. More importantly, time away allows us to realize we cannot change most of what we fret over. It only ruins our peace.

    I think you’re doing a wise thing by stepping back and evaluating what works for you, Britt. I will be doing the same.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      It’s so important for us to step away, especially in such a connected world. Social media has its pros and cons, but I find I’m much happier when I ease off the pedal with everything. It helps keep things fun!

  6. joey says:

    Mm, fewer goals. I used to set a lot of goals, especially years my husband was deployed, and then I’d bust my ass to achieve them, which wasn’t particularly healthy for me. I like the part where I have something to look forward to, but I caution myself against actual goal-setting and achievement on a deadline. It does nothing but stress me out.
    I read more than 30 books last year, but I never set a goal. I gained 13 lbs too, and I sure didn’t set THAT goal! I dunno, I just like to live. I don’t like to spend too much time on achievement. If I’m going to spend energy on something, then that already highlights a desire. I never run out of desires.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I love this…I just like to live. Those are my exact feelings these days. Nice and simple. Like, what’s the point of focusing so much on achievement? If that’s the goal, then we’re bound to be missing out on living somewhere in there.

  7. Ally Bean says:

    I’m somewhere in between on goal setting. I think some situations demand goals, if the project is to be accomplished in a timely, cost-effective way. But I’m finding those situations less frequently in my life as I get older. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve accomplished what I wanted so now I’m content, or if it’s that I no longer care about goals so much. Either way, I have a few goals for this year, but overall I’m adhering to my word of the year which is RELAX.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Relax. I feel you on all of this. I’m feeling pretty content these days myself, because I was so goal-oriented! 😉

      Relaxing sounds so much more appealing now. I think we’re in a good place, hon. Xo

  8. Kate Johnston says:

    Awesome post, my dear. I wish I was on the same train as you because I could really use a get-away, a good enough reason to slow down and smell the roses, and simply chill out about everything. My problem is that I’m already so far behind because of the fall-out from losing my mom and that took over everything. Now I’m looking at catch-up. But I’m really at peace with it because I want to be a bit edgier with my approach anyway. For far too long I’ve retreated anytime things got too rough. My word of the year is Progress, so fairly goal-oriented :), but in the back of my mind, when things get overwhelming and outta control, I’ll think of this post and your beeautiful words of wisdom.

  9. Letizia says:

    Your post made me think of something a friend of mine does: instead of a “to do” list, she writes a “I did” list. She sits down at the end of the day and writes down everything she accomplished that day, even simple chores. And the best part? She crosses them out individually after. What a sense of accomplishment! So often we get a lot done, but don’t give ourselves credit because they weren’t what we planned to do.

    By the way, I love your snow photos!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Oh, man! I love that. We seriously do not focus on accomplishments enough as a society. At work, especially, this can be dangerous. It’s so important to focus on the wins, instead of the “losses” or the “what’s next” all the time.

      The snow was beautiful, but MAN…we got rocked! Hearing the sound of the rain yesterday morning was heaven after a weeklong standstill in Portland.

  10. Heather says:

    Love this 🙂 While I’m sad to not have your blog to read, I know it’ll all be worth it when that next novel comes out. I’m sure I’m not the only one waiting!

    I wish everyone would slow down a bit. I think it’s great to have goals, but not so much when they start to weigh you down. One of the things I did several years in a row was keep a running list of the books I read over the year. I didn’t set out with a goal number in mind-just to keep track of what I was reading. And you know what? Seeing that list at the end of the year made me feel pretty darn accomplished. I didn’t set a goal of 20+ books, but often read that amount. Then there was the year where I only read about 12 books, but every single one was over 800 pages. I still felt great.

    This year I set goals but kept them broad as to not have something that could make me stress. And they were all around things that make me happy-read more, more yoga, more time with my kids. No focusing on the negatives.

    Here’s hoping for a great 2017 for all of us ❤

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I’ll still be around, hon! Once a month will be until I finish this dang book.

      Slowing down and spending more time with our loved ones or the things we enjoy is always a good thing. Goals have their place, and the Goodreads challenge definitely inspired me to read more. But it’s good to reevaluate goals we’ve had for a long time, to make sure they’re inspiring us…not driving us bonkers! 😉

  11. Browsing the Atlas says:

    It all sounds so wise, Britt, and I think that’s because you’re very self-aware. I’m not a goal setter, but I do like to start the year with resolutions. I almost always keep them. They used to be very task-oriented: lose weight, write more, try something new every day, etc.. Then they became more conceptual: get stronger, be kinder, etc.. This year my goal sounds awful but is something I need: to be more self-indulgent, to say no more often, and to treat myself to something each day because I deserve it.
    I’m off to a great start. 🙂 Not sure everyone around me is that enthused because it’s such a difference from who I normally am, but I need to put myself first this year. And I need them to understand that. I think they do.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      The conceptual resolutions are a good way to go, hon. I definitely feel those fall into the meaningful goals category!

      Self-indulgence doesn’t sound awful to me at all—rule #1 in yoga is to take care of yourself. We’re pretty much useless if we don’t do that first. Love that you’re treating yourself to something every day! I try to do that too, even if it’s a nice long bath with music or a book. xo

  12. Roy McCarthy says:

    Totally Britt.I think you’ve reached the point I reached a few years ago. I’m pretty much living the life I want, and my wishes don’t amount to much. I’ve stripped away most complications and don’t stress stuff. As for 2017, heading into my mid-sixties I’m determined to have a good running year, see what I can achieve.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Awesome, Roy! Though I don’t think I’ve quite hit your wise stride yet, but I am definitely trying not to sweat it so much and live the life I want.

      Yeah, I’ve seen you hitting the running hard. Personally, I’m making a move to get back into the yoga teaching saddle again. It’s been almost three years—and I’m a bit terrified to stand in front of a class again—but I miss it! 😉

  13. Zen A. says:

    Thank you for the mention, Britt! 🙂

    Like you, I didn’t meet my reading goal. I stressed so much about it in those last couple of months of 2016, but in the end I was just… to hell with it. It’s not making reading any fun. I’ll just read at my own pace from now on.

    I found that the more goals I have, the less I am likely to achieve ANY of them. I have very few goals this year, but all of them are for my own personal benefit. I will finish a novel. And I will travel to a new country. Simple and straight-forward.

    Good luck with everything this year, Britt!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, glad I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by those reading goals! I was pretty stressed too, and then I thought the same thing…to hell with it. I’m not going to lock myself in New Year’s weekend just to power through a stack of books I should be enjoying.

      Excited to read your next book, love! I still think about Puppet Parade. Such a unique and beautiful story!

  14. Andrea Stephenson says:

    Magical pictures Britt. I’m glad that you’re finding the right way for you and that it’s hopefully bringing you some peace. My default is to set goals, plan, write lists – I love the optimism of it but was never quite so good at following through! I’m much more relaxed now and find my way of working with the seasons helps, so I don’t have to have any goals at this point of the year at all, spring is the time for action 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Yeah, it’s crazy how setting too many goals we can’t finish will leave us feeling confused…and perhaps a bit like we failed. I bite off more than I can chew on my to-do lists, then I feel overwhelmed. Good to simplify and focus on what is most important!

      Love that you work with the seasons! I have my own version of that—specifically that I try not to be in editing mode during the summer. I love creating then though!

  15. lillianccc says:

    I don’t think I’m much of a conscious goal-setter, mainly because I know my issue tends to be following through with them. I’m much more of the resolution/intention type and many things I do are usually led by my intuition and instincts. That being said, this can often lead to me making excuses for NOT doing things because I didn’t feel ready or because I was too scared. This year, I’ve actually set a few concrete goals for myself because sometimes you just have to do things even when you’re not ready. Thanks for the food for thought and hope you are having a good year so far! 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Well said, hon! Follow-through is tricky…sometimes we are setting unrealistic goals and other times it is fear that comes into play. I always find travel helps me sort through these situations—or if I can’t do that, I go out into nature and step away from the madness to gain perspective.

      Agreed that it’s good to go after things even when we don’t feel ready! If your heart is telling you to go for it…you should. If you fail, who cares? 😉

  16. Oliver says:

    Believe it or not, but I kept coming back and re-reading this article multiple times during the past days and weeks. Probably trying to figure out some sort of direction for this year myself. 🙂
    Slowing down sounds like the way to go and every once in a while “disconnect to reconnect” and sometimes rather trying to keep pace with our mind than with the things around us…
    Oh, and happy new year Britt! May life embrace you and may you embrace those moments of magic, happiness and meaning…

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      That’s so neat! I’m glad the post was helpful for you. I feel like I’m always trying to sort things out myself, so it’s good to hear there are kindred spirits out there going through the same thing.

      Slowing down in today’s world is usually what we need. It’s rare that any of us should move faster or “do more.” Hope your 2017 is going splendidly, Oliver! 🙂

  17. Gallivanta says: I am not much of a goal setter anymore, and I try to avoid to do lists (though Letizia’s comment on an “I did” list is great). Sometimes this means I waft about and seem to do absolutely nothing, though somehow the nothing of sitting on the sofa and staring at the garden can actually be something immensely wonderful. So, if I have a goal it’s to slow down and make every moment last as long as possible. 🙂

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