One of the things I like to do around New Year’s Day is reflect on the previous year and look forward to the next, in terms of what I want to do and the things I want to concentrate on. I generally write in my journal for a few days and then come up with a very short list of goals, usually around 4 or 5 items. The goals almost invariably have to do with writing, travel, and money, although now and then something else gets thrown in.
I usually have about a 50/50 success rate on accomplishing my stated goals, but this year as I looked back over the previous year as well as the past 8 or 10 years of goals, I noticed an interesting pattern. The first thing was that in previous years, even when I didn’t accomplish a goal within that year, oftentimes it did happen a year or two later. The second thing I noticed was that even though I accomplished NONE of my goals for 2011, when I wrote out my accomplishments for the year, I was stunned. It was not just a good year for me, it was a very productive one.
All this got me thinking about the difference between goals and accomplishments, and the role of intention. Because even when I didn’t meet a goal in a particular year, my intention to focus on that particular item helped me reach the goal a year or two later. For example, I had the goal to “start meditating” as far back as 2008, but I only started doing it regularly last year. Many of my travel goals came true several years after first writing them down.
Some of the goals I set for myself last year were partially reached, but a few of them just plain didn’t happen. The ones that didn’t happen were focused on results, things I don’t have much control over, like how many stories I’d have published and how much money I’d make. I can control how many stories I write, and even how many I submit, but I don’t have much control over how many will be published, except by practicing the craft of writing and becoming a better writer. Similarly, I can control how much I try to work, and attempt to get more work, but I don’t have a lot of control over the final figure at the end of the year.
What was really interesting was comparing my rather poor results on the goals list with my list of accomplishments for 2011. Here are just a few of them: Ran a half-marathon, became a Big Sister, started two new part-time jobs, started meditating, and started knitting again. None of those accomplishments were on my goal list for the year, though all of them had been something I’d wanted to do at some point in my life. And I’m proud and excited about all of them!
What do I make of all this? I think that whether we call them goals or accomplishments or something else, it’s the intention that helps bring about the reality of what we want to bring into our life. And the words can get tricky, and can descend quickly into semantics, but at the same time I believe we need to stay open to what might sneak in and take us by surprise. Sometimes things we didn’t even know we wanted can become an integral part of our life when we’re open to it. I’ve thought about becoming a Big Sister for years, but I didn’t know this would be the year it would fall into my lap. And I never realized how rewarding it would be and how attached I would become to my Little Sister in just a few short months. I’m looking forward to introducing her to so many things she’s never experienced. And I know I’ll experience them anew through her.
Do you set goals or intentions for the year, or do you leave it open, or do you fall somewhere in between? Or maybe you begin a clean slate on another calendar day. Please leave your thoughts on goals, accomplishments, and intentions in the Comments section.