Friday, April 1, 2011

List of goals moves me toward a satisfying life

When life moves at such a frenetic pace, it's difficult to carve out time for things I enjoy. In fact, it's even difficult to tackle some of the more mundane tasks, such as cleaning out my giant chest freezer (with 10 pounds of frozen tomatillos lurking in there somewhere) or researching which waffle iron would be the best choice for my family.

Knowing that my life fills so quickly, last year I wrote a list of things I wanted to accomplish before my next birthday, which is approaching in May. I wrote those 36 things on a large piece of poster board and hung it in a place where I would pass by it many times each day.

It was an ambitious list, one where I let wild, impractical ideas co-mingle with more practical ones I could easily accomplish. On the side of impractical was the idea that I would sew a skirt; I've never sewn a garment in all my years and don't even have a working sewing machine. Still, I put it on the list, knowing that the only way I'd make room in my life for learning a craft was to make it a priority.

More practically, I committed to reading the giant tome Anna Karenina and to baking a pie from scratch. I also decided that I wanted to paint a canvas, go on a garden tour, and book a vacation, all items I've been able to accomplish and joyfully cross off my list. As for the vacation I booked, if all goes as planned, my husband and l will be waking up in a hotel overlooking the Caribbean on the morning of my birthday.

Other goals, such as getting a new manual focus camera and learning how to use it, probably won't happen before my birthday arrives. But what has happened is that I became more motivated to take better photographs with the camera I already have (which really was as simple as reading the user's manual). Similarly, I had a goal of journaling for my children 50 times over the course of a year. I didn't reach 50, but because I made writing for my children a priority, I was encouraged to write more often.

In some cases, my priorities simply changed during the year. For example, I thought I'd wanted to wallpaper my living room, but I realized that I didn't want the hassle or expense of taking on the project. Changing my mind—and even not reaching some of the goals I wrote down—is fine with me. The list, after all, was more about giving myself the space—and the permission—to acknowledge what brings me joy.

Over the last 10 months, I've been reminded how satisfying it is to take the time to figure out what I want and put it in writing. Sometimes, that's all it took for me to begin realigning my priorities and to work on reaching my goals. Other times, I had to take an honest look at those goals and ask myself, “Is this truly what I want?” In either case, I have been empowered to spend my time and money in ways that bring fulfillment.

You don't have to wait for an upcoming birthday, the start of a new year, or any other magical moment to start making and reaching your goals. Start with three things you want to accomplish and put them in writing. Put the list somewhere you'll see it often, and you'll be surprised by how quickly you start making choices that move you closer to getting the life you want.