For the last couple of years I’ve been very public with my annual personal goals, including progress reports along the way as to how successful (or not) I am in achieving them. I’m not going to run down item by item the goal list from last year. Suffice it to say that I met or exceeded some and didn’t achieve others. If you’re curious about what they were, you’ll find posts about them here, here, here, and here. Instead, I want to write today about the overall lesson learned from 2014 that relates significantly to the goal effort. Here it is:
Don’t be so goal oriented that you suck the life out of life.
My first time for setting a long list of personal goals related to body, mind and spirit was in 2013. It went really well, so it’s no surprise I did it again in 2014. But we weren’t many months into the year before I felt overwhelmed. All of the goals were in addition to my work and volunteer efforts, and it was simply exhausting to try to stay up with all of them. I needed more rest, more sleep, more down time not focused on a never-ending to-do list.
While I made a mid-year correction and lowered the bar on some goals, that still wasn’t enough to put me at ease. I still wasn’t getting enough sleep. I ended the last few months of the year choosing a couple of the goals most meaningful and worked on them while letting the others go. My body, mind and spirit needed the break. It was the right thing to do. I had put so much emphasis on a long, ambitious list of what I wanted to get done that I had succeeded in sucking the life out of life. Surely that wasn’t good for me or anyone else around me.
So I’m determined in 2015 to take a different approach to goals for the year. There will be no long list of goals for body, mind and spirit. I’ll still continue the personal behaviors that have by now become important regular habits (getting in 10,000 steps per day 3 days per week, reading through the Bible in a version or study edition different than one I’ve read before, and spending time weekly on 100 Bible memory verses). But the only other goals will be very simple – getting more sleep daily than I averaged in 2014 (trying for 7.5 instead of 6.5 hours nightly), finishing the books I intended to read last year but didn’t complete, and being more intentional about serving my church and others rather than setting self-focused goals.
I recall a sermon by my former Associate Pastor Kris Billiter from January 2014 when he suggested we set other-oriented goals rather than self-focused ones. That message stuck with me throughout 2014, so I’m taking it to heart. I want to be a better person – not just someone who does a lot of stuff. Drastically reducing self-focused goals and saying “yes” to opportunities to serve others while still reserving enough time for adequate rest will be my basic plan.
I’ve always been a task-oriented person. Plans and goals and checklists fit me well. That isn’t the case with all people. But there is a point where too many to-do items just suck the life out of life. I reached that point in 2014 and have no intention of doing so this year. In fact, I’ve already scheduled one day per week for vacation every week from January through March, plus a full week off in February for the heck of it. I’m writing this post on the first of those restful, stay-at-home days where I slept late, read, played with the dog, spent a couple hours at church helping with our youth program, and now am finishing a blog post.
2015 is off to a good start. You’re welcome to hold me accountable if you like. I hope your year is both productive and meaningful at a deeper, personal, more satisfying level than mere checklists can guarantee.
Don’t suck the life out of life. It’s too precious.