I’ve been ruminating on the idea of goals for a week now, following a late-night conversation with a friend and a stimulating happy-hour meetup about financial goals for freelancers (courtesy The Salt Mines and TechLife Columbus.) Before 2011 I would say I was a very goal-oriented, moderately driven and perfectionistic person. What I wanted, I got, as long as I worked hard and followed the rules. Well, the last two years have been an exercise in unraveling that equation, and I’d sort of given up having concrete goals of any sort, both as a pushback against performance-based self-worth but also as a way of defending myself against disappointment. There’s a certain freedom that’s come as a result of having no expectations and being open to come what may, but I’ve also got a nagging feeling sometimes that I’m spinning my wheels.
In my weeklong meditation on goals, I’ve realized that goals don’t have to become should-do’s, conditions for approval/acceptance, expectations for particular outcomes (RAWR DISAPPOINTMENT ALERT!), or obligations to anyone but myself and God. Rather, as my friend pointed out, they can be signposts by which to navigate or pole stars by which to triangulate and reorient my actions and perceptions. After I came back to Columbus in 2011, I went through a process of rejecting goals (some of which, admittedly, were ones I thought I should be pursuing but didn’t actually want) and abandoning intention in favor of what felt good at good at the time, starting with G. and continuing through the present day. I believe strongly in the important of process and presence, and I don’t think everything needs to be quite as purpose-driven as I used to believe. But I also feel lately that I’ve lost my compass, finding myself in positions I’d never thought I’d be. Through the grace of God and friends, I’m not judging myself for it (most of the time), but I’m not thrilled when it happens and I’m starting to want to avoid some of these situations. And sometimes I’m still overwhelmed with a sense of floundering or being blown hither and yon by the storms of life. (Spare me your Captain Jesus metaphors for now, please.)
So where do i go from here? As I survey my life in the last year or so, particularly since the start of this year, I’ve decided that I no longer want to crash helter-skelter through life but neither do I want to turtle up and stay in my safe box. I’d like to continue saying yes to what enlarges and enriches my soul, and start saying no a little more often to substitutions, surrogates, and pacifiers. It’s a balancing act, of yeses and nos, and I have a tendency to extremes one way or the other, so this will be kind of tough. What might that look like concretely? Here’s a few to start and approximate, hypothetical timelines…
Professional: Work for myself as a freelancer/entrepreneur. (5 years.)
- Upgrade my main portrait lens. (1 month)
- Upgrade my off-camera lighting and experiment with new set-ups. (6 months)
- Redesign my photography website and logo. (6 months)
- Research and Join a professional photography group for education and networking. (6 months)
- Book and shoot 5 senior sessions, 5 family sessions, and 3 newborn/child sessions. (1 year)
- Design and Marketing
- Continue blogging and editing for Innogage – 2 blog posts a month.
- Join a message board and/or Meetup group for digital marketing. (1 month)
- Complete Skillshare course in Adobe Illustrator. (1 month)
- Subscribe to Lynda and complete courses in WordPress, Web Design, and whatever else strikes my fancy. (6 months)
- Create a design and marketing portfolio of logos, web sites, and mailers. (1 year)
- How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying
- Respond to e-mails within 12 hours.
- Call to follow up with new project leads.
- Give a gift and pay it forward with each project.
- Meet with an accountant and/or business consultant to make a financial plan. (2 months)
Creativity: Have a finished draft of whatever the hell it is I’m writing. (1 year goal)
- Blog once a week.
- Work on the novel(la) an hour a week.
- Write some more poetry.
- Connect with other writers through a group (preferred) or message board. (1 month)
Creativity: Expand my range of expression and find ways to create more socially. (ongoing, but let’s try and do these in the next year-ish.)
- Take a painting and/or pottery class.
- Buy a sketchpad and a pencil sharpener.
- Paint something huge.
- Sew something useful.
- Learn to play guitar.
- Write a song. (in progress!)
Personal Wellness: Continue growing in independence. Prepare to be part of a family. (5 years)
- Establish a budget and track my spending. (NOW)
- Save $1,000 a month towards (in varying order): ICL surgery, vacation, down payment fund
- Travel somewhere by myself. (1 year)
- Have a well-furnished and charmingly decorated home. (Check!)
- Practice yoga 3-4 times a week. Do DailyHiit 2-3 times a week. (In progress and I’m loving it!)
- Train for a distance sporting event. (Starting next spring, since it’ll probably be biking.)
- Floss every day.
- Average 7 hours of sleep a night.
- Write a letter to a friend once a month.
- A few relationship Who and How guidelines that I prefer to keep to myself at this point.
There, I think I have an idea what the hell to do with my life without being overly restrictive or legalistic. The last time I did something like this (summer of 2009) I checked off everything on my list for that season. So we’ll see how this goes. Wish me luck!