The weeks leading up to December 31 have always been rife with reflection and introspection. Usually, it results in some sort of euphoric shift in mentality and crystal-like clarity for the coming year (while confetti drops from the sky).
So what just happened?
I sat. I thought. I hummed and I hawed. I even spent nine hours travelling to the rugged mountains in upstate New York, hoping they’d offer up some answers.
I did indeed come away with a focus of some sort, or perhaps landed on a lack thereof: a resolutionless 2018. Not necessarily what I intended for the year ahead, but perhaps something worth pursuing? Although counter to what we’re conditioned to believe, the more I sit with it, the more I think it is.
In the process of debating the pros and cons of going resolutionless, I also took a look back at how much those annual goals have changed over the years, wondering how I got here. Lengthy lists of action items have been gradually replaced with a blank white page; have transitioned from wildly specific to completely open-ended.
Is one better than the other?
Annual resolutions in my early adulthood were comprised of numerous list items, some attainable and others to be pushed aside as a second thought, never to be revisited. I was in university, away from home for the first time, and catching a glimpse of what the world had to offer. New cities, new cultures, and a brand new independent way of living.
At the same time, there seemed to be a pressure to perform in school while doing and seeing everything — right now.
My resolutions followed suit. The list items included things like going to far-off places, reading all of the classics, getting good grades in school, and going to the gym four times a week. My outdoor and fitness goals, having not yet been exposed to the wonderfully wild world, looked something like ‘lose at least 10 pounds.’
In all of the resolutions that I placed in the queue during those years, I can’t say how many were achieved. During that formative time in my life, who I was on January 1st could have been completely different come December 31st.
And, as a wise friend recently stated: ‘While our priorities may have changed throughout the year, the resolutions remain the same.’ The fact that we are bound to the goals we set from one New Year’s to the next acts as a unique double-edged sword.
Is it any wonder then, that the majority were not fulfilled?
I was “should-ing”, not wanting.
As the years progressed, my list of items pared down to one or two meaningful tasks. I had completed graduate school, begun my first job, and was struggling to find meaning in a brand new city.
The resolutions slowly began to shift away from the self and toward others. At the same time, this period of self-exploration was complimented by a heated resistance against society’s expectations.
While I looked at and analyzed who I was internally, my annual goals began to project outward. I wanted to be kinder to those around me, to volunteer, and see remote corners of the world. The continued pressure to buy a house effectively made me do the opposite: leave my job, fly free, and explore for lengthy periods of time… Twice.
Oddly enough, counter to the long lists of items, my annual goals started coming to fruition. And while I struggled with where I should live and the career path I should take, I had some sort of idea of who I was becoming and what I wanted to achieve.
More than that, however, I was starting to make it happen.
When the clock struck midnight on my 30th birthday, I was simultaneously struck by the one attribute that had been missing throughout the previous three decades: confidence.
For better or worse, I had intentionally shaped a life inclusive of career path, community, relationships, and values. More importantly, however, I was aware of the importance in staying true to those.
My annual resolutions transitioned to one annual intention, like detachment or progression. Instead of determined action items, I set a principle under which all of my actions were required to fall.
As the ‘measurable’ and ‘attainable’ characteristics of those SMART-oriented goals had fallen by the wayside, it is hard to determine whether or not I was successful in reaching my year-end goals. I will say, however, that the intentions existed as guiding lights when making decisions throughout the course of the year.
Within those 365 days, my goals were free to change to match the person I was becoming (are we ever finished ‘becoming’?), so long as I remained true to my guiding principles. In essence, a course had been set.
2018 was introduced with a bit less structure and slightly more uncertainty.
While I have ambitions of reaching a 50-mile finish line, becoming more involved with conservation initiatives, and transitioning my career accordingly, what that will look like and how I will get there remains to be determined.
With each year that goes by, regardless of age, the unknown seems to remain a constant of life.
This year, then, as opposed to setting in place a resolution to guide that unknown, I am choosing to leave the canvas blank, and instead, let the uncertainty guide me.
A resolutionless 2018 doesn’t mean I can forget to be kind; it doesn’t mean I can become complacent; and it certainly doesn’t mean I can sit on my couch and forget about health and wellness. All of the resolutions of previous years have not been forgotten – in setting them, I was simply setting a foundation.
So, while in all those past years there has been a certain and sure heading, in 2018 I am going to practice trust: Trust that I have laid the appropriate groundwork. Trust that I will honour my priorities. And trust, then, that I will make and adjust all decisions accordingly. In doing so, I then trust that where I end up at the end of 2018 is precisely where I am meant to be at that time.
While achievement is still on the horizon, the formula for getting there now looks a little bit different.
And although I’m not sure where I will be come December 31 (does anybody?), I’m excited to see where that trust will take me.