Every January, I fill out a big ol' document with reflection questions about the last year and goal oriented questions for the year to come. I love the process of celebrating accomplishments and milestones while dreaming about what's next, and I think there's great value in doing so. I typically make far too many goals with not much of a plan about how I'll accomplish them, and yet putting my dreams on paper somehow, miraculously, often leads to many successes by year's end.
Recently I stumbled upon a quote from Jenn Giles Kemper in her new Liturgical day planner, Sacred Ordinary Days. She writes: “While many are setting goals or intentions for the new year, both seem to have limits when it comes to establishing lasting habits and rhythms that help you “become,” rather than merely “do.” Goals and intentions are task-based and work best with a quantifiable measure of success and an easily marked ending point. Something more process-oriented is helpful when you’d like to reorient toward “being” over “achieving.”
I'm a person who loves to chase big dreams and achieve great things. Even on this year's "to-do" list I've set intentions to write a book, have a baby, and start a podcast—not exactly small goals. But, as I reflect back on last year I'm realizing that the things I'm most proud of, the things that made our year wonderful, are not the articles I published, the money we saved, or the vacations we took.
For me, the best part of 2015 was settling deeper into my role as wife, mom, daughter, writer and friend—learning not to classify myself as one of these things but as a unique woman of God who can thrive because of how He sustains, guides and provides for me. I can't really list any huge accomplishments from the last year, at least not any the world would count as impressive, but I know more about who I am, and whose I am. And I think that's what God would hope for me.
So this year I'm trying something new. I'm not filling out that huge goal planning sheet like I've done in past years. Instead, I spent about 15 minutes last week writing down a short list of dreams and goals for the year. I'm hoping this change in process will be a reminder to myself that while goal planning is fine and good and sometimes very important, it's not what will make my life meaningful.
What makes my life meaningful is becoming more like Jesus, growing wiser and more patient, praying more and complaining less. I want to be a woman who takes time to rest and play, a woman that loves others in the ways they need to be loved, a woman who doesn't need validation from the world around me to feel confident who I am.
The beauty of being is that no matter what the year holds—triumph, tragedy, or anything in between—I can still become a woman who grows closer to God. The small processes I'm trying to make habits in my life don't need to dramatically change if life throws a curve ball (or, more likely, I have a newborn who doesn't sleep!)
So this year I will continue what I started last year, with much, much room for improvement. More early mornings, less late nights. More bible, less Facebook. More family bike rides, less anger. More sunsets, less tears. More chaotic meals with friends and less anxiety about hosting the perfect party. More Sunday mornings at church, more MOPS, more homegroup. More grace, less fear. More becoming, less accomplishing.
And if in the middle of all this I happen to finish a book, well, I could handle that too. (Wink.)
For more on the topic of "being" rather than "achieving" you might also enjoy this post by Nicole Walters.