A few days ago, I looked back on how many of my goals for 2021 I ended up reaching. The unsurprising answer was, not many of them. I say it was unsurprising because, as the year progressed, I slowly realized that many of the goals I had set for myself were not the things I should be focusing on. Or, stated more plainly, I set the wrong goals for myself. Let’s dive in.
Why did I set the wrong goals
An important realization was that most of my goals for 2021 focused on things I wanted to have rather than things I wanted to do. A major flaw in my thinking when I set those goals. Another fault is that I set goals for things I had no control over. I can’t control how many prints I sell or how many people subscribe to my newsletter. That’s the part of the process that’s out of my hands, so it’s silly to set goals for those. It has become clear to me that it is better to set goals for anything that happens before the increase of arbitrary numbers. I won’t be making the same mistake in 2022.
Quantifiability helps you to stay motivated
I believe that quantifiable goals are a good way to track your progress. Quantification doesn’t have to be in monetary gains but can be anything you can count. So rather than, for example, aiming to workout more, you aim for 100 workouts. Or instead of aiming for 50 print sales, you try to create 50 prints you deem worth selling and adding them to your online store. The key to this, is that this is all stuff you have direct control over. All the other things flow from that, so you should let them flow. Don’t aim to reach a finish line, aim to take a number of steps.
Another important reason to quantify your goals is that this is the only way to have a moment where you actually reach the goal you’ve set for yourself. Aiming to do something 'more' is endless, aiming to do something 100 times in a year provides perspective. On top of that, you can also easily keep track of your progress while you work towards the goal you've set, which of course is a good motivator. So, quantifiable goals that I can control directly is what I need. But what will they be for 2022?
Goal number 1: walking
First, I plan to have very few goals as I don't wish to get distracted accomplishing many different things. Which means that my main goal for next year is to get out as much as possible to do walks, shoot photos and write stories. If I quantify that goal for myself: I wish to do 50 walks of at least 5KM each. The reason I chose that quantification is because that's still a pretty modest goal, so I can resort to the bare minimum if I end up getting busy with other things but it's also ambitious enough that it pushes me to be conscious about my effort to reach it. Hopefully this will be instrumental in building a habit of going out for walks.
The reason I am making this my main goal, is because walking is a very good vehicle to produce creative work, it's a healthy and reliable way to get into shape (which I'm overdue for), it brings me to different places in a way that forces me to be present when I am there and, finally, it brings me peace of mind. All these things already make me happy on their own and they all come together during a walk. It's only logical to spend as much time doing this.
Goal number 2: fitness
Secondly, I want to be more physically active so my second goal will be to do 4680 minutes of fitness. That might seem arbitrary when I put it like this so let me explain. I recently bought an Apple Watch to keep track of my physical activity and I have set my current fitness goal to 15 minutes each day. I have now learned that I easily achieve that goal just by cycling to and from the office and even when I don't need to go to the office, I still make it most of the time just by going for groceries, walking downstairs to get the mail or cleaning the house.
So for next year, I’m setting a modest fitness goal of 30 minutes in a day, which requires a little more effort outside of just moving about, and I plan to reach that goal at least three times each week. If we then do some calculations: that's 90 minutes per week and thus 4680 minutes spread out over the year. Should be doable, considering there are 525.949,2 minutes in a year and, to put that in perspective, that means that less than 1% of my time will be spent working out. I realize that's not ambitious at all but as it stands, I don't wish to drastically change my current life but simply want to be more active.
As you see, goal number two already flows out of my first goal but I still wanted to highlight it separately. The fitness goal can therefore be reached outside of doing walks as well by, for example, doing workouts in the gym or going for long bike rides. Considering that my walks are usually longer than 5KM already (that minimum requirement is only there to get me out of the house), there's a good chance I will already reach my fitness goal just by doing walks. If that's the case, fine. But hopefully the other fitness activities will cause me to have greater success accomplishing this goal then I currently anticipate. Again, this goal is mainly to give me something to aim for and by the time I reach it, have helped me build a habit.
Goal number 3: newsletter
Ahhh, the newsletter. Have we become sick of them already? Hopefully not because I plan to go all in on mine, Dialogue, next year. Writing daily Monologues has been great and taught me a great deal about writing and strengthened my writing habit. I also now know that I want to keep doing this writing thing — it's fun! So goal number three will be to send out Dialogue on a monthly basis, which I've promised before but this time for real.
Hopefully I can take some time to develop more fleshed out thoughts and by extension more interesting stories. The walks will provide me with something to talk about and the photography I do during them will provide the images to illustrate my stories. The decreased frequency of only 12 entries in a whole year instead of the 365 I'm doing this year, will hopefully benefit the quality as well.
Goal number 4: be more kind
This last one is a little scary to share and I thought about deleting it here and keeping it private instead but I also don't want to chicken out so here it goes.
I'm stressed, tired and generally angry at the world. It's not something that entirely originates with me, as I believe the world is a difficult place to navigate right now (and I don't think I have to substantiate that claim for you to understand what I mean), but I do have full control over the way I engage with the world. I typically protect myself by deflecting negative energy and arbitrary foolishness but it's not enough. I still end up drained and triggered from time to time and I find myself with a lack of patience and a growing frustration for anything that gets in my way.
As a result, I don't have the peace of mind I would like to have. I believe I'm a reflective person, capable of thoughts free of mental shortcuts, but I notice I'm sometimes resorting to borderline short-sightedness because being nuanced all the time is too mentally taxing. To be clear, all this stuff is pretty minor and I'm sure my immediate surroundings don't define me by it. Nevertheless, I think it's good I try to be as kind and grateful as I can. So how do I practice being more kind? How do you reach this goal? Perhaps by making it as small and simple as possible.
Which means my fourth and final goal for 2022 will be to say something kind to Charlotte everyday. That's it. Is that silly? Maybe. It even originates from a joke somebody made but it made me think about what it might teach me. The answer hopefully is to think more good thoughts, be more grateful and be more kind to the people around me. Sure, I should be saying nice things to her anyway (and of course I already do!) and I could say them to anybody else as well. I simply choose her because she deserves it.
My 2022 goals: a summary
- Do 50 walks of at least 5KM each.
- 4680 minutes of fitness (which I’ll probably reach by doing my 50 walks).
- Send out my newsletter Dialogue on a monthly basis.
- Say something nice to Charlotte every day.
I'm happy with this list of goals. I thought about it for a while and almost started to feel guilty when I could not come up with more, better goals. But perhaps setting more goals isn't necessary when you don't feel like doing more than the things you can immediately come up with. I also like that they're all pretty simple and not extremely difficult to reach. Only the first and main goal of walking is a little ambitious and all the other ones are either logical things flowing out of that first goal or things I want to be extra mindful about. That's what setting goals is all about for me, being mindful and intentional about the things you want to do. So when the end of 2022 nears and I have completed this list, I won't have done grandiose things because of it but I will have lived a year where I was doing the things I like. And that's the ultimate goal.