I shamelessly admit that I’m a goal-setting kinda chick–big on self-improvement and setting intentions so that I’m (hopefully) always continuing to grow. The way I figure, it’s difficult to reach a new, exciting destination if you’ve given little to no thought where you’d like to end up.
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I’m aware some find people like me annoying. Ya know, the camp that thinks resolutions are pointless because we humans are likely to fold after the shine of the new year dulls. While I can’t deny that’s it’s just in my DNA to be a goal-getter, I do recognize that follow-through is likely the biggest stumbling block to accomplishing our dreams. This became even more evident to me when, at the turn of the new year, I looked back on my own goals over the past decade.
2020 is a BIGGIE for me as a 1980 baby–it’s not only a new year & a new decade, it’s one in which I’ll say good-bye to my 30’s and welcome in my 40’s. Gulp. I don’t buy into the fact that 40 is “old” but I do think it’s time to stop saying “I wish” and get about the business of taking action on the things I claim to want if I haven’t already.
And, if I haven’t begun, examining why.
So over the holidays I did something time-consuming but totally worthwhile–I read through all of my journals over the past decade (you can imagine by how wordy I am here that this involved ALOT of reading). It served as, essentially, a review of my 30’s. And there were some powerful takeaways.
Why share them? I guess in the hopes that some 20 or 30-something coming up behind me might go about a goal or dream a little smarter than I did. Or that a fellow 40-something won’t feel as alone for getting off course a time or two. Heck, maybe even so a wiser woman ahead of me returns the same favor & offers up some wisdom only she—with more life experience—could have.
So, in the spirit of giving & receiving, here are six big takeaways I had looking over my last decade of life…
#1 Your dreams won’t change wildly over the course of a decade, so get about the business of starting now.
This could be a bit different depending upon which decade of life we’re talking about, but I was shocked how much my goals ten years ago were similar to the ones I’m still going after today.
Strengthen my body.
Write the book.
Save more money.
The point here is, when it comes to matters of the heart, you will likely desire the same things in 10 years that you do right now. So take some small action toward them today so that you don’t look back and think “gah, I wish I’d started sooner!” And speaking of small steps…
#2 It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) all or nothing when it comes to achieving your goals.
We say on January 1st we want to lose 20lbs. We start off with great momentum but begin to feel defeated after not seeing the needle move as quickly as we’d like, even after putting in the hard work & sacrificing. Before long we think “eff it—I’ll never be able to keep this up.” So we go back to old habits…until we feel yucky & we’re fed up again.
I’m so familiar with this cycle. In this past decade I’ve been anywhere & everywhere between 110 and 155 pounds (granted some of that latter end was credit to a nearly 9lb. baby). The point here is that the cyclical nature of this is due to all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking. What I wish I’d accepted earlier is to simply aim for making my best choices each day just a little more than the day before, letting the results come naturally. It’s not the path that’s glamorous or quick, but it’s faster in the long run than repeating the same cycle over & over.
#3 The things in your life you want to change don’t just magically improve—you have to WORK toward it, a little bit, each day.
This sounds obvious but, especially in our 20’s, how often are we guilty of magical thinking? Of assuming our challenges will somehow just take care of themselves in the future? We’re not that stressed about our debt at 25 because we have so much time ahead of us; it’s easy to think our financial situation will improve in ten or fifteen years because we assume by then we’ll have a better job, have earned more income for our years of service, or (it’s cringey, but true sometimes, especially for women) find a partner who will be successful and money won’t be as much of an issue.
This kind of magical thinking doesn’t just happen with finances, but in many areas because, well, we don’t want to ever imagine our future lives as more stressful than they currently are.
But here’s the hard truth I would tell myself at 25 or 30 if I could, with a loud clap in my own face: Girl…TAKE. ACTION. NOW. You have debt? Start saving, just a little bit, RIGHT NOW. Today. Seriously. Stop reading this, get up, grab a five or ten dollar bill from your purse and go put it in an envelope right now. Sounds like a trivial amount doesn’t it? Like it won’t make a dent. Well, anyone 40 or older will tell you any amount we would’ve saved ten or twenty years ago would’ve been better than nothing. Five dollars a day would’ve been better than assuming through magical thinking that the debt would somehow take care of itself. So, in regard to anything you find yourself consistently wishing you’d get rid of–the weight, the debt, the bad habit–please, please, please, START TODAY with whatever tiny step you can pull off. As the cliché goes, your future self will thank you for it.
#4 Nobody cares about your life as much as you think they do.
Sound a little harsh? It’s true though. I look back at how much time & energy I spent worrying about what everyone & their brother would think if I took that job, left that guy, shared my writing, the list goes on. Other than maybe your best friend or your mom, no one is analyzing your life choices as much as you think they are—and, if they are, they’re probably not the types of opinions you should care about anyway. So let go of worrying what others will think sooner rather than later and do the things you want. You won’t stop wanting them, you’ll just stop caring so much what others think about it.
#5 Very few decisions have life or death repercussions—if you make the wrong turn you can always course-correct…but make a damn turn.
At many points in the last decade I was so paralyzed by making the “wrong” decision that I made no decision at all. But to all my anxious decision-makers, my overthinkers, hear this: indecision is still a choice. It’s a choice to not move forward. So, for now, go with your gut—and guess what? In most cases you can always change your mind.
I switched majors three times before finishing my Master’s degree and, yes, I paid some more tuition than was necessary but I didn’t let my indecision keep me from starting or finishing and you know what? I just got some extra knowledge along the way. If you’ve been contemplating embarking on the same destination for awhile now, just start the trip…if you make a wrong turn your own internal GPS will redirect you eventually.
And that leads me to the final & most important takeaway…
#6 90% of it all works out.
While I had a gratitude list here & there, so much angst & fret filled my journals over the course of that decade and, though a small percentage of my fears did come to fruition, a vast majority did not. After experiencing my own share of grief in the last ten years, I no longer say “it all works out” or “everything happens for a reason”, because it can feel really insensitive when you receive a scary diagnosis or experience losing someone you love. BUT, most of the fears & anxieties we lose time & energy on do work out—either they don’t come to fruition or they do & we learn and grow from it.
So don’t spend too much time wallowing in “what if?” The odds are greatly in your favor that, if the worst case scenario should come to pass, you WILL make it through. And, when you do, document your rejoicing so that, if you ever look back over one of your own decades, you remember just how blessed this ride can be.
And, on that note, remember one thing I have a tendency to forget–don’t take it all too seriously. If we’re all lucky enough ten years from now to have the opportunity to reflect on the decade before & make plans for the one ahead, then we’re lucky enough.
This story originally appeared on Krissy Brynn Jackson Blog
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