I recently revisited the goals and intentions I set out for myself in the beginning of 2019. I realised sharing it all in one post would make it a really really long read, so I decided to split it into two parts. In Part 1, I shared the quotes which helped inform and ground my values, purpose, and perspective in life. In this post (Part 2), I wanted to actually share the intentions I developed, and a few of the more specific, measurable, tiny goals and indicators I set out for myself.
It was important to me to that I had a broader set of intentions, because I suspected my goals would change. Even if I didn’t hit the specific goals, I would have at least had a set of thoughtfully developed sense of direction that could act as a guiding compass. When my priorities changed, I felt like I was able to almost intuitively adapt.
That being said, there were still several categories that I knew I wanted to focus on, and more intentionally improve upon and address. These were: Health, Learning, Work/Career/Productivity, Relationships, Personal Finance, Passion Projects & Social Change, and a catch-all ‘Good shit to do’.
It took me a long time to really internalise the fact that my body was actually connected to my brain, and that foregoing sleep and other physical needs through sheer will power and various chemical dependencies (hi coffee + caffeine (& other) pills) was not a sustainable way of living.
In my more foolish, younger years, I prided myself on the minimum hours of sleep I needed, so I could get more work done. Through several years of counselling, therapy, and some good ol’ self reflection, I’ve learned that my burning need to ‘be productive’ was probably in part driven by a combination of a) ‘perfectionist’ tendencies that made me feel never good enough, b) capitalism’s implicit messaging that the value of your work was correlated to the value of your worth, and c) some underlying sense of inadequacy which drove me to work to the point of exhaustion.
I know better now. This year, I wanted to make sure I took care of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Some of the intentions I set out for myself were to:
- Achieve equanimity and inner peace by ensuring optimal mental and physical health. Ensure long-term sustainability of mind, body, and soul.
- Develop a more positive self-concept: Improve confidence, courage, self-compassion, self-love, and emotional regulation. Reduce anxiety, insecurity, shame, depression, instability.
To accomplish this, some of the measurable goals I committed myself to included weekly physical activity, a minimum of 6.5 hours sleep/day, a daily gratitude practise, and attending counselling and/or some form of regular, spiritual, inner work to improve my mental and spiritual health.
I love to learn. According to StrengthsQuest, three of my Top 5 strengths are Learner, i.e. people who “have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather than the outcomes, excites them,” Input, i.e. people who “have a need to collect and archive. They may accumulate information, ideas, artefacts, or even relationships”, and Intellection, i.e. people who are “characterised by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.”
So perhaps unsurprisingly, one of my main intentions this year was to continuously learn, share that learning with others, and make sure those learnings were applied. The intentions I set out for learning were as follows:
- Be a lifelong student and teacher.
- Learn and constantly reflect, apply, and synthesise (via documentation) learnings. Inspire myself and others.
- Grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually.
- Practise intellectual humility and seek to deeply understand others’ world views; actively share my own world views.
- Engage in praxis — there is no theory without practise, and vice versa. Put knowledge into practise by changing the way I live and operate in the world.
Some of the indicators I set out for myself were to make sure I engaged in regular reflections, documented my learnings via regular blogging, read a book once/week, and learn a new language.
For reasons I won’t get into here, ‘school’, work, and other volunteering projects I committed to had always been major, defining priorities in my life (refer above to toxic notions of value of output = worth). I’ve been privileged enough to be able to choose jobs that paid little (if at all), but aligned much more deeply with a felt sense of mission.
There was a time in my life where I planned five years ahead — the degrees I would get, skills I would acquire, jobs I would work… But I realised over the past few years that this was not only limiting, since I couldn’t always anticipate the new amazing opportunities that would arise, but also set myself up for disappointment at not achieving such a specific goal.
Since this revelation, I’ve really come to expand my ‘career’/life goals, something I think I already implicitly knew and was doing, but I just hadn’t spelt out explicitly. I wanted to pursue opportunities to learn more, and allow others to learn more. Make information, knowledge, wisdom more accessible; for the purposes of a more just and equitable world. To maximise impact. To do all this in service (See my favourite George Beranrd Shaw quote!)
I also realised that sometimes I focused so much on outputs, that I forgot about the process, the people, and the lessons behind it all. So my intentions reflected my desire to encapsulate all of these things:
- Ensure work / career is meaningful in process, and results in effective, long-term, sustainable outcomes.
- Contribute to enabling equitable access to wisdom, knowledge, education, and life-long learning; prioritise those least well-off and furthest from opportunity.
- Develop clarity on how to do this with maximal impact, given my abilities/access to opportunities/ strengths/skills
- Optimise my productivity in ways that are holistic and results-oriented, but also focus on relationships and meaningfulness of process.
- Prioritise: relationships over tasks, impact over hours.
The indicators I set out for work/career included things like producing a monthly blog post related to work learnings, securing professional development opportunities, emphasising relationships and meaningfulness of process (as impact!) over outputs and outcomes, while also tangibly tracking my productivity.
I used to think about what I hope people would write in my eulogy — someone who led a life of impact and service, who changed the world in some significant way. I recognise now that this is my ego speaking, and I’m increasingly trying to shed this desire to be remembered in a large scale.
But when I really, really think about it, I do want to be remembered in particular ways. Maybe not for any ego-driven, huge impact, but at least as someone who was kind, helpful, and who at the end of the day, tried her best to show everyone the love they deserved.
Thus, the intentions I set out for relationships were to:
- Practise unconditional love in all relationships.
- Nurture and invest time/energy into the people that are important, valuable, meaningful.
- Surround self with people who love you, encourage you, challenge you, and help you grow holistically. Send love to, but let go of, those who don’t.
- Be someone reliable, authentic, honest, compassionate, loving, generous, kind, patient, encouraging.
- Remember that relationships are central, and that every interaction is an opportunity to make someone’s day a little brighter.
In addition to my more general intentions, I also had goals for specific kinds of relationships.
- Partner / SO:
- Practise unconditional love & positive regard, quality time, acts of service, consistency, growth mindset.
- Listen deeply to body/intuition/gut/heart; honestly identify and *communicate* feelings/wants.
- Develop conditions of trust, security, stability.
- Follow your inner compass, collaboratively carve out new paths, cross bridges as they come.
- Let go of expectations/aspirations of ideal relationships.
- Develop radical acceptance for the family dynamic.
- Reflect on, and deeply question if the stories in my head are serving me or them.
- Nurture, maintain, show-up, hold space, express appreciation
- Seek out mentors and grow personally, professionally, holistically.
- Ask about addressing work-related anxiety, anxious ambition, place, insecurity, fears.
The indicators I set for myself included spending regular quality time with my partner, spending weekly time with family, and maintaining consistent communications with friends.
Money makes me anxious. It’s a bit irrational, as I’ve never been seriously at risk of not meeting my material needs. Even when I was living on a modest stipend, I always knew I had the bank of Mom and Dad to fall back on. But I always wanted more independence, and less dependence, on them.
To me, money represents security and stability. Getting my personal finances in order, while making sure I wasn’t actively contributing to systems that perpetuated inequities was important to me. My intentions for personal finance were to:
- Plan for long-term material and financial security, that will enable me the freedom and peace of mind to live without worry, and achieve my intentions, dreams, and goals.
- Develop consumption habits in congruence with ethics/values (i.e. make purchases that are fair trade, ethical, sustainable, local, etc.)
- Work towards complete financial independence from parents (making enough to move out, no longer rely on them for education/rent/car payments/etc.)
The indicators under personal finance included weekly budgeting, saving a percentage of my salary, investigating ethical investing options, and securing additional income.
Passion Projects / Social Change
I’ve always been the kind of person whose ambitions outweighed my capacity. It often felt like there was so much to do, so many problems to solve, and not enough time to work on them all. And oftentimes, the problems I most wanted to tackle didn’t come with lucrative compensation (usually, quite the opposite). But I believe in them, and still want to support and contribute in the ways that I can. So I volunteer, and sometimes end up signing up for too many things that I don’t have time for. Oops.
And then there are the things I do solely and exclusively for myself, like music. Not tied to any sort of external impact or drive. Perhaps, an intrinsic joy, an act of self expression, self care, self love.
These are things I value, and hope to make time for in my life. They bring me joy, meaning, purpose, care. Thus, my intentions were to:
- Contribute to passion projects that bring eudaemonia, inner joy, learning.
- Contribute to projects that bring about social good/social change/expansion of love, compassion, understanding, reduction of suffering/inequities, in a long-term, sustainable way.
Some of my indicators involved writing more songs, attending community events, contributing to activist movements, and producing more creative projects.
Good Shit to Do
The responsible me knows that there are some things that I don’t particularly care for, and may even be annoying that I don’t really want to, but ought to, do. So… I threw in a category for this too. My intention here was literally…
- There are some things that you really don’t want to do, but probably should be done that contribute to long-term well-being. Do them.
My indicators involved things like regularly tidying my house, spending time to tighten up my online privacy, and practising better digital hygiene (though after reading this article, I’m reconsidering the discursive implications of this term!).
How it all came together
I blurred out some things I’d prefer to keep private, but the above shows how I went about organising it all. Recognising that there were a lot of tiny goals, I thought it might be useful to include a column for prioritisation (1 for most important, 4 for least), so I could emphasise and distinguish which ones were really important to me, versus which were just nice to have. If anyone is interested in a similar goal setting exercise, I’d recommend doing the same! It felt much less overwhelming once I figured out what actually mattered to me, so I could focus on those.
I also strove to do daily, weekly, and monthly journal/tracking style reviews (using a more simplified version of the GTD method), to ensure I was somewhat making progress, and my values and ideal directions were well aligned with my broader goals and intentions.
Initially I wanted to do include some reflections on whether or not I felt I was meeting my goals. But there was so, so much to say that it felt each category needed its own blog post! Hoping to do a review soon… Maybe there will be a Part 3 someday…
I will say that it was incredibly refreshing to look back at what I set out for myself in the beginning of this year. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the things I initially aspired for, came to fruition, not because I necessarily planned meticulously to make them happen, but simply because I had reflected deeply on what I wanted, and was able to align some sort of inner purpose with a more structured external plan.
I highly encourage everyone to do some kind of reflective, goal-setting exercise, and think deeply about what you really want in life, what you value, and which little micro goals that might help you get there. Even if you don’t yet have a detailed map and destination, developing an inner compass can help so immensely helpful in this wild and wandering journey we call life. At least, it has been for me. 🙂