Want to take yourself on a wild ride of the best kind in 2021? Make a dedicated goal list.
About a decade ago, I started making goal lists. I’d make a list for the entire year of things to accomplish, in varying degrees of difficulty. In my head, the document became known as THE list. I’d usually write it out on a sheet of legal pad paper, and then I’d place it somewhere safe where I could reference it throughout the year, but where it would stay clean and nice. It was a guide to how I’d spend my time over the next year.
Most of the items on the list I could control, while some were left to the fates. The first couple of years I made THE list, I talked about it all the time. Eventually, I felt like everyone probably got tired of hearing about my lists, so I stopped. With a new year on the horizon, though, I’m here to talk about THE list and offer tips for you to create your own. If you’re more visually inclined, maybe a vision board would work better for you. Either way, just be intentional.
Me? I love lists, particularly those written on plain old legal pad paper. I can see everything nice and clearly, and once an item is finished, I can cross if off neatly. I also put the date I finish the item, and a quick note about how it turned out.
The list is a wild experience. I tend to list 20-30 items that I want to accomplish during the year. They’ve included seemingly simple tasks such as “get a new bookshelf” or “tune your guitar,” to more involved items such as finishing a book and traveling somewhere new. Sometimes I’ve written “get pregnant” or “earn a promotion,” both things that while I can do my best to make happen, I don’t fully control.
Here’s the thing: The list never turns out how I expect. This is perhaps the most important thing to note here.
That task about getting a new bookshelf? Turns out I had one already under my nose. When I went to do that one a few years ago I didn’t really want to spend any money so I looked around for supplies and ideas to make one. Then, I looked at an old dresser I owned and figured it would be perfect as a repurposed bookshelf. Today, it holds all sorts of treasures and books, and I’m so thankful. And it was free!
The “tune your guitar” task actually led to my marriage. I’m not kidding. I was flirting with this cute drummer I’d known forever, but we hadn’t really gone on a date or anything after I’d seen him out at one of his gigs. I saw my “tune your guitar” task and asked him one day if he knew how to tune a guitar. He did, and I figured I’d cross off a list item and get to see the cute drummer in one fell swoop. Plus, I didn’t have to tune my own guitar, which takes me longer to do than I’d like to admit. The cute drummer? We’re coming up on our two-year wedding anniversary.
I almost always include “travel somewhere new” and one or two financial goals, depending on my current situation. I include an item or two to honor my mom and dad, both of whom have passed on. I also include a writing goal, such as starting Conjure this past year or entering a writing contest. And I like to include this one almost every time: Do something kind for someone who can never repay you. That’s one of my favorite concepts, so I make sure to keep it top of mind.
As of this writing I haven’t yet made my 2021 list. In 2020, I split the list into two and did one for the first half of the year and one for the second half. Most of the items I accomplished, and some I didn’t. And you know what? That’s okay. The ones that are still important will probably go back on the list for next year. Other times, a list item becomes null and void for some reason.
In the first list I created this year I made a goal to see someone in my life once a month. This person almost went out of her way not to see me the first three months of the year, before the pandemic really even hit its stride in the U.S. I gave up on that one, especially after I was putting in maximum effort and the other person was just not trying at all. Sometimes things like that happen. It’s okay when they do, they free up your time and energy for other pursuits in life.
For 2021, I’m going back to the full-year list, and I’m going to do some thinking before I create THE list. I know I’m including “finish my novel” because I’m so close I can see finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m sure I’ll include some of my old, afore-mentioned favorite items, and probably some tasks I’d like to check off my list once and for all. Once I have it written out, I’ll place it somewhere safe, probably in a nightstand drawer, where it will stay near to me so I can check it but will also stay safe from spills. I’ll pick the first item, and make a plan to tackle it in January, then go from there. Some of the items naturally fall into place. Some take a little more planning, like when I listed “travel somewhere once a month.” I did accomplish that list item, but I had to be realistic, too. Sometimes I’d just take a quick day trip to the next town over and visit a new store or restaurant there. It turned out to be a nice adventure filled with great memories. I certainly didn’t know how that one would turn out, but I made it happen.
I hope you create a list or vision board that speaks to you and takes you places you couldn’t dream of when you made the list. If you do, I’d love to hear about your adventures next year, so keep me posted! I’ll do the same with mine.