With the end of one year and the beginning of a new one upon us, thoughts of reflections and resolutions are quickly seeping into my already pre-holiday addled brain (why are the people you love the most the hardest to find presents for?!). Since it’s also been a few months since my 30th birthday, I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on list making, goal achieving, vulnerability, and comparing yourself to (who) everyone (is on the Internet).
As some of you know if you follow me on Twitter or read my blog, I created a 30 before 30 list about two years ago to light the proverbial fire under my butt. I wanted to stop saying “someday I’ll …” and, for me, a list with a deadline was the best way to do that. Very quickly, the list became much more than a series of goals. It became a way for me to create a community, to motivate myself & others, to learn more about who I am (and who I want to be), and, most surprisingly, the first hit that comes up on Google if you search “30 before 30”. How did THAT happen?!
When my 30th birthday came around on September 26th (complete with bouncy castle celebrations, because that’s what adults do), I had managed to complete 20 of the 30 things on my list. What both fascinated and frightened me about the ‘end’ of my 30 before 30 (I’m sure you can tell by the quotations what’s coming later) is how quickly I mentally shifted from celebrating my 20 accomplishments to bemoaning my 10 apparent failures. With that in mind, I wanted to share some lessons learned from my 30 before 30 experience as you begin thinking about your own goals and resolutions for the new year.
Crossing it off your list feels good, but the journey to that final pen (or key) stroke is what counts.
This was an especially insightful lesson after completing my 52in52 book project. While initially an opportunity to start to make a dent in the (very) long list of books I wanted to read, I found myself, at times, reading to finish. Like most things with a deadline and quantifiable criteria for completion, I frantically treaded water, lost in a sea of pages and page numbers. Instead of reading to learn, grow, reflect, and be inspired, I was reading simply to say that I had.
With a list and a deadline comes, almost automatically, a sense of urgency. Motivation, however, is not synonymous with speed. Yes, there is a real and fixed deadline for a 30 before 30 list, and an ultimate target date 364 days after January 1st. The goal, however, is not to get there first, or even fast. The goal is to travel the path, learn its winding curves, its valleys and its hills, and to reach back when you’ve reached your destination to light the way for the next traveller. To be a guide along resolution road, you must learn each stone, each piece of dirt, and each signpost. To do anything less is to forfeit more than half of what makes the goal worthwhile.
Ask for help, and give help in return.
Do I sound like a broken record? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
But it needs to be said again.
Posting your list publicly is not for promotional purposes. This isn’t a competition, or a race. No one is waiting at the finish line to hand you your ‘I achieved more faster than you did’ ribbon or the ‘Most 30 Before 30 Items Completed’ trophy. So stop it. You do not need to be validated for your list, for what goals you choose or how you choose to achieve them. If you share your list because you want status, recognition, or praise, you haven’t written a list of goals unique to you – you’ve collected a set of standards decided by someone else.
A few magical things happened when I posted my list. I said I wanted to ride in a hot air balloon (#2), and a friend sent me a Groupon deal. Several friends shared their own reading goals and challenges, so we shared book recommendations and reading motivation.
This is your chance to be brave in asking, and our chance to be courageous in reaching out. No goal is achieved alone, but I would rather my journey be travelled alongside those who inspire and support me to share in achievement, rather than on the backs of those I have pushed out of the way or trampled beneath me to make my accomplishments feel worthwhile, or somehow better, by faulty comparison.
This list, or goal, is yours. Set your own standards for success.
This was probably my biggest, hardest, and sadly, still least enduring lesson. I made it to Prince Edward Island (PEI) for item number 14, had an awesome time, came home, unpacked my (several) Anne of Green Gables souvenirs … and promptly turned green with envy as friends posted pictures and status updates about travel plans to far flung corners of the globe. Let me say that again. I had just gotten back from a trip I had waited almost my entire life for, and I was already disappointed I wasn’t going somewhere else. Why?! Why did I already want to get up and leave after just coming back? Why wasn’t I thrilled with my ‘done’ instead of solely focusing on what I wanted to be ‘doing’ next?
My lesson learned here flies in the face of a lot of what I shared in my first TEDx talk. While I still advocate for and find beauty in the doing, I am learning that my ‘done’ is also enough. More than enough. My enough. My 30 before 30 list wasn’t subtitled “Cool Stuff Other People Are Doing That I Should Probably Do Too In Order To Appear Successful”. Aside from being horrendously awkward, that subtitle simply isn’t true. The list was mine. The goals were mine. I may have been inspired by what others have done, or are doing, but I chose what I wanted to do because each item was a piece of kindling lighting my own personal fire. The mere act of writing the list was an achievement for someone so energetically (and charmingly, I’m sure) erratic as me. Remember, this list is not a series of accolades or achievements you hope to obtain at a young age that you can put on your resume or post to your Facebook profile. This, or any list of goals, is the spark, the catalyst, and your permission, to yourself, to dream, to act, and to do.
As an aside, while completing a 30 before 30 list (i.e. crossing off all 30 items before you turn 30) is the ‘standard’ for success, it’s far from the ideal. Making a list of goals is huge. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and actually showing yourself what you want? That takes work. Publishing the list and sharing your goals with others? That takes guts. Going after what you want? If that isn’t courage, I don’t know what is.
So what about you? What’s on your list? What’s your new year’s, new month’s, new week’s, or new day’s resolution? I’d love to walk with you, if you’ll let me.