Friday, December 27, 2013

Goals vs. Resolutions

Several of my colleagues are avid soccer fans.  In fact, at least two of them are planning to go to the World Cup this coming year, and everything World Cup is a normal topic of conversation in the break room.  Since I began working here, I have learned more about soccer than I ever knew before, even from my host brother in Germany. Our student workers has gotten into the act as well, but they have taken it a step further and have created a tournament based on the FIFA video game, and dragooned some of my colleagues into it, in spite of the fact that they don't know how to play the game!

This is the game that everyone is playing at work.
Of course, since I still don't know very much about soccer, except that there is a huge inter-office rivalry between those who root for Mexico and those that root for the US soccer team, this post about a more serious type of goal (not that soccer fans don't take their goals very seriously...), specifically where I want to go from here.

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I stated my goals as follows:

I plan to chronicle my journey, both spiritually and physically here, so that my friends and family can join this journey with me.  While on pilgrimage, I plan to blog whenever I can find internet access, so there will be pictures and narrative as I walk.  In the meantime, I will talk about all of the planning I do, as well as any and all spiritual insights as the Lord gives them to me....

I am contemplating the possibility of entering religious life.... Since this is also part of my personal pilgrimage, I will talk about things as they develop.... Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given unto you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)  So, I plan for this year to be my year of asking, seeking and knocking.  Will you join me on the pilgrimage?

 So, really, my goal was to make it here:
The Cathedral in Santiago as the moon rose behind it.
and here:

Yep, this is an inside look at an actual human heart (image taken from Wikipedia), although my looking was more metaphorical!

I know that I made it to the first, and I started to get glimpses into the second, but the journey isn't done--I don't think any of us quit walking in pilgrimage until we stop breathing, even if the physical journey is over with. I'm just not sure what is next.  Of course, none of us know what the future holds, although many of us begin to think about the coming year and make "resolutions" about next year as it looms on the horizon.  I don't like resolutions because they are usually either: 1. too vague--"I'm going to get in shape this year!" 2. too drastic--"I'm going to quit my 3 pack a day smoking habit this year!" or 3. too frivolous--"I'm going to eat cheese puffs at every meal this year!" for us to stick to them.  

That is why I'm thinking in terms of goals rather than resolutions this year. I've been thinking a lot about questions like, "When I think about me 12 months from now, what do I want to see that is different?  What would I like to strengthen within myself?  What habits do I want to cultivate?  What habits do I want to get rid of? How do I plan to get from here to there?"  That last question is key--without an action plan, nothing will change--it is the key weakness of most resolutions! 

At the same time, I am one of those people who tend to fail at keeping resolutions because my goal is too lofty/drastic. One year, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon, so, Jan 1st saw my couch potato self running 4 miles with predictable results--I had wrenched my knee by the second week of January, and lost the will keep trying by the time my knee healed enough to begin running again.  Running a marathon is still on my bucket list, but I now know that you can't go from no miles to 4 miles immediately and expect to do so injury free. My motto for this coming year:


I'd like to add some specific goals that follows the above motto, but I'm just really not sure what those will be yet.  I do know that I want to make exercise something that is a natural part of my day...something that I do without thinking about.  I also know that I'd like to get back in the habit of several spiritual disciplines that used to be part of my routine: Adoration, saying my Rosary, daily Mass, etc. They were my bedrock of survival in the last years of my marriage, so I know that getting out of the habit was at least partly because of relief.  And yet, it is also no excuse to neglect my relationship with God because I no longer have emotional trauma in my life on a daily basis. I'd also like to be better at keeping my house clean, and I want to break the habit of being late all the time.  I want to be out of debt, and hope to make a major dent in that over this coming year as well. I want to write here at least once a week. I want to become fluent in Spanish.  I want to finish my novel. I want to finally run that marathon. 

If I were to take on all of these from the beginning of the new year, I know that I would give up long before Ash Wednesday, so I will likely choose one habit and work on that for January.  Then, I will add one more in February or March, and so on. If I chip away at it, then I can get all of these goals done for this coming year, but it also means a lot of discipline--something that I seem to be in short supply of right now.  I know that this is my own fault, because I have been listening to the negative voices in my head. Without the above spiritual disciplines to underpin my resistance to the dialog in my head, I tend to succumb to the despair and depression that those voices engender.  One of my Camino friends, Jillian, calls those voices the fear monster, and actually named hers George!  Check out the above link to see her comic strip about her interactions with her fear monster.  She makes some valid points about what those voices do to us, as well as how it affects our relationships with one another.  

Really,  if I were to be honest with myself, that needs to be my main goal this coming year--conquer the pessimistic voice in my head that tells me that I'm not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to be, do, accept, etc. I don't want it to be a fake kind of affirmation, like the Stuart Smalley Skits on Saturday Night, Live, though.


What I'd really like is to continue to build upon the healing that has happened in my heart so that I have a firm foundation for whatever God has for me in the future.  That way, when I sit here and look back on next year, I can be like all of the soccer fans I'm surrounded by at work: "GOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!"