Personal Goals

At the beginning of every new year, like everyone else, I pause and wonder if I should be setting resolutions. While it is the traditional time to set your intentions, since my cancer diagnoses I’ve developed the point of view that ANYTIME is a good time to set intentions or goals for yourself. In fact, 20+ years ago I actually wrote out personal goals for myself that I still revisit and revise and adjust today.

I first brainstormed personal goals for myself in 2001. I was taking advantage of a year-long sabbatical from work and had just spent the first four months of that sabbatical at culinary school. It was an amazing – if not self-indulgent – investment in myself and my passion for food. Culinary school had been on a life bucket list I had written on a scrap of paper years ago. I still had that scrap of paper and mused to myself how I would make some of those other bucket list items happen.

At work my manager and I created annual performance goals – why couldn’t I do that for myself personally? Certainly the categories of performance would be different – but maybe writing down goals would help me hold myself accountable for the things I wanted to do with my life. And it might be fun.  I grabbed a clean notebook and a really good pen and gave a page to each of the following categories:

  • Personal (relationships)
  • Professional
  • Physical
  • Educational
  • Artistic
  • Philanthropic
  • Spiritual

I sat down in a sun-filled room and began brainstorming my dreams. I’ve always appreciated that the most sacrosanct “rule” about brainstorming is this: there is no such thing as a bad idea. In brainstorming you don’t shut down any idea – what initially seems silly might inspire the sacred or spiritual. I gave my heart permission to go wild. My ideas were big and small – e.g. BIG like I’d like to get married some day to small like I wanted to buy a really good SLR camera to take better photos during my travels. As the ideas came to me, I jotted them down on the category page that seemed to make the most sense.

Then I thought about what it would take (from me) to accomplish each of these goals. I assigned a cadence to some of those activities. For instance, in the educational bucket, I had a goal of being well-traveled. I assigned the activity of traveling to one new foreign country every year either for work or personal travel. The metric for judging whether I was accomplishing the goal was simple – one new country.

It felt like a truly indulgent exercise. I was brainstorming incredible hopes and dreams in this  notebook. I was creating lists of demands of my life and I wasn’t allowing myself to believe they couldn’t happen. In fact, I was writing them down with a giddy belief that now that they were spoken aloud – that they were in my handwriting – that I had made a pact with myself. I mean – why not? Culinary school had been on that bucket list scrap of paper and I made  that happen….why couldn’t I make some of these other dreams come true too?

This week – during my morning ritual of coffee in front of the fire – I will revisit and revise the goals I set for 2022. Publishing my book was one of them. I’m eager to see what else I can do this year.

150 150 Sarah E. McDonald