At the end of 2006, I took the advice of a friend and wrote some notes to myself. One of them was a list of things I’d accomplished that year. The second was a list of goals for the year to come. The third was a letter to myself.
I was surprised at how much I’d accomplished; I tend to think of achievement in terms of money, and 2006 was not a stellar financial year for me. It took a little thought and reflection, but I found that there were enough accomplishments to fill a page.
Making a list of goals for the coming year was easier. We are usually quite aware of all the things we’d like to do, but for whatever reason, haven’t done.
Finally, there was the letter to myself. That was a little more introspective and personal than the lists. There were a number of deaths to deal with in 2006; a lot of disappointments, so many things that didn’t go the way I’d hoped.
We tend to think of our existence in this linear term of years, but in fact, any time is a good time to do this simple exercise. It’s easy to get so busy with our daily lives that we forget to see if we are going where we want to go.
Now August is upon us, and the list of goals for 2007 has sat quietly, waiting to be noticed. In my case, it’s a fairly long list; forty two items of various importance, from financial issues to spiritual ones, from needing a vacation to needing to pay off old debts, and all points in between.
I read over it, and noticed that some of the things that were important to me just seven months ago don’t seem so important any more. Other issues, like finding a different living situation, were of paramount importance, but were resolved. Some of the items were still outside my grasp; a few others had been handled by forces greater than myself, and quite to my surprise in the way that they worked out.
Life is like that. We can make lists and we can make plans, but we can’t control the outcome of anything except how we respond to situations.
It occurred to me that as it stood, a list of goals so varied and complex defied my ability to organize and synthesize the information. I needed a way to look at it that would give me a sense of direction. It was created, after all, to be a guiding document.
I made a table with three columns, and added those forty two diverse goals into the rows on my left. I placed two much smaller columns to the right. At the top, above the goals, I gave the heading “2007 Goals – Check Up July 2007” and in the other two columns, I asked the questions that arose as I reviewed that list – was the goal accomplished? And was it still important?
Then I went about the task of answering those questions. I was surprised to find how many items no longer seemed to bear much weight in my daily reality. I was also a little disappointed to note that there were twenty four “no” answers to the issue of whether or not that goal had been achieved. For a moment, it seemed as if this life check-up wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe by December I could mop up some of the remaining issues.
What did seem important was finding a way to discern which of these unfulfilled goals I should concern myself with, and for that, I turned to the relationship of accomplishment versus importance. Did I really still want to address all twenty four outstanding issues?
One more time I reviewed the list. If the “Accomplished?” column was marked no, and the “Still Important?” column was marked yes, I highlighted it. Clearly now, the goals that were still relevant were easy to see. And the number was now a little more manageable; fifteen outstanding items.
I still haven’t resolved my financial issues to my satisfaction, paid off my accountant or my veterinarian. I have yet to quit smoking cigarettes, take a vacation, or spend some time working with clay. I have not found an agent for the book I completed, although I am in a final edit and critique process that will dramatically improve my chances at representation. I haven’t done all the reading I’d intended to. Some of these unrealized goals will be easier to resolve than others.
Was it worth the time and effort invested to do this simple self-analysis? I think so. It might even be worthwhile to abandon the notion that lists of goals and accomplishments should be made on an annual calendar basis. Any time is a good time to see if you are living the life you want, desire and dream of.
There are whole books devoted to this kind of analysis. It doesn’t really matter whose format you choose; you are forging your own road map. What is important is that you devote some energy to “checking in” with yourself, and making certain that the path you trudge is the one you would choose to be on.