I’m not big on resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise. More often than not, all they do is set me up to fail or put me in competition with others, and who needs that? However, I do see a great deal of value in taking some time to clarify where I’m going in my life, if it’s where I want to be going, and what I’d like to see different.
Years (as in, decades) ago, a friend suggested making a list of goals instead of resolutions, and to break them down into 1-year, 5-year, 10-year, and lifetime goals. I did that for quite a while, and I still have the notebook I kept them in. It’s fascinating to look back at what I thought I wanted, 30 years ago — what I have achieved, what I no longer want, and what is no longer possible.
Along the way, I realized that some of these things were within my power to achieve, but others were not. I might long for them, but I could not bring them about, or not entirely by my own efforts. For instance, finishing a novel or studying Hebrew are things I can choose to do, but my children being happy, however much I might desire to see that come about, is not something I myself can create. These things are wishes, not goals. Of course, many things are both. On my list is to write a work of enduring value — I can write the best stories that are in me, but how they are received and how they endure the test of time is another matter entirely. I have no say over that.
For 2007, the year I turned 60:
1 year goals:
- Finish (a specific book I was working on)
- Transfer family videos to DVD
- Celebrate becoming a crone
5 year goals:
- Keep writing good stuff
- Be active and happy
- Do something activist and outrageous
As I wrote down goals and wishes, year after year, I found that they changed in other ways. The specifics tended to be resolved or discarded, but things emerged that were more general and had more to do with quality and spirit than measurable achievements. An example — writing something that would speak to people long after I’m gone as opposed to selling a novel or selling a particular novel — shows this change. The farther out in time the goals/wishes, the less they resemble “resolutions.” I’ve started to think of them as intentions instead.
Yet the universe does not cooperate with our best intentions. I can wish for and intend to have a year that is one way but get presented with situations and challenges I had no way of anticipating and end up with something quite different, marvelous or heart-breaking. Part of the shift from resolutions to intentions is the introduction of flexibility, of a suppleness of response to whatever life brings. Life is not limited by my imagination (or my fears). It is an adventure, not a fixed syllabus.
For 2019, the year I will turn 72, my intentions are:
1 year intentions:
- Write well most days
- Exercise well most days
- Make music most days
- Let the people I love know how precious they are to me
5 years/10 years/lifetime:
- Keep writing good stuff
- Live a happy life
- Be of service to others
My wishes are:
- A more compassionate world
- A return to political sanity
- Hope for the devastation of global warming
- Saving the most vulnerable people from poverty and climate change