I love the concept of New Year as a blank canvas, like an annual Etch-A-Sketch practice when we all clear down our screens, erase our drawings and start again. As someone highly future-focused (mindfulness and being in the present remains very challenging for me!) I am naturally drawn to goal setting, so last week, on the eve of New Year’s Eve I was very excited when I found a large stone in the shape of an arrow lying at my feet on the beach; it was pointing towards the lighthouse and I decided there and then that ‘Direction’ would be my word for 2016. This seemed wonderfully serendipitous in view of my intention to make a career change in the next 12-18 months and I felt in that moment my New Year goal setting would happen quickly and easily. (Doh!)
Yesterday I started the process by spending a couple of hours in the company of old magazines and re-cycled greetings cards, creating my 2016 Wish Board (a practice I talked about in my last blog Sweet Twenty Sixteen). I began initially by sifting and flicking through images, creating one pile that went straight back into a box for next year and another that required a second viewing. By this stage I already had some pictures that I knew would definitely feature – a large pair of female eyes, a candle and an image of light on a horizon accompanied by the beguiling and mysterious phrase ‘Mastering The Magic Of Light’. After a second sift, I reduced the pile down to some final images and began arranging them on the board, before committing to gluing them on. As far as I could interpret the resulting collage, 2016 will be a year of …
- Journeying with open eyes, seeing new horizons and reaching out
- Love, light and lighthouses
- Calling birds and golden eggs in a nest
- A wise owl, the fruit of knowledge and mastery
Who the heck knows what this may mean, but it sounded intriguing, and I now had my Word and my Wish for 2016, so it just remained to commit to some goals.
And at this point I became stuck.
I noticed resistance to completing the exercise at first, in the form of the old I just need to do x,y,z first instead routine which took up most of the day. Then, when I finally sat down to focus I found myself becoming a little sullen, as if I was reluctantly settling down to do really boring homework feeling pissed off with the teacher who was making me do it. Instead of moving into my default response which is to embody the role of the stern and disappointed school marm who assumes that their pupil is lazy and wilfully failing to apply herself, thus becoming locked in a duel between my immature Free Child and the Critical Parent, I managed to stay in Adult and asked What is getting in the way? and the answer was revealing.
On the one hand there were several positive drivers towards goal setting:
- From a neuroscience perspective, getting really clear and specific about what you want makes it more likely that you will get it because it has the effect of re-shaping the part of your brain which filters in/out information that is important to you. It’s a bit like changing the shape and size of the holes in your brain’s sieve, which means that you will start to filter in information that is useful to your (new) goals which you may otherwise not have noticed before. It also allows you to talk persuasively about what you want to have happen, enabling you to take advantage of any potential ‘elevator opportunities’ that come your way because you can get your key points across very clearly, succinctly and specifically.
- From an energetic perspective, creating a vision of the future generates emotional and psychological energy which seems to create a ‘pull’ effect whereby you draw towards you people and opportunities that resonate with and facilitate your desired goals
- From a spooky-action-at-a-distance (or Big Magic) point of view, setting clear intentions seems to enable you to tap into the magical power of the universe
Conversely, there were powerful reasons for not goal setting.
- From a personality type perspective, I have in the past set really specific and audacious goals which have consequently become a stick to beat myself with when I have found myself going off course, taking all of the joy from the process along the way and emphasising a sense of failure. (This is perhaps particularly pertinent as someone with a preference for Thinking and Judging in Myers Briggs terms).
- From the perspective of the Three Principles, there is nothing we need to have, do, be, or change because we have innate health and wellbeing and it is only our thought that makes us believe this is not the case. Viewed from this perspective, goal setting in the traditional sense of the SMART objective feels redundant unless, I guess, the goal is simply ‘To live according to the Three Principles’
- From a Buddhist-ty perspective, goal setting inherently feels to me more in the style of an army drill instructor (think Richard Gere doing push ups in the mud and pouring rain in Officer And A Gentleman) than a gentle practice that allows you to enjoy the journey and stay open to ending up somewhere unexpected, but even better instead (more Yoda and “feel the force young Jedi”)
With this new insight, I went back to my word Direction and let this be my guide. I wanted direction, and also to enjoy the process without being too tied down to specifics; I wanted to set some intentions, and also allow space for things to emerge; I wanted to feel a sense of energy and yet also be gentle towards myself. So I decided to adapt the Wheel Of Life model and created mine with 2016 as the hub of the wheel with the following spokes inspired, amongst other things, by my Wish Board:
- Direction – experimenting in order to design my future career
- Mastery – deepening and embedding skills and knowledge
- Light and magic – rituals and experiences that spark my imagination
- Creative writing – developing my blog and my first book
- Energy – health, wellbeing and vitality
- Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter Practice – this is about living my values of standing tall, being brave and shining
The result was to create my own personal Wheel Of Fortune which makes me smile as it speaks to me of being lucky, of spreading good fortune as the wheel moves forward into 2016 and of creating the future like a great big rolling cookie. My intention is to do a monthly review of each of the six spokes, mark them out of ten and plan actions to gain balance so that the ride will be as smooth as possible.
So if, like me, you want to set goals but haven’t found a way to do it yet, maybe you might like to create your own wheel for 2016 and start setting your own intentions in motion for Sweet 20 Sixteen.
Shine on. LHKD xxxxx
Another great post Jennifer – thank you. It’s given me a new impetus to setting my goals and wishes for 2016 as I have been a little stuck in really getting them down. Wish you a wonderful 2016 with all the spokes of your wheel turning smoothly and consistently. xo
Thanks Suparna, hearing this makes it feel so worthwhile! I look forward to an update on your own process xxx