Setting and Releasing Goals
On every New Year’s Day I take a time for a long meditation to clarify the mind and open up for all the possibilities the new year may bring. After contemplating my vision for the year I sit at my desk and write my goals.
I have done this new year ritual for many years. I think it started while I was in high school. Meditating on new year's vision and goal is a long held tradition in my home country, Japan. Some Japanese express their vision in calligraphy. My artist self loves it, but I choose to open my laptop instead so that I can write multiple goals in an organized manner.
I set goals in different areas such as relationships, career, service, health, and Finance. I list categories in the order of importance. Career came in the first in my twenties and thirties, but Spirituality, Service, and Relationships topped in the last decade. Categories and the order of appearance reflect my shifting values and approach to life. Enriching my inner world became more important for me than achieving worldly success.
As I work on my list of goals, I reflect on changes and transitions that I have gone through over the years. In some years I set ambitious career and financial goals and successfully achieved them by the end of the year. It brought me much satisfaction and pride. In some other years life took me to the place I had never imagined in the beginning of the year. I was far from achieving my goals regardless of my great effort.
While I have been going through a major life transition in the last several years, I adopted the approach of setting and releasing goals. It means that I set goals on the New Year’s Day and do my best to achieve them, but I’m not attached to outcomes.
If I end up attaining my goals by the end of the year, it means I get life’s nod; YES, I’m on the right path. I’m doing what I’m destined to do with my life.
If I don’t achieve my goals, it is never my failure but is a sign what I aim to attain takes more time than I expected or life is taking me to a direction where I’m meant to go.
I play a game with life in this approach. It’s not a competitive win-or-lose type of game but a joyful play free of stress, disappointment, and sense of failure. Life has become my dance partner. Sometimes I lead movement and some other times life does. We dance and play, laughing together.
There were many times in my life when I set my mind to achieve a certain goal but never attained it and ended up finding something totally different but equally wonderful. My life goal from my teens to early thirties was to become a novelist. When I had my first Japanese writing published, I felt a door flung open to usher me to the world of writers and novelists. When one of the largest publishers in Tokyo approached me to publish my novel, I was sure about getting my feet on the right path.
I was almost achieving my decades-long goal, but life took me to a different path without consulting me. The publishing deal fell through, and I was never able to attract another offer. To test a different approach, I translated a book on mindful pregnancy and successfully acquired a book deal, only to find it also fell through. My goal of becoming a novelist or translator was shuttered. It was a huge blow to me. Writing had been the only thing I thought I was really good at. What else can I do as my life’s work?
A few years later I was performing Balinese temple dance on the stage. After giving up on my writing career Balinese dance entered my life. After training in and performing Balinese dance for ten years I studied sacred Javanese, Indian and Japanese dances. I eventually performed in Mexico, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and the U.S. over eighteen years. I let go of a writing career only to find performing arts which brought me much joy and made me serve many more people than I could reach through my writing.
On this New Year’s Day I type up my goals in different areas of my life, with the Vocation section first. I’m certain of having found my calling and set specific goals in order to pursue my life’s work. I’m serious about my goals and determine to achieve them. At the same time I’m totally relaxed about outcome of my great effort. I’m curious where my life takes me this time. I’m game. Who knows where I’m living and what I’m doing in the end of the year? A lot could happen in a year as I experienced in the last twelve months. I’m ready to dance with life again.
“Life is a journey with almost limitless detours.” ― Ken Poirot