I hate goals.  And I loathe resolutions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of goals.  I believe in the wisdom of you can’t hit a target you can’t see.  I believe to a certain extent in the power of positive thinking and the fact that you can, in part, create your own destiny.  I love Chris’ idea of beginning with your strengths instead of your weaknesses this year as you set goals.  And I’m intrigued (if somewhat bewildered) by Jon’s list of contradictions as he thinks about the year ahead. 

But goals and resolutions always rub me the wrong way.  Resolutions are usually too broad and vague to be realistically attainable.  And goals are usually so specific that I feel like a failure almost immediately upon setting them.  They also seem a trifle inflexible for life on the planet earth.

But, a few years ago (and really it was just a few, almost, barely more than a couple) when I turned 40, I made three promises to myself.  They weren’t goals exactly and they weren’t resolutions.  In and of themselves, they weren’t exactly measurable, but I though up some sub-goals that were measurable to go with them.  I didn’t write them down.  I didn’t post them where I could read them every morning as I brushed my teeth.  But I did talk about them.  And I did remind myself of them, you know, in my head, where the most important conversations take place.

Promise #1 – Get and stay as fit as reasonably possible.

What I meant by that had nothing to do with weight.  What it had to do with mostly was my children.  I have a son with severe physical disabilities.  He needs to be lifted in and out of his wheelchair and bed on a daily basis.  Since he’s not getting any lighter and I’m not getting any younger, part of my job description is to stay strong for him. 

Also, my mother had me late-ish in life and I had my other two children late-ish.  The sum of these two fact is that my parents are elderly.  They can’t do things like walk to the park with my children and push them on the swings.  I want to be able to do those things as long as possible, in so far as it is in my control.  I want to be the cool granny with lots of energy who gets down on the floor to play with the grand-kids (except not Monopoly, I hate Monopoly.  And never, ever Barbies, I loathe Barbies.)

This has been a promise I’ve been able to keep fairly well.  Because it didn’t have a number attached to it and because it wasn’t too lofty, and because my motivation was very strong, I’ve been able to make some significant lifestyle changes and as a result am much stronger and have more energy, generally, than I did three years ago.  I work out at least 45 min. 5 days a week.  This is the first regular exercise program I’ve had since my 8 year old was born and the first time I’ve worked out daily since the high school swim team.  

Promise #2 – Be present in the moments of my life. 

I was spending so much time looking back or anticipating, that I was forgetting to enjoy the moments that were right in front of me.

This one has been a lot harder.  I’m a person that lives a lot in my head, always thinking about what happened yesterday and how that conversation might go tomorrow.  Additionally, right after I made this promise, my world turned up-side-down.  My husband, Robb, decided to go back to school full time while continuing to work full time.  Shortly after that my dad became ill and only lived a few months.  Five weeks after that, Robb’s step-dad died suddenly.  And, when I finally caught my breath from these events, I found that I didn’t really want to live in the moments that were in front of me, the long days of single-parenting (with disabled child) while Robb went to school and the grief of being in a world where my father was not.

But, this year, 2007, I have slowly begun to get a handle on this promise.  I am learning that pretending away the grief and suffering only prolongs them.  I am learning to embrace the moments, even the painful ones.  I am learning to become more by experiencing life and love more fully.

Promise #3 – Know what?  I can’t remember.

I’ve been wracking my brain.  I know there were 3.  Which maybe tells me that 2 are enough.

The Lesson

But here’s what I learn from all this.  For me, goals aren’t the thing.  It can’t be about what I earn, but about who I am.  It can’t be about how much I weigh, but about how I treat this body I’ve been given.  It can’t be about how far I run, but that I’m in the game.  It can’t be about how high I fly, but about getting off the ground. 

And making a promise to myself is somehow more attainable than a lofty, unmeasurable resolution or a hardcore statistically based goal.  Maybe it’s closer to a lifestyle change or forming a good habit, but somehow the language I use to describe it makes all the difference to me.  I think, in part, a promise to myself carries the motivation right with it.  I don’t have to keep reminding myself why I’m doing it.

So here are my promises for 2008 (so far and subject to change or modification as needed and dictated by life):

1. Make time for the relationships that matter in my life.  (I suspect promise #3 above was something along these lines – hmm maybe I should have written them down…) 

2. Reduce the clutter.  I spend too much time rearranging and searching for things. 

3. Spend time every day writing/teaching/speaking encouraging words to others.  (this has partially to do with reducing mental clutter and reducing time spent on less important tasks and so is related to #2)

I know these are a little vague, but I’ll be spending some time in the next few days thinking through what specifically I mean by each of them.  And, rest assured, I will be spending time this year moving forward on those previous promises as well.

What about you (if anyone’s still reading)?  What promises will you make to yourself for 2008 and beyond?

Addendum: I just read this and I think it’s what I was trying to say after all.