Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Year Without Resolutions

By Kirsten (Inara) Scott

I usually love making New Year’s resolutions. My husband and I have a standing date the last week of December to go out to a coffee shop and talk goals. We set individual goals and couple goals, usually five or six of each. Our individual goals range from standard health stuff (do more cardio) to career (apply for new job) to spiritual (meditate once a week). We’re planners by nature, and overachievers, so we have no problem coming up with goals. For the past five years, my goals have mainly centered around my writing: attend 2 conferences, write 2 books, submit to agents, etc., etc. The “couple goals” I set with my husband were predictable: make time for date night, play more board games.

This year, though, we didn’t set our resolutions. For the first time in years, I’m resolutionless.

The reason for this aimless state of being is equally strange: in the past year, all my dreams have come true.

Seriously, I know it sounds weird, but as long as I can remember, I had two goals that I organized my resolutions around: to get a book published, and quit my job. I did both in 2010.

Now, I had other dreams when I was growing up – to fall in love, find the man of my dreams, have a family…but here’s the thing: I DID THOSE THINGS YEARS AGO!

So here I am, with a very interesting problem. What do you do after all your dreams comes true?

I suppose the logical thing would be to set ever higher goals: hit the NY Times bestseller list, sign a new three book deal, and go on more dates with my husband. That’s what I thought I would do, and indeed, feel a little guilty for not doing. But here’s the thing – I’m tired of setting goals. I’m interested in trying something different. I want to try living one day at a time, and enjoying moments as I experience them.

We are an achievement-based culture, obsessed with lists and goals, results and tangible outcomes you can include on a report card. Goal-setting surrounds us at work and at home.

Now I wonder: is it possible that we focus too much on goals and not enough on appreciating the life that we are living now?

I have a feeling that I did, for a long time. Of course, I’m glad for what I’ve achieved. I wouldn’t take away any of my accomplishments, and I certainly don’t regret the five am morning writing sessions, and working through all the rejections that plagued me along the way. But the funny thing about goals is that life doesn’t change after you’ve reached them. It isn’t the achievements that make you happy. It’s the life you build around the achievements that matters. It’s the living, not the “crossing things off” on a list that brings real happiness.

So, what will 2011 bring for me? Some ups and downs, I expecct. So far, I haven’t landed a new three-book deal, or hit a bestseller list, or even sold a new book. I’ve started to do some contract lawyer work, and am finding myself back to figuring out the right balance of work, writing, and spending time with my kids. But here’s the funny thing – I’m just as happy as I was on the day I quit my job.

I guess, in a way, I have set a resolution for 2011. No more resolutions. Just more living.

What about you? Have you ever achieved something you dreamed about, and then wondered what was on the other side? Ever set a resolution, or resolved NOT to set resolutions? I’d like to hear about your dreams and your living, too.

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Anna Campbell said...

Ha! He's MINE!!!!!

Anna Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Campbell said...

I don't know why he'd want to come to my place today. It's like a sauna! 'orrible 'ot weather!

Inara, loved your post. And congratulations again on achieving so many of your goals. I saw somewhere recently that the definition of a happy life is a childhood dream achieved in maturity and I guess you can say that's true for you! It's certainly true for me.

When I'm talking to aspiring writers, I actually tell them to enjoy the journey to publication. They're so focused on publish or bust. But in fact, the journey is the really great bit. It's what you learn from fronting up to all those rejections and even better, it's the friends you make on the way. That's what makes the whole thing worthwhile in the long run. One of the most wonderful things my writing has given me has been the chance to make so many wonderful friends, Banditas and Bandita Buddies included!

Helen said...

Whoo Hooo Anna it has reached 44C here in Sydney today but at least there is no humididty today but soo hot I am so glad we have air con.


Great post I never have set resolutions I try to take life as it comes and what it dishes up to me most of my dreams have come true I have a great hubby 4 great kids and 5 fantastic grandchildren (another one due in 2 months) I have a job (not that I like it anymore) but it pays well and is close to home. What I really want now is to retire so as I actually have more time with the family and more time to read the wonderful books that I have on the TBR pile.

Congrats and reaching your goals enjoy the life as it comes.

Have Fun

Danielle Gorman said...

I try not to set resolutions. That way I don't have to be disappointed with myself when I don't follow through with them. I am horrible with following through with certain things like resolutions.

Slush said...

Anna-- congrats on the rooster!*As I wave my fist in the air vowing that one day he will be mine!!!
Bwah ha ha ha....

As far as resolutions and goals I try not to set them. Disappointment is a dish best served when I don't set myself up. On the off chance that I do set a goal those are usually short term. For example... finish a short story in a couple months, etc.

Living is about taking chances, exploring unknowns. Too many goals and too many plans stop you from getting to partake in those unknowns IMO. Thanks for the fun post Inara!

flchen1 said...

Sweet, Inara--congratulations on living out the dream! Live big this year :)

And Anna, enjoy the GR--what's he resolved to do today? ;)

Daz said...

Anna, will you be making the GR fan you by the pool in this heat?

Kirsten, I know what you mean about dreams coming true. I had one big dream as I was growing up, after a geography and history class. I wanted to be able to visit Egypt, climb the pyramids and ride an Arabian horse through the Sahara. I achieved both when I joined a company that sent me on a 12 month assignment for my first assignment with them. I was only 26 at the time. I have to admit I felt somewhat lost after I had accomplished that. It was a bit of a "now what?" moment for me. I've gone off to do other things and achieve other things but I'll always remember that moment standing on the pyramid. I have a picture to commemorate the moment. :-)

Congratulations on achieving your dreams. May you have many more to come and may they all come true.

Laurie Faelan said...

I think goals and resolutions are two different things. I never make resolutions because to me that's like a promise to myself that I always feel bad for breaking.

Goals, however, are things I aspire to, strive for, and they are necessary for me or else I wander through life getting nothing accomplished.

But I agree with you that we need to relax and enjoy our lives in the here and now and not constantly look to the future.

Kirsten, congratulations for achieving your dreams!

Donna MacMeans said...

I can't say I've ever been a great setter of goals, but I did make a list of dreams many years ago and rejoice when I get to scratch one off. The dream wish, however, aren't necessarily achievements, such as publishing a book, it's more of places to visit, activities to try - that sort of thing.

Congratulations on publishing THE CANDIDATES, inara. That ranks high on a goal list AND a dream list. i think taking the opportunity to smell the roses and appreciate each day is a worthy goal as well. You certainly won't regret it when you're old and frail. You'll look back over your life and know that you lived it to the fullest. Can't knock that!

Kirsten said...

Oh my Anna, you are excited about that bird! Congratulations -- maybe he was a dream of yours from childhood? ;-)

Kirsten said...

Sorry about the nasty weather, Anna. I don't like to be cold, but I like even less to be hot and sticky. YUCK.

Thank you so much, BTW, for your kind words. I love the advice you give to aspiring authors. I agree, we get so caught up in the race to getting a book on the shelf we lose the joy in the journey. (Not to mention the fact that sometimes it's better to wait, and grow as an author, before you're published and under all that scrutiny!)

Kirsten said...

Hi Helen! My goodness, I hope there's air conditioning where you are. I have no idea what 44 deg C translates into in F, but I suspect it's "YOUCH THIS IS HOT", or somewhere around there. ;-)

I do hope you are able to retire soon! As any mother of young children would say, there's nothing more precious than a visit from grandma. And I'm not just saying that b/c of the free childcare, either. Those connections with family are just crucial to the child and the parents. I do hope you get lots of time with your grandbabies.

Kirsten said...

Hi Danielle! I do think it's funny that the vast majority of resolutions aren't kept. I think that's because they're usually nebulous, unachievable goals -- like "lose weight" and "exercise more". If people set realistic, achievable goals, things would be different.

I always tried to include resolutions I knew I would do anyway -- like "attend RWA conference" and "write a book." That way, I was just making a reasonable prediction about the course of events, rather than setting some lofty target and then pushing myself to meet it.

Kirsten said...

Slush -- awesome words of wisdom. I think maybe you should have written this blog for me. (Speaking of which, I've got tons of other blogs I need to write...any chance you want to add "blog for Inara" to your to do list?)

It's funny, I never saw resolutions as ambiguous, far off goals. I always tried to make them reasonable, and where possible, things I was going to do anyway. I'm not scared to set myself up for the easy A. ;-)

The couples resolutions were always harder to keep -- those were much more of the long-term things we knew we'd never do.

Kirsten said...

Thanks Fedora!! I am feeling more peaceful than I have in a long time. It's like I've been pushing a stone up a hill for years, and all of the sudden I got to the top and realized I could sit down and rest for a while. It's very nice!

Kirsten said...

Wow Daz, it sounds like you've got some amazing stories to tell. I'm glad I waited until I was 38 to get published. I think I would have been really confused if I felt this way when I was 26. LOL!

So I'm curious, since you went through this a while ago. Did you come up with all new dreams and goals, or just learn a more peaceful way of letting life happen?

Kirsten said...

Laurie, I think that's a good distinction, and I think maybe the reason I always loved setting resolutions is that they really were goals. I never sought to change myself or my way of doing things -- I just picked tangible, achievable things that I wanted to accomplish, and gathered them together so I knew what I was striving for. It also became a really lovely time of reflection with my husband, and talking about what we wanted in the coming year for our relationship together.

I do wonder if I'll feel adrift without goals. This whole "mellower, more peaceful me" thing doesn't mean I'm not still going to be a bit, um, driven.

For example, as we were driving home from dinner a couple of nights ago, I was talking about this to my hubby, and the conversation went something like this:

ME: "Yeah, so I've decided not to set any resolutions this year."

HIM: "Really? That's a big change."

ME: "Well, I mean, I do want to write two books this year. And I'd like to finish the first draft of my current book by the end of March."

HIM: "How's that 'no resolution' thing working out for you?"

Kirsten said...

Hey Donna - thanks so much for your comment, and thanks for calling that a "dream list" and not "bucket list". (*shudder*) I hate the idea of the bucket list. So morbid. Like you're counting down to death.

I am definitely glad that my nature is to be driven, because it allows me to accomplish a lot, and those accomplishments mean something to me. I wanted to write a book, I did. I wanted to get it published, I did. But there's got to be some balance to that, I think, and maybe that's what this year is really about -- balance.

EilisFlynn said...

I've had a longstanding New Year's resolution: Not to have one. It worked so well for so many years, and then I made the mistake of making one. It hung over me like the sword of Damocles, I tell you. From now on, no more resolutions! I'll just go out and DO what I need to do!

Kirsten said...

Eilis, it sounds like you know exactly what works for you! Of course, I am dying to know what resolution made you break your rules against resolutions....LOL.

Nancy said...

Anna, congrats on the bird! Sorry your weather is so rotten.

Inara, I've been lucky enough to have dreams come true several times. I got to spend a summer in England in college. I found my life mate in the dh, and we have the boy. I kicked over a heavy bag in karate, and it made a very satisfying thud. I found an agent with whom I'm very much in sync.

None of those led to "what next," at least not as question, though. What's next always seems to present itself.

At the moment, the biggest area of uncertainty in our lives (aside from when I'll sell a book and which one it will be) is where the boy will go to college. Its corollary is what the dh and I will do when our schedule no longer involves his commitments. We've been a family so long that living as just a couple is going to seem strange at first.

I'm glad you've achieved so many of your goals. That next book will come, I'm sure. Delcroix Academy is just too good to be a solo act.

Nancy said...

Anna, my journey to publication has given me many of the benefits you cite. I now have more close friends I met through writing than otherwise.

I think I have a better perspective on rejection and a tougher skin. However, I've decided I'm tired of building my character by dealing with rejection and would like the chance to see how it copes with success. If the publishing world will only cooperate, I'll get my chance at that.

This whole trek has been a valuable lesson in control. I'm a control freak. I would like to control all aspects of my life, but that's impossible. Some things happen when they happen, which is kind of a corollary to what Inara is saying.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I am not a resolution type of person. Some days just getting through to bed time without upsetting myself or someone else is a big enough goal..LOL In essence, I just strive to be the best I can be on any given day and get the job of living done one day at a time.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on reaching all your goals in 2010, Kirsten! That's fantastic :D
As for me and goals... dreams... whatever- a job. >.< Really need/want one. (Still jobless. Call me Debbie Downer here.) I guess some people "dream" of a certain career/school... but it was just so matter of fact for me.
I like the no resolutions thing though ;) I do that every year, cuz I can't keep them! :X

BJ said...

Lol....Anna you finally got him :0)

I set goals all the time...I feel great when I make them...even if they are just little ones...I still have this HUGE one of going one a honeymoon, but that's a long story....hahaha...maybe that will be my first book....LOL

As for the Resolution thing...I stop making those long ago...pointless things, just say your going to do it something but you're not really making yourself go for with a set it...and you make yourself go for it...way better and you're less likely to break it!!!

PJ said...

Woot! Anna got the bird! Wait. Should we be celebrating this? Didn't he cause quite a bit of mischief last time he visited you?

Wonderful post, Inara/Kirsten. Congratulations on achieving your dreams! I've never been one for resolutions. I have set some goals along the way and worked to bring them to fruition but, mostly, I have a tendency to go where life leads me and, so far, that's been in some pretty darn good directions. :)

Anna Campbell said...

Chook report - he's been floating in the pool all night and waking me up every hour to take him iced water! Someone's been giving him delusions of grandeur. I haven't had him for ages and he's even WORSE than he used to be.

Kirsten, laughed at your reported conversation!

Nancy said...

Anna, I think you should dump the iced water ON that annoying bird. He really has gotten an inflated idea of his own importance.

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh NO !! Anna got the CHOOK! It will be Clash of the Titans in OZ today! Place your bets, ladies! Who will survive - The Awesome Author or the Awesome Arrogant Avian?

Wow, Kirsten, that is a thought-provoking post. What do you do when you achieve the dream? Someone once said "When the gods want to punish you, they give you what you want." I don't know. Sometimes I think when God wants to test you, He gives you what you want - just to see how you handle it. I think you're doing a great job.

From the age of nine all I ever wanted was to be a published author and an opera singer. I achieved the second goal first and I have to admit I had some of the same feelings as you. Now what? But, I decided to enjoy it to the fullest while it was happening. I did dedicate myself to being the very best singer I could during my career and I challenged myself with more difficult roles as it went on, which expanded the goal even more. I walked away when I was still darn good and I had proven everything I needed to prove.

Now I am back to my first love and I agree that the best part has been the journey. I've learned that I'm still that tough girl who takes rejection on the head and then shakes it off and keeps moving. That's always nice to know. And I think I've proved to myself that I am not a one trick pony. I've learned patience, perseverance and the importance of single-minded determination.

The best part is that I have made some fantastic friends along the way, friends who understand what I'm going through as a writer and that is the very best reward!

Kirsten said...

Hi Nancy -- congratulations on your dreams coming true! I love the idea that "what's next" presents itself, rather than you seeking it out. I am normally very deliberate about the goals and the what's next, so this attitude is really refreshing.

I also love your optimism ("when I'll sell a book") - I can't wait to see which one ends up on the shelf. :-)

Kirsten said...

Nancy -- letting go of the "control" aspect is definitely part of the process for me! Here's the funny thing: we are in a profession that allows us very little control over the outcomes of our efforts. As a lawyer, I knew if I worked hard, I would succeed. In publishing, I can write the very best book of which I'm capable, and it just might not "take" with the audience. No control over that.

Publishing is the ultimate exercise in letting go.

Kirsten said...

Dianna -- LOL -- they always say to set measurable, achievable goals! If getting through the day without upsetting something is yours, then go with it! :-)

But seriously, I love your motto: "I strive to be the best I can on any given day and get the job of living done one day at a time."

That's all we can do, really. I suppose the sooner we realize that the better.

Kirsten said...

Hey Lime -- thanks so much! Sorry the job market is so terrible right now. I will be really hoping and praying for you that you achieve that dream!

Good luck on staying resolutionless! I'm thinking it's really the only way to go. :-)

Kirsten said...

Hey BJ! Hope you're having a fabulous Saturday. You know what's funny -- my hubby and I didn't really ever have a honeymoon either. No money! We stayed in a B&B for a night but that was it. Someday, I swear I'm dragging that man to Hawaii.

I think the goal v. resolution thing is interesting. I always treated my resolutions as goals, which, I think, made them more achievable. You're right, it's silly to set half-hearted resolutions you never intend to achieve.

I feel good too when I reach a goal -- I think that's why I LOL a little at the thought of truly remaining without goals for the year. :-)

Kirsten said...

PJ -- you are such a happy, optimistic person! I love it. So glad you've had such joy in your life. I think so much of finding joy is learning what doesn't bring joy -- fame, money, temporary goals -- none of it will really makes you happy. It's the life you lead that truly brings joy.

Kirsten said...

Anna -- I think it's wise to keep the bird cool outside -- otherwise he might be tempted to find shade and shelter in your house, and what are you going to do THEN?

Kirsten said...

Hey Louisa! Lovely to *see* you here! We must do this more often.

Now, I love that quote. It reminds me of the show Fantasy Island -- wasn't the premise there that they'd give people their dreams, and they had to realize they didn't really want what they thought they did?

I wish I could have heard you sing. I bet it was wonderful. You have such a great attitude toward the whole journey, both as an opera singer and as a writer. The frustrating thing about both professions is that it seems we have such limited control over either. But certainly, we have control over our craft and our work and our patience and persistence. If you can dedicate yourself to what you do have control over, hopefully the other pieces will fall into place as well.

And YES the friends you pick up along the way are the real treasures. (((HUGS))))

Cassondra said...

Great post Kirsten.

I am not a resolution maker in any formal kind of way. I do set goals for myself, but often find that I'm distracted from those goals by everything kind of hitting the fan--you know--life. *grin*

The interesting thing is that if it's WORK--and it's a goal I've set to complete an event, or build some successful promotion, or meet some deadline, I'm on that like white on rice--total focus.

But in the rest of my life, I fall painfully short of doing well with goal-oriented living.

The exception to this has always been body shaping or fitness--I've always done pretty well at that up until the last few years, and in those years I've fallen horribly behind in keeping myself active. Writing is such an aerobic activity, yaknow?

Today, however, I went to look at a new gym--one with the magic ingredient for me--tennis courts. And I'm thinking about coughing up the bucks to join, and although I don't want to say my goal out loud to anybody, I actually do have one. A fitness goal. And it comes with a date attached to it.

So...we'll see.

Slush said...

You are officially add to my to-do list... Blog for Inara, lol! Just let me know when.

Nancy said...

Inara, I'm not naturally optimistic. But certain banditas who believe in visualization have pushed me to use more confident phrasing. Thanks for the encouragement!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Inara!

You might find living "on the fly" is pretty fun!

I've never made resolutions. (They're only going to be broken by Valentine's Day anyways), and Nursing School gave me a complete aversion to the word G-O-A-L. But I can say that I've achieved many things over the years.

1)Married and had 3 great kids, who are now making me a very busy grandma!

2)Finished nursing school, (there was more than one sememster that I had to wonder about that), and have a great career in obstetrics.

3)Learned to write, finished manuscripts, made great friends all over the world, (Bandit and Bandit buddies included).

4)Became a published author.

Okay, that last one is fresh in my mind and I guess that was one..*whisperGOALwhisper* I did set.

Maybe some "loosely" made plans in life isn't too bad. Sorta like taking a road trip with a destination in mind, but a very fluid road map with lots of side trips along the way.

Suzanne Ferrell said...


5 fantastic grandchildren (another one due in 2 months)

You didn't tell me this!! I have another one due in May!

Girl, we really have to tell our daughters there are other ways to pass the time!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Nancy: This whole trek has been a valuable lesson in control. I'm a control freak.

For me it's been a lesson in patience. I'm used to needing something and getting it NOW at work. Telling someone to do it NOW and they do it. Having a mom say "The baby's coming NOW" and I put on my gloves aand catch it...(only if the doc isn't in the building).

The publishing world is very s---l---o---w in comparison. And of course there was my own learning curve and the ups and down nature of the market.

Kirsten said...

Hi Cassondra -- thanks for stopping by. :-)

I find your work/personal distinction fascinating -- sounds to me like maybe with all that super achievement at work, you just need a break when you get home. Nothing wrong with that. There's only so much goal-setting a body can stand.

I find it much easier, when dealing with fitness, to set goals around a specific event (like, doing a 10K or a triathlon). Too hard to stick to more nebulous, work out three times a week, sort of goals. Is that what you're trying? Of course, I am now DYING to know what your date is... ;-)

Kirsten said...

Sweet, slush, thanks! I'm checking it off my to-do list. ;-)

Kirsten said...


What an impressive list of accomplishments for someone who doesn't set goals or do resolutions. ;-) I love your road map analogy, except that right now, I don't even have a destination in mind. I'm just headed out on Route 66, ready to go whereever it might take me.

Kirsten said...

Oh, Suz, you want to talk PATIENCE? HA! You don't know for patience girl. Patience is THREE YEARS from sale to publication. And now Book 2 might be delayed, so put that one TWO YEARS from writing to publication.

Yes, publishing will definitely teach you to be patient. Or drive you insane. I choose the latter route.