January has seemed like the longest month ever to me. As it – finally – comes to an end, I wonder if that’s because I didn’t set out this year with any new intentions. I just eased into 2020 and almost immediately became bogged down in boredom, and maybe a slight case of seasonal depression too. I’m beginning to see that the new year’s resolutions I’ve always scoffed at can serve a purpose — giving this long cold month something to organize itself around.
If that’s the case, then even if you’ve already given up on your resolution (as most people have by now) it’s still done you some good. Just the process of setting a goal and creating a structure for achieving it stimulated your productivity. And if you managed to shed a couple of pounds, try some new form of exercise, or save some money you would have spent at Starbucks, then you’re ahead of the game.
But don’t give up now. Think of it this way: February is the shortest month of the year, so it’s that much easier to keep up with an intention for the whole month. How about reexamining those January 1 goals – can you tweak them? Or, as in my case, set a new one now?
I decided to turn to my “52 Lists” book for inspiration since its ideas are loosely organized around the calendar year. The prompt for week #6 (which roughly corresponds to where we are in the year) was just the ticket: “List the ways you love to have fun.” And then the action step: “Plan to integrate something fun into every day this week.” What a perfect way to set goals for February – instead of focusing on what’s wrong about self, focus on what’s not satisfying about life right now, and do something about it. In other words, put the spotlight on emotional and social health instead of the physical or mental.
I started making the list of things to do for fun, focusing first on the ones that get me out and moving:
- Ice skating
- Seeing friends
- Going to the movies
- Exploring new neighborhoods
- Trying new recipes
The book provides two pages to list all the ways to have fun, but I think I can start with this list. I got a head start by going on a 3-mile hike last weekend, which was the most invigorated I’d felt in a while. And I’ve been talking about going ice skating ever since Christmas – even though I haven’t gone to a rink in years, something in me wants to lace up the old skates and get out there. I think it’s because I remember the freedom and weightlessness of gliding around on the ice.
How to put my intentions into action though? If step one was the list and step two is writing about them here, what comes next? Psychology Today has a good article on goal setting and creating an action plan. There I find out that my intention should have a time frame around it, and include some intermediate steps if they’re appropriate. So my action plan for today could include calling a friend to set up a lunch date; checking the web for the hours of the ice rinks; and reading the reviews of new movies so I can plan what to see and put it on the calendar.
Every day is a fresh start, but it may not be smart to just let a day, or a month, unfold any which way. We can have a plan, and still leave the door open for serendipity. Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” I think he meant that it’s important to create the structure, but don’t make it so rigid that there’s only one particular way of reaching the outcome.