Welcome to 2021! The new year is finally here, bringing with it some much anticipated hope for normalcy in our near future. I admit for me, there was no magical switch that flipped at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but I recognize that symbolically a lot of us felt, “we made it”.

I had a solid 2+ weeks off over the holiday and my plan was to sit down and take stock of what I did in 2020, what opportunities I seized and what I my have missed to set a plan for the new year. I wanted to put some goals down on paper so I could not only hold myself accountable, but also maybe get a little more organized with my health and fitness. I have lots of things I’d like to do, but can’t always see the forest through the trees. Writing it down helps.

The longer the holiday went on however, the more I enjoyed just relaxing with my family. I still thought about what goals I could set for myself, but didn’t get around to writing it down. And I have to say, the more I think about it, the more I’m glad I didn’t. Why?

I don’t think goals are going to work for me this year. I’m just trying to be brutally honest with myself. I know this sounds like the the opposite attitude of everything the new year typically symbolizes – fresh starts, new outlooks, positivity, hope for the future, and a lot of resolution making and goal setting – but hear me out.

I actually feel more motivated than ever before to have a great and positive year. I want to add new exercises to my routine (like cycling, yoga, and dare I say open water swimming), I want swim more, run more, write more, read more, but all of this just didn’t seem to fit into some tight neat little bow I could package up on January 1st and put on a pedestal. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that plans don’t always work out, and I’m pretty good at adapting and flexing to fit the situation in front of me. In fact, I think I actually enjoy everything a little more when I’m not trying to rigidly stuff ideas of my self worth and capabilities onto an index card or a planner (that I buy every year and stop using by March).

When I thought about how to go about setting goals, I kept running into stumbling blocks. For example, I wanted to set a yardage goal for swimming for the year. In 2019, I swam 400,000 yards, so should I set that same goal? My instinct is to up that to 450 or 500k yards, but then I thought, will I ever get more than 45 min of pool time again and is that really feasible? I know I won’t make masters practice as much this year (where the yardage is typically higher than my solo swims) because of my husbands schedule, so how far can 45 min really get me? I hit the same problem when I thought about a running mileage goal. I felt like I was setting myself up for workout induced stress and failure, right from the get go.

So instead of goals this year, I’m going to set intentions. Simple acts of mindfulness that will work in any situation. Here’s what I mean: If I say, I’m going to read 2 books every month in 2021, then it becomes a chore to keep up with reading (I know this from having this goal in 2020). If I say, my intention is read more by choosing a book instead of watching Netflix, then I’m bringing a mindfulness to that simple act of lifting the TV clicker (yes, I call it a clicker instead of a remote) every time I go to turn it on.

Throughout January I’m going to be cataloging (because I’m a still a list maker at heart) these different intentions and sharing them through my blog and social media accounts. My plan is this: write an intention, and next to it, a question. For example:

Intention: I’d like to read more books this year.
Question: Is this something I really want to watch, or could a new book be more entertaining?

If the answer is still, “yep, I need to veg out and watch TV”, then ok! But at least I’ve asked myself the question, brought a little mindfulness to my actions, and maybe made a better choice for me in the moment.

The great thing about this line of thinking for me, is that I already feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. The truth is that I know I am an active person. I won’t sit around and do nothing, I won’t stop making health and fitness a part of my life, but I will often choose to waste time instead of being productive. I see other people making grand plans for this year and it doesn’t make me feel motivated, it makes me feel anxious – that I should be doing the same, that I should have some big goal with a big reveal. This is a red flag mentally. Setting goals tends to make me ultra competitive in a negative way – comparing myself to others. I think it probably worked for me when I was young and trying to swim in college, but as adult with all those adult responsibilities (kids, job), it just feels burdensome. By setting intentions I’m not letting myself off the hook, but I think making these small adjustments to my thinking will help me feel more accomplished in my achievements than if I were to write out a straight list of goals.

This is just my approach to 2021, you may like it, you may not! If goal setting is still the way for you to go, if that what makes you happy and makes you tick, then by all means, make a plan! We all have to do what’s right for us and remember that everyone’s experience is different. For nearly 35 years I’ve been setting goals and putting pressure on myself, and I’ve come to the realization that maybe that approach just instead the best for me. So, I’m trying something new this year. We’ll see how it goes. If you are too, I’d love to hear it.

Whatever your approach to 2021 may be, I hope you all go out and crush it. I’m rooting for us!

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