New Year goals for the unstructured


Fittingly this post should have been up in December. But I am an unstructured type..a few days late is OK?

I hate things that are unnecessarily structured. If I get the idea that I need to jump through hoops I find it a real turn off. When registering the family for the doctors and finding there are 2 sets of forms for each family member I shudder and go pale. I recently found myself sitting in the PTA meeting watching the secretary take pages of officious notes and I wanted to crawl into a corner and cry.

I might be a little high maintenance but those kinds of things really get my goat. Over the years I have been taught by well-meaning structured types that the best way to transition from one year to the next is to write goals and action plans. And diligently I have done this. I have followed worksheets with lists of the different areas of my life and 10 spaces for goals underneath. And I have filled out my plans for the garden and what new hobbies I would like to take up. For the box tickers and organised types this is a wonderful experience. For me it feels like the oxygen just got sucked out of the room.


More depressing is, of course, when you find your list from January in September and realise that not only have you not completed most of your goals but you’re not even sure why you made them.

The idea of giving up your goals within the first few weeks is so culturally ingrained that there are articles entitled "ready to break your resolutions yet?"

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

However, in throwing out the tick boxes and lists I am not advocating throwing away goals altogether. A healthy vision for life is an essential part of living well. Being able to conceptualise the future and move towards it is one of the great abilities human beings have.

So here are three alternative goal setting methods for those of us with tick box aversions:

Desire Map

In Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map she describes re-creating the new year goal setting in her family. The LaPorte's would write down words related to how they wanted to feel about their life in a year’s time. They honed in on the feelings they wanted in different areas in their lives and collated the post-it notes of feeling words. The collection of feelings was then a source of vision for their year. Danielle does this mapping practice twice a year.


Vision board

The old-school magazine collage of pictures can be replaced with a Pinterest board of pins that represent your vision for 2018. Vision boards don’t just have to contain images. Found objects, hand-written notes, postcards or jar labels. My business vision board has scraps of fabrics, a cork and a bottle of ink glued to it.

Experience bucket

On our wedding day my dad organised a ‘date raffle’ for days out with the new couple. All the guest names were put into a hat and drawn at random. The 12 winning guests had an envelope with a month of the year and a date suggestion in it. We were treated to a year of cinema visits, meals out and picnics by our wedding guests. It was lovely. What if your goals for this year were more like a ‘date raffle’. Collect ideas of experiences you want to have during 2018 and put each one in an envelope. Throughout the year you can select a ‘goal’ at random.

In essence, all these re-focussing formulas are just a more creative way of accessing your motivation. They are goals for the easily bored. Those like me who like to think we are 'too cool' for paper forms but still need structure, even if we hate to admit it.