Closing Out 2020: Goal Setting Done Your Way

January 1, 2021

Over the years, I’ve developed a tradition of creating a list of 30 goals for the coming year by New Year’s Day. It’s my own spin on the New Year’s Resolution. I try to memorize this list and spend the year living by it. While 30 New Year’s resolutions may seem like a lot, I’ve realized it’s actually just the right number. The purpose is to get yourself thinking about all the things you can do—both short and long-term—to improve your life in the coming 12 months. There’s no goal too big or small to put on that list! Setting a small goal, such as “take fewer Ubers or Lyfts, and walk more instead,” may seem inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. But there’s a sense of accomplishment that stems from sticking to any goal, regardless of the size. These small victories can help instill a sense of confidence and momentum towards accomplishing the larger goals. 

But then there are those larger goals . . .

A favorite goal—pick up 3 water-based hobbies by end of 2020

Many people have told me that my goals aren’t achievable. They’re too lofty, too ambitious, or too impractical for a myriad of reasons. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told I need to re-think my approach— or that I’ll be disappointed for aiming too high and not being able to follow through. How I approach goal-setting matches how I approach work. And historically, my work ethic had been met with similar levels of criticism and skepticism. Throughout my career in the corporate world, I was told that I shouldn’t always feel the need to go the extra mile. I was approached with the age-old expression “Work smart, not hard.” But every time someone would review my work and tell me that I could have gotten away with doing less, it drove me mad. Doing less means I’m not living up to my standards. For a time, it was my superiors telling me what was right and wrong in business—so I was naturally listening. I went along with the critiques. After hearing these types of things over and over, I thought maybe sticking to the status quo was in my best interest and was ultimately the right thing to do.

When I decided I was going to move to Perth to change my lifestyle, to open my mind and embrace something unknown, people told me my career was as good as over. That all the hard work I’d done over the last decade in New York would slip through my fingers, and I’d inevitably find myself crawling back home in no time. One person even told me to my face that I was a fool to even think I could be successful in a “nothing place” like Perth. There was a great deal of “But why?” rather than, “Why not?!” I was consistently met by pessimists telling me the glass was half empty, when for me I could see nothing but a glass half full. 

One of my favorite pictures from 2020—an epic beach of Western Australia

Let’s go back to that quote from earlier: Work smart, not hard.” I’ve always taken issue with the lazy subtext behind it: Why go the extra mile when you could get by as you are? If I were to revise the quote to make sense for me, it would read: “Work in the way that best suits your strengths, goals and passions because THAT is smart, not hard.” I used to care a lot about other people’s frameworks—their ideas of success—and how I could fit into them. I thought that's what I was supposed to do in order to find my own way to happiness. But what I learned is that sometimes, other people’s approaches just can’t be—should not be—your own. It’s ultimately about trusting your gut instincts. It’s about finding the ways you can work most efficiently to meet your goals, find your success and achieve peace of mind. 

The first time I trusted my gut was terrifying. What if I fail? What if I get it wrong? What if everyone else was right after all? What if I’m the one with my tail between my legs in the end? In response to all that, the question should be, “So what!?”

After I began this journey of self-trust, I realized it wasn’t so bad after all. Honestly, it was kind of refreshing. Trusting yourself can work wonders. No matter the direction you go or the choices you make, mistakes are inevitable. But mistakes are also very important and have the capacity to become our most valuable teachers. They also signify that you are truly LIVING your life. You’re actually doing something and putting yourself out there. What’s most valuable is what you learn from your mistakes, and how you use those lessons towards building a better future. 

So let’s bring it all together.

Your 30 goals should reflect your smallest and greatest desires. These goals define you, and there’s nothing too ambitious or outlandish for that list! To accomplish the goals you’ve set, you’ll have to hone in on the most productive working methods for you. Find a working style that facilitates your unique skill-set and frame of mind; a working style that ultimately energizes you and drives your passions. In developing this, you’ll have to trust yourself and your instincts. You’ll need to adapt and adjust your methods by learning from any and all mistakes you make along the way. Give yourself a little credit, set your sights on something, and then go for it. No hesitations, and no holding back. Maybe your approach to life isn’t the most popular—but if it works for you, then it works! If you have lofty goals, don’t let anyone shy you from them. Go all in and commit. No turning back! 

Not all working styles fit all!

As I scroll through my crazy, outlandish 2020 goals, it’s amazing to see how much has changed in such a short time and how much has been accomplished. I remember how many moments I thought, “Is now the time to give up?” I’m very thankful that I didn’t. I won’t lie to you—walking your own path is no walk in the park. It’s actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and it’s nowhere close to over yet. But if you wake up every morning and remind yourself of those goals you’re dead-set on achieving, the feeling of accomplishment that can and will come, and the reasons you set those goals in the first place, you’ll find things starting to look a lot brighter, day in and day out. You have a plan, and you’re sticking to it! 

2020 went from being one of my hardest years ever to being my all-time best. The highs and lows will always come, but it’s all about how you learn—in your own way—to cope with them. My biggest takeaway from this year is the importance of reinforcing one’s mindset: commit to never giving up on your aspirations. Reinforce a mindset that’s resilient and optimistic, even in the hardest of times. If you can turn “I can’t” into “I absolutely can, and I will,”  then the power is entirely in your hands. 

Dreaming of surfing, realizing it’s not that easy, but promising myself “I can and I will.”

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I’ve been excited to write this for a long time, and getting to this point has been a rollercoaster. It’s taken me 30+ years to appreciate how difficult the journey towards self-actualization is, to understand the value of one’s inner compass, and to find a silver lining during the most difficult times. To all of you out there willing to go all in and bet on yourself, I have a deep amount of admiration and respect for you.

Let’s close this chapter firmly. Let’s dive head first into the next with eyes wide open, ready to take on all that comes next. From me to you, Happy New Year! 

Good vibes only.