Yesterday, I turned on the Christmas tree lights, lit the candles and curled up on the couch for what has become one of my favorite activities of each year.
I don’t call it goal-setting anymore, though when the tradition began, that’s probably how I would have labeled the process. Now, I think of it as my Journey Project. This simple, meaningful project gives structure to my year in the way that goals might, but it is heart-centered rather than perfection-centered. Rather than being a laundry list of gold stars I hope to achieve, the Journey Project situates me as a character heading out on a journey, taking on some important challenges.
Here’s why goal-setting wasn’t working for me.
Maybe this happens for you, too. When you set a goal, you aim at an achievement. You become so focused on this destination that you don’t see the value of the steps between. You’re a hiker aiming for view at the top of the mountain, barely noticing the beauty that the rest of the journey offers. So much of what matters about pursuing goals in the first place … the growth, the connection with others, the daily joy … is lost.
What you measure matters.
If you measure life in words written, pounds lost, and to-do’s checked off, you’re setting yourself up for life on a hamster wheel. There are always more words, more pounds, and more to-dos. I’m an off-the-charts Achiever on the Strengths Finder scale, so it took me quite a long time to stumble across this truth. When I did, I realized I needed to make a change.
But I wasn’t willing to give up goal-setting.
If what I measure matters, not measuring anything is possibly worse than measuring the wrong things. So, I started reflecting, but I kept hitting dead ends. I had no idea how to measure courage or creativity or connection in any tangible way. One morning, I was writing a lesson about using the Hero’s Journey as a structural tool for plotting, and the realization hit me.
Life is a story.
And if it’s a story, it has a plot. Any writer can tell you that plots are unwieldy and difficult to plan ahead of time. Still, stories have a reliable general architecture at their core. Twists and turns are to be expected, but if a character keeps taking action without giving up on a heart desire, his or her journey arrives at a resolution. Often, the character achieves something beyond the original goal. In fact, the reasons a character sets out are most likely only a first step toward an authentic discovery that is much deeper, more thrilling, more growth-producing, and more satisfying.
So, my year is a story?
Yes, and since it is, your year can have a plot. Over the past few years, I’ve played with this idea and ironed out many of the challenges posed when using story as a planning tool. Tracking my journey has become a touch-point for me annually, monthly, and daily. I’ve experienced tremendous growth, and moved past blocks I would have told you were simply givens in my life. I’ve definitely achieved goals (Hooray, says my Achiever heart!) but more importantly, I’ve experienced the journey in a heart-felt way.
When I curled up on the couch to reflect on last year’s story, and to consider next year’s possibilities, I saw clearly how powerful this experience has been for me year after year. And I realized that it will only become more meaningful for me if I share it.
Would you like to set out on a journey of your own this year?
I’m inviting YOU to be part of a small group of travelers.
- We’ll kick off the journey with a meeting to discuss the landscape.
- You’ll receive a handbook and a series of videos to guide you along the way.
- Plus, we’ll meet quarterly for campfire (ahem … Google hangout) meetings.
- We’ll also have a private Facebook group to connect and share stories.
- I’ll drop in from time to time for Facebook Live sessions to discuss questions, successes and discoveries.
Join this facilitated and supportive community of travelers:
- $35 monthly (10 payments)
- OR one-time payment of $315 (one month free)
The Journey Project will run through the year, starting the week of February 6, and ending the week of December 12. Because traveling groups will be kept small (6-8 members), we have limited spaces … don’t wait to apply!