Hello, dear internet friends,
The last few days of the year have arrived. For me, parts of this month felt like a sprint—lots of activity squeezed into a small frame—but this week has moved like a saunter. I thought of a tweet I came across last year about the unique break that the week between Christmas and New Year’s can be. When I looked for it, I found countless posts—mostly jokes—about the last seven days of the year. The general themes were that time feels weird (What day is it again?) and no one wants to do anything but sink into the sofa. I agree that the days pass differently as we near the end of the calendar (and many people are on break from school or work), but I see this week as a more meaningful pause. The space between an inhale and exhale, a bridge between what’s been and what’s to come. I’ve been listening to my Spotify Wrapped—following the musical map of my emotions and memories from this year—and I plan to make a vision board for 2023 on New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. They’ve become an easy punchline, spurring oft-repeated jokes about gym memberships being purchased on January 1st and abandoned before the first month (or week) of the year ends. I unabashedly love the spirit of New Year’s. I think it’s incredibly lovely to build a picture—literally or figuratively—of what you hope to do, feel, or experience in the future. That’s why I’ve gotten into vision boards. I never ended up finishing mine last year, but in a way, even its blank space has become meaningful. So much happened this year that I never could have accounted for.
My board for next year will include some very big goals. Over the last couple months, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the purpose behind them and how I will define my success in meeting them. Along the way, I’ve come to recognize how easy it is to subscribe to definitions of success that depend upon the approval of others or outcomes you can’t fully control.
As an example, let’s say you set the goal of getting the lead in your school’s musical. You practice your heart out, memorize your lines, and quell your nerves enough to power through the audition… but you don’t get the part. You might feel like your best wasn’t good enough, but that’s not necessarily a fair interpretation. Perhaps the director has a very specific vision for that character, and someone else’s performance happens to match it better. No right or wrong. Just different.
Still, if all your hopes were tied to that one specific opportunity, you may find yourself deflated. But what if you kept your focus on the purpose driving your goal? You have a passion for performing. If one opportunity doesn’t work out, you can find—or create—many others. You can take vocal lessons or acting classes, join a community theater or choir, or craft material to perform on a stage of your own making.
Purpose is the engine that keeps us moving, allowing us to adapt course in the face of rejection as well as personal setbacks. Let’s step into the tennis shoes of the person who buys that gym membership on January 1st. Their resolution is to go to the gym five days a week. In the first two weeks, they only go once. They feel the air coming out of their tires. They tell themselves they’re lazy and unmotivated. Not even a month in, and they’ve already failed.
Going to the gym is their stated goal, but they have an underlying motivation. They want to be more active to boost their mood and energy. If working out at the gym isn’t a sustainable practice, that’s okay. There are plenty of other options for physical activity! Through the lens of purpose, a lack of success in getting to the gym isn’t actually a failure. It provides an important piece of information, ruling out what doesn’t work so they can find what does.
Recognizing the purpose behind what you pursue is also valuable because it illuminates the path where you’ll spend most of your time. The destinations—moments of big success—are awesome and deserve to be celebrated, but you likely won’t reach them every single day. Much of life happens on the road, chip-chip-chipping away at your goals. What matters is finding joy and meaning in the in-betweens. The long practices and late-night rehearsals. The hazy days between holidays. They’re the stepping stones between Here and Where You Want to Go, and they tell a story all their own. You don’t want to miss it.
I hope your year to come is full of joy and purpose. Thank you for being here to help me create my own.