A couple of weeks ago, I read a fantastic article about using systems instead of goals — or, more accurately, using systems in conjunction with goals. As the author writes at the end of the post:
Goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress… Committing to the process is what makes the difference.
This is why I’m so passionate about creating systems in both work and life. And why those systems need to be systems you love — systems that are adaptive and individualized, flexible and prophetic. You may love your goals, but chances are, you only visit those goals a few times each year. Your systems are the things you use day in, day out — and if you don’t love them, it doesn’t matter how much you love your goals, because those systems are the means to get to your goals. Systems are the difference between wanting something and doing (or having) it.
In Narrative, one of the things that I talk about is “the check-out” — when you look ahead to what’s next but also look back to what did (and didn’t) get done last time. If something didn’t get done, it’s almost always for one of four reasons:
- there were too many things (or too many big things) for the amount of time available
- the thing isn’t actually important
- there’s some kind of internal resistance to the thing
- the system for doing the thing didn’t work (or there was no system at all)
When it comes to annual (or quarterly) goals, the first one is rarely the culprit, unless you are much too ambitious in goal-setting or have an unexpected life change. It’s usually about importance, resistance, or systems.
- Is this thing not really important to me? It’s okay for the answer to be yes. It may be important later and appear on a later list. Or it may never be important to me, and that’s okay too.
- Do I have some kind of resistance to the thing? If so, why? Is it my intuition? Am I afraid to fail? Do I need to break a habit that’s hindering the new thing I want to do?
- Did I create a system around the thing? If not, how could I create one next year? If so, why didn’t the system work?
Of my 28 things from last year, 17 were completed (or are continual works in progress, like loving in deed and in truth). Of the 11 that weren’t done, three were no longer important and weren’t carried over to this year’s list; three caused some kind of internal resistance and were modified for 2014; and five needed better systems. I’ve marked those five (*) below and hope that, on the next January 5th, I’ll be able to tell you the story of those systems and how they made a difference.
- host another spring swap
- take the sabbath seriously (and prepare/plan ahead in order to sabbath well)
- keep two evenings open every week
- develop three new passive income streams and/or products
- do a turkey trot
- make an advent calendar *
- memorize one psalm and/or one chapter of a Pauline letter *
- read 36 of the 72 books that I own and haven’t read
- establish a mind+body+spirit morning routine
- have eyes to see all things new, my word for 2014. On the surface, this word seems like a rather obvious choice for the year ahead — a new baby, a new chapter, a thousand new things every day, every hour, every minute. And that is one aspect of this idea. But for me, this word has more to do with God’s faithfulness. That he has made me new. That he continues to make me new. And that I will desperately need him to show up and to make me new every single day that I’m a mother. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)
- go to a movie or concert in the park *
- learn to competently play no fewer than three songs on the guitar *
- try a new vegetable or fruit
- love in deed and in truth
- have 15 date nights with my husband before the baby arrives
- write my first Kindle book
- try 26 new recipes, no fewer than 12 of which are desserts *
- handwrite at least one letter or card of encouragement every month
- buy coffee for a stranger
- establish a new Christmas tradition
- do something musical
- give generously of both time and money
- take a class in some creative or domestic art (cooking, sewing, drawing, etc.)
- document this year well (possibly through One Little Word, possibly using some other method)
- try two new Portland restaurants that I have tagged as “fancy” on Yelp
- get a new photography tool (reflector, Photoshop actions set, etc.) and learn how to use it well
- practice saying no — especially when my yes is for the wrong reason (wanting to please everyone, to be liked or admired, to project a certain image of competence, helpfulness, on-top-of-it-ness, etc.; not wanting to disappoint anyone, be difficult, inconvenience others, etc.), and sometimes even when my yes is for the right reason (genuinely wanting to help, serve, or show love to someone)
- pray Micah 6:8 and Luke 10:27 over my daughter every day
- learn to be okay with being messy — still, and probably from now on. The last four months have been a story of feeling messy in every way. Messy in my relationships, messy in my work, messy in my physical body, and uncomfortably messy in my emotions. Maybe some of that messiness will correct itself, and maybe it won’t. What I know is that my season of having (or seeming to have) it all together is over. I’m beginning to suspect that life is a story of becoming more and more messy. But at the same time, God’s story is one of giving beauty for ashes. If this year really is about all things new, it’s going to be messy, because new things always are.