Footprints leading up a sand dune, showing the many small steps a person took to reach the peak

Relearning how to achieve my goals in 2022

It’s already the 18th of January. More than two weeks of 2022 have passed so far, and I lost track of time far too easily. Over the last month I’ve spent three weeks of my time isolated due to Covid, but I wasn’t really able to motivate myself to do anything with it.

Lots of waiting in lines or sitting by my phone waiting for results, lots of chasing after information and stressing about whether I’d passed it onto my coworkers or friends. I wanted to relax and achieve one or two small things to at least feel like I’d made the most of my time away from the world, but the “holidays” just gave me a heap of extra stress and drained me.

They also gave me a lot of time to reflect on how to manage myself and my time better, and to think about how I should go about pursuing my goals this year.

So I decided to reflect on this with a few things:

  • What went wrong?
  • Why did that happen?
  • What went right?
  • How can I use this information going forward?


What went wrong last year?

Last year I set myself a bunch of goals that, in hindsight, probably weren’t achievable. I set them far too big, or had no clear path to achieve what I wanted. In the end I didn’t set attainable goals and it was only disheartening over time when I didn’t achieve the goals I had set for myself. It’s like I forgot (or never learnt) about SMART goals in my business classes.

The real problem is that I thought I was setting my goals reasonably. Perhaps they were, but without the sustained effort and breaking them down into smaller, more achievable goals on a regular basis, they were just a parallax moving slowly by and disappearing into the background of my life.

I set myself goals to become much better at graphic and video editing, and to get a job that used some of these skills. Instead I struggled to motivate myself properly, and I kind of landed in a job where I feel a bit out of place and do all of the things that I enjoyed least at my previous role. It has felt like a step backwards at times, if I’m honest.

I also invested myself far too much in other people and things where I should have been more careful, establishing dreams for the future that were almost unrealistic and very dependent on other people. I thought I’d become a lot better at maintaining control of myself, my thoughts, my emotions. I can still slip into some bad habits though, and I’m still trying to learn how to manage myself.

I know I shouldn’t hold it against myself too much though because I’m still overcoming years of issues, and I handled things much better than I have in the past. Nothing cataclysmic happened and my life didn’t radically change for the worst.


Why did that happen?

I’ve never been a fan of setting a new year’s resolution. They never work for me, and rather than waiting months for an arbitrary date to start doing something I would rather just begin working on it now.

That part is probably healthy, but normally I also have a tendency to approach things at a sprint and work until I exhaust myself or burn out. I realise it’s not a “sustainable” long term approach to things, and it’s also very typical of what will happen if I start doing something at the start of a new year. It’s not healthy when I have all these milestone flags and watch them zooming past – the first day, the first week, the first month. If I haven’t gotten things done but time has been passing me by, it just deflates me.

I didn’t start trying to learn anything at the start of the year. I started a few months into the year when I thought I’d recovered enough from my burnout and didn’t feel an attachment to any year-bound milestones. I still ended up sprinting in pretty much no direction at all though, using up my energy and my time on a fear driven rush.

I found myself panicking about all the jobs that I didn’t have enough experience to apply for. I felt that intense regret that maybe I’d wasted my time up to this point, and rather than working on new skills I got stuck in a loop of blaming myself for making poor decisions.

I didn’t work on things. I just felt bad about the things I hadn’t done, and about the things I wasn’t actively doing. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a while but it’s still one of the hardest cycles to break myself out of.

Eventually I pretty much collapsed into myself mentally and gave up on my goals completely.


What went right?

I dunno if I’m very good at holding myself together, but I’m very good at rebounding when I hit the ground. With nothing to lose I started to just throw myself at things again because… well it’s not like anything matters, right?

And I’ve found the biggest successes I have are often the times when I stop holding myself back and just dive into something.

Over the years I’ve managed to:

  • Learn to manage depression and anxiety so severe I initially couldn’t leave my room
  • Overcome a crippling fear of talking on the phone
  • Push myself through a Bachelor’s degree (even despite almost dropping out)
  • Apply for and get an actual professional career job
  • Actually willingly quit a job and take the leap to get into another

Those things might seem like fairly mundane or normal things for the average person, but to me they were all a bucket list of things that I considered well beyond me at various points.

The scale of the things also changed over the years and I’ve achieved a fair few things now. I never really saw the steps that I was taking along the way either. I only knew that I had an objective, and I pushed myself toward it because I was driven by some even bigger fear than the one I was overcoming.

Now when I try to go back and attempt any of those individual things though, they feel so small. They don’t feel like the overwhelming mountains I was trying to cross to escape something far worse at the time.

So in 2021 I managed to start a new job in spite of all the things that felt like they were going wrong. I managed to push myself to hunt more seriously for a place of my own. I started to tackle a lot more of those things that were holding me down. I also kind of accepted that even if the direction I’m heading isn’t the one I want to follow in the long term, at least I’m proactively moving along some path and building skills that will help me get to a better place.


How can I take more productive steps to achieve my goals?

This year I’m going to focus more on achieving some of the things I want to do in the future. Strangely enough, I think that doesn’t really mean setting new goals at all. It does mean shrinking them down and working on them more each month, each week, or even each day. A journey of a thousand steps is just that – a thousand small steps, not a single “large” action.

Lately I’ve been working on adopting a new mindset where I don’t care about hitting a big goal – I only care about working toward something in some capacity. It’s an approach I’ve often used in other areas of my life, but I never really managed to convince myself to apply it to my personal goals.

Whether it’s five days, five hours, or five minutes, during 2022 I will try to spend more time on a daily basis working on my long term goals. Even this article is a testament to the fact that I’m just making an attempt at something instead of dwelling on it. I set myself goals to write something every few weeks last year, but time just slipped away. This time I’m doing it.

The key is to stop planning forever and just start doing. Preparation is obviously important, but “no plan survives contact with the enemy” is a pretty good saying and fairly true for almost everything in life.

I guess I already knew these things, but I have to keep them in mind:

  • Plans can be adapted on the fly.
  • Mistakes can be fixed afterwards.
  • Failures are learning experiences, not the end of the road.
  • Not finishing it today doesn’t mean it’s not getting done at all.
  • Don’t dwell on the things that aren’t done, instead do the things that can be done.
  • Many goals can be pursued separately, and still worked on together as a whole.

So that’s why for my first steps I’m going to stop worrying about what the future holds.

Close my eyes.

And hit “Publish”.

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