“Yearly Goals” Foster the Mentality of “Wasting Time”
“Where do you want to be in a year?”
I believe we have to have some semblance of an idea of what we want in life.
I’m not talking about being clueless about your own desires and ambitions. I’m here to talk about the concept of “yearly goals.”
We all have that friend who just started a weight loss journey and they say, “in a year, I want to have lost ‘x’ pounds,” or the person who says “I want to start exercising. By next summer, I’m going to be so hot, people won’t be able to resist me.”
Those are really great goals, and I applaud and respect everyone who wants to better themselves by losing weight or getting more fit. The problem is, from my experience, people usually fail when they set “yearly goals.”
I experienced this when I was trying to quit smoking. I’d always say, “I’m not going to be a smoker by this time next year.” But then, what would happen? A week would go by, then a month. Then, I’d negotiate the time by saying something idiotic like “no, what I really meant was from today. Not a year from the last time I said it.” Then ten years went by and I was still smoking away.
The problem with a “yearly goal” is just that- it puts you 365 days away from where you want to be.
Let’s say it’s a weight loss goal —
365 days is a lot of time from right now. You’d think that would make the goal more feasible. For example, “I want to lose ten pounds this year” is not a very difficult goal to achieve. I’d argue most people could lose ten pounds with minimal effort.
If you give yourself a year’s time to do it, however, you’re not getting around to it.
Why? Things like losing weight require daily work. You have to consciously choose each and every day to put in the work, even when you don’t want to. Losing weight requires awareness of your habits and your body.
A year is a large block of time, and we don’t tend to pay attention to the smaller increments of time such as days or hours when we have so much time to play with.
I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. I worked at a job I hated, and I always dreamed about leaving. I didn’t know how to do that, and I still don’t. Every day, I have to put in more and more work to teach myself new skills, network with new people, and apply to new jobs. The work involved is exhausting and time-consuming.
I put this off for years. “By next year, I’m going to do this,” I’d say. Every year became “next year,” and that year turned into “by the time I’m 30,” and then “by the time I’m 35.” All this time I had to just swim around in; I never minded sacrificing any of it to go to happy hour. Then twelve years passed.
The problem is, something like “starting a new career” takes daily work. I’ve been at it for seven months and I’m still not where I want to be. That doesn’t stop me from putting in the daily work. If I don’t do the work consistently, twelve more years are going to pass and I won’t be where I want to be.
When I was someone who functioned in the world of “yearly goals,” I ended up wasting more time than I ever had to throw away. I always thought I had more of it, but I was simply passively allowing it to slip from me. I didn’t take immediate action each and every day, and thus, I spent a lot of time standing still.
When you’re thinking about next year, you don’t always notice how this afternoon is going to go. The work you put in this afternoon is what’s going to determine where you are a year from now, not the daydream of this magical, abrupt change you’re planning on making sometime in the next twelve months.
If you really care about where you’ll be next year, take my advice, and stop thinking about next year. Think about today, and take action.