Opinion Columns & Blogs

Making goals is on to-do list for new year

Reader columnist Karin Leeburg Larsen
Reader columnist Karin Leeburg Larsen Staff photographer

It’s a rare day off and one I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. I can finally sleep in a bit, since I won’t rise to catch the early train and begin my two-hour trek to Seattle.

So, why am I huddled up under a blanket on the couch at 3:30 a.m., staring at the small clock in my living room, fingers poised over the keyboard of my laptop, tapping out another thousand words? It’s the end of another year, and as much as I would like to casually ring in new year’s without a lot of fuss or ceremony, I just can’t do it.

I’m a goals girl. While I don’t reserve making goals only for the dawning of another year, I do like to spend some extra time thinking about the prior year and planning what I want to accomplish in the next one. My goals aren’t a simple one, two, three list; I usually categorize them, break them down by timelines, set up reward systems, identify roadblocks and gauge the difficulty of the goals as I go along.

And since every day is filled with children, a husband, dinners to be planned, words added to my burgeoning novel, commutes back and forth to Seattle for my day job, and workouts crammed into the space between, I don’t get the time to reflect and really ponder those goals the way I would like. Hence the 3:30 a.m. wake-up call.

Why are some of us drawn to making goals when others can go through their lives accomplishing things without the compulsion of writing them down, measuring them and then evaluating to see if they met their intended targets?

It may be that I’m a list maker, a box checker, who likes to see that check mark filling the white space next to a daily task. Or it may be that I look for any excuse to slow down in the hectic-ness that is modern American life and contemplate the future. Or it may be that I am compelled to write, whether it’s a short story, a six-page narrative at work or a list of goals. Or it may be that until I write it down, print it out and tape it next to my bathroom mirror, I don’t feel like it will be a focus for me, because I can’t refer back to it exactly the way I thought it out originally.

Or it may be that I am my mother’s daughter, and I don’t have a choice … this was genetically pre-programmed into my system. Or it may be that I’m looking for an excuse as to why I’m up so stinking early when I should be warm under the covers.

It doesn’t matter really. I’m a goals girl, and those goals must be identified, broken down, written and posted, or the new year won’t be the same for me. It won’t hold the same awe and freshness that I feel every Jan. 1 as another opportunity comes along to better myself and the world I’m living in, daily challenging me to see what else I can do, how much I can grow, and figure out where I want to go in the coming days, weeks and months. And the 3:30 wake-up calls will continue to come, prodding me out of bed and to the computer until those goals are formed, each one taking shape and coming to life, a daily reminder of the work-in-progress me, the always-growing me, the everyday-better me that I’m striving to be.

I could look at this early morning exercise as an annoyance. I could ignore it and hope it goes away. I could trot out a previous year’s goals. Or I could accept it, let those goals take shape in my mind and on the page, plan for a banner year, and be the goals girl that I am.

Karin Leeburg Larsen of Puyallup works in Seattle and enjoys writing everything from novels to a cooking blog. She is one of six reader columnists whose work appears on this page. This is her final column. Email her at Klarsen265@gmail.com.