Think Tank: The Case for New Year’s Goals

I like the sentiment of making New Year’s resolutions in anticipation of having a wonderful year. The weird in between weeks of one year to the next is a great time to look back and see how to improve your life. I admire people who want to learn new languages, travel more, save money or lose weight in the next 365 days. But at the same time, I also find New Year’s resolutions to be a weird cultural practice.They are something we all continue to do year after year, but most of us are only ever hopeful that we might fulfill them. If you can even remember the resolutions you made last year, I’ll be very impressed.

If you know me personally or you’ve read this blog for even just a moment, you know that I am all about making myself better every day — whether that’s culturally, physically or however I choose to do so. What I am not about, however, is telling myself vague resolutions that “I’m going to eat better,” “I’m going to exercise more” and etcetera because that approach does not work. You say you’re going to lose weight, but never sign up for fitness classes. You say you want to save money, but you keep buying $4 lattes or eating takeout. Telling yourself you’re going to do something without any kind of plan sets you up for failure. If there’s anything I learned in 2015, it was that.

So this is my case to stop making New Year’s resolutions, and start making New Year’s goals. I’m going to set concrete goals for myself that I know I am capable of accomplishing, and make a very simple plan of how I’m going to go about meeting them. The best part about making New Year’s goals will be that setting something simple and achievable will make you feel better and help you make it part of your daily routine. If you want to save money, for example, make goals to brew coffee at home during the weekdays or save all the $5 bills you come across. If you want to eat healthier, make goals to eat salads on Tuesdays or read the nutritional labels on everything you buy. Just the linguistic switch from “resolution” to “goal” is better in itself. Using the word “goal” means you’re actually working towards something to make the change.

I’m ready for 2016, and excited to see what fortune it’ll bring to me at this transitional point in my life. The goals I’ve outlined for myself make me even more excited. Here are my New Year’s goals for 2016.

I’m going to find a permanent job.

How I’m going to do it: My job is set to end in February, so I’m going to look again for a job as an editorial assistant, assistant editor or junior copy editor. My goal is to apply to three jobs a week.

I’m going to go back to yoga.

How I’m going to do it: I am going to find a studio that I like / is reasonably priced and go to a class at least once a week. I miss yoga a lot, and I regret not sticking with it.

I’m going to teach myself how to code.

How I’m going to do it: I’m going to use free resources like Codeacademy to teach myself basic HTML and CSS, which I know will be a good professional skill to have. I’m going to set benchmarks for myself, and make cheatsheets to refer to. I’ve tried to teach myself in the past, but I haven’t been organized enough nor have I really had the time.

I’m going to learn how to make drinks.

How I’m going to do it: I’m going to sign up for a class offered by my city’s community services office. I’m not a big drinker, but I want to know how to make the classics and how to order them.

I’m going to read 50 books. 

How I’m going to do it: I’m going to use Goodreads to make a solid to-read list, and I’ll also use the app to mark my progress. I read 41 in 2015, and I want to up my intake just a smidge.

I’m going to get better at my lettering. 

How I’m going to do it: I’m going to carve out a time on Sundays to letter one quote or word, and take photos to watch my progress. I want to let go of my perfectionism when it comes to my calligraphy and lettering and be happy with what I make, which I think will be a byproduct of practicing.

What are your New Year’s goals? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Think Tank: #Goals

Really though, Ina Garten is kind of everything. There is now a "What Would Ina Do?" sign in the Poly Post newsroom.
Really though, Ina Garten is kind of everything. There is now a “What Would Ina Do?” sign in the Poly Post newsroom.

Most people do not know that I consider Ina Garten as one of my role models. Before becoming the Barefoot Contessa, she was a White House nuclear policy analyst and overall badass. Now she spends her days cooking for her blog, inviting friends over and spending time with her devoted husband Jeffrey. If you don’t know who Ina Garten was before you read this paragraph, consider yourself enlightened.

As I remarked to my friend Adrian the other day, Ina Garten’s life is my dream. I’d like to have a very successful editing career one day, and then spend my retirement gardening, cooking, designing and entertaining. Ina seems like a wonderful person, and she always has the best ideas. I’d also like to have a husband who loves me as much as Jeffrey loves Ina. I also ask myself on a semi-regular basis, “What would Ina do?” In Internet meme-speak, you could probably call this my #goals. The caption on this Buzzfeed article about Lorde and her boyfriend is the usage I’m talking about.

#Goals is something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, and I want to parse out its implications. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve seen it used both seriously and facetiously on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. #Goals seems to be different from more concrete aspirations, like “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to lose 10 pounds.” It’s more of an emotional thing, like “Chris Pratt and Anna Faris are my relationship #goals” or “When the neighborhood Starbucks barista knows your favorite drink by heart #goals.”

In this sense, #goals are the achievements in your life that aren’t quite milestones in the general sense but that still mean something to your personal sense of identity and success, and I like what that represents. Your #goals may not be that you want your boyfriend to buy you Tiffany jewelry, but that you want to be with someone who cares about you enough to buy you expensive gifts that have their own significance in themselves. I don’t know if that’s running through the 14 year olds’ heads as they hashtag their social media posts, but the sentiment is there. Or in another example, seeing some stylishly-dressed older people and commenting mom or dad #goals. Beyond the clothes or parenting techniques, there’s a certain level of coolness and worldliness that’s appealing to you. And in both of these examples, the outcomes are very positive — something I’ve noticed that’s intrinsic in #goals. By pointing out something about another person or an idea and saying #goals, you’re being a people person. Whether they realize it or not, you’re paying those people virtual compliments and putting out positive vibes into the world.

But in some ways, #goals has its limits. Elle magazine feels the same way, saying that the label is actually quite reductive. I love Ina Garten and consider her a fantastic role model, but I think that if I had her life specifically, I wouldn’t probably be entirely happy. I make cake from a box, and the most gardening I do is a grow-your-own-sunflower kit from the Target $1 section. I want the wonderful feelings and success Ina seems to have, but even then I have to realize that there’s a lot I don’t see. She might fight with Jeffrey a lot, or she might spend more time coming up with content for her show and cookbooks than she actually does enjoying her life. It seems as if when people use #goals to try and qualify their feelings about wanting something non-material in their lives, all they end up thinking about is the surface. You can say relationship #goals about another couple, but you are effectively erasing all of the non-#goals stuff. It doesn’t come to mind immediately. And plus, I’m Zoë. I shouldn’t strive to be Ina, which is something #goals at least implies about the people who use it.

I still find a lot of good in #goals, and celebrate the good vibes emanating from a simple hashtag. I still want to be as successful as Ina Garten. And I still hope that one day I will be able to enjoy my life as Ina appears to enjoy hers. But until then, I’ll be thinking how I feel about #goals.

How do you feel about #goals? Am I flat out crazy? Let’s talk about it in the comments.