January is typically the month in which I set goals for the new year. Buoyed by both enthusiasm and perhaps a dollop of guilt from over-indulgence during the holidays, I usually decide I’m going to revamp my life from “A” (Accept the things I cannot change) to “Z” (Zumba classes, sign up for). The problem, of course, is that it is impossible to make all of those changes all at once and by the end of the month, I’ve historically given up on them—except maybe “C”—consume more chocolate.

So I’m going to share with you my new goal—make fewer goals!

Actually, I’m teasing, sort of. I know the importance of the old adage—
she who aims at nothing generally hits it. It’s just this year I’m being more particular about the goals I set. Instead of writing down a list of things I want to accomplish, I’m spending the first few weeks of this year thinking about what it is I really want to become over the next 12 months.

And while becoming thin, rich and famous might be part of that, what I’m realizing is that my deepest goal is to become authentically me. What I really want is to be honest with myself about my hopes, dreams, desires and needs.

As I’ve worked through this, I had a sudden epiphany—a good thing in the month of THE Epiphany. When I’m striving to become my authentic self, I am also, simultaneously and serendipitously, living in abundance and gratitude.

For many years, I’ve used the goal-setting process as a way to force myself to become the person I thought I should be. What happened all too often was that even as I achieved the goals, they felt empty because I was operating out of a sense of “should” instead of a state of grace.

The fact is we have not been created to live in “should.”

I can almost hear some of you objecting—“What do you mean? Of course, we live in ‘should.’ We should love our families. We should go to Church. We should obey the law. Why, without ‘should’ we’d all live in anarchy and depravity!”

I don’t think we would. Once the guilt and burden of should is removed, we are given the gift of choice.

And that’s where grace and goals come in.

When I make a real choice, an authentic choice about what I want to have, be or do, I am cooperating with grace. And when I cooperate with grace, I have a much better chance of actually achieving those “goals” because I am working with myself, instead of against myself.

For example, I have, for as long as I can remember, told myself I should be organized. It’s been a goal for as long as I’ve made goals. Now to me that has always meant staying on task, working from beginning to end, etc. However, I have a bit of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) about me and it’s always a battle to complete anything without getting distracted. So, after a great deal of soul-searching, I decided to embrace my inner ADD. I figured if things really fell apart and the “center cannot hold” (Yeats) I could return to my old, not very successful, model.

So I’ve given myself permission to “flit.” What that means in practical terms is that I outlined this article, then put away some Christmas decorations that were still out. I wrote a few more lines, then reorganized my to-do list for the day and wrote a few more lines. I then had a cup of coffee, did a load of wash, checked that quote from Yeats (“Slouching toward Bethlehem”) and am back writing. In the end, I will have written this article and crossed a few things off my list, which is what I wanted to accomplish all along. Granted, my way doesn’t “look” very organized, but ultimately, for me, it’s more organized than a traditional method because it’s infused with the grace I need, the grace I’ve been given. The grace to be a little bit ADD.

So this January, as you launch into the new year, can you be honest with yourself about what you really want? Can you let go of the shoulds long enough to make soul-enriching choices? Can allow yourself to become authentic enough to permit grace to take precedence over goals?