I Will Still Do Well: Reimagining Goal-Setting When You’re In The Middle Of Burnout
There’s this one old Oprah video from 1986 I’ve become obsessed with over the last few years. I’ve watched it so many times I have it memorized and tattooed onto my brain. The exchange goes like this:
HOST: So this show is just getting underway nationally—
OPRAH: (nods) It will do well.
HOST: And if it doesn’t?
OPRAH: And if it doesn’t *I* will STILL do well. I will do well because I’m not defined by a show. I think we are defined by the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat other people. It would be wonderful to be acclaimed as this talk show host that’s made it. That would be wonderful. But if that doesn’t happen, there are other important things in my life.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I feel like I’m probably not the only one in your life who’s saying those words right now. Maybe you’re even saying them to yourself. About places you’ve gone, stuff you’ve done, people you’ve seen, or things you’ve felt.
It’s. been. a. while.
Usually when January rolls around, I’m fired up about helping you (and myself, tbh) combat what I call Resolution Season: that time of year when goal-setting feels obligatory, *hEaLtHy hABiTs* are trending, and many of us generally feel pressured to do-change-become SO MUCH at once, and fast. When this usually happens, I like to give you alternatives to the Resolution Season rush so that you feel empowered, not frantic — and so that you avoid the inevitable burnout that comes when you try and force too much on yourself at once.
This year is different: Burnout’s already here.
If your IRL community sounds anything like mine right now, you’re probably hearing (or at the very least sensing) that a whole heck-ton of us are at the ends of our ropes.
And if your social media feeds, fitness studios, supermarkets, or favorite wellness-adjacent apps look anything like mine, you’re probably noticing that the annual push for NEW YEAR NEW YOU doesn’t feel alluring like it maybe has in the past. It doesn’t even feel annoying.
It feels downright insensitive.
I will STILL do well.
I don’t sugarcoat things here. If you’ve been visiting WANT for a while (some of you have been here almost 7 years!!), you know I won’t try to convince you to feel any way other than how you feel, and won’t lie to you about how I’m feeling, either.
If you’ve been saying to yourself “It’s been a while,” I want you to know you are NOT alone. I know this because I’m with you. Sometimes it feels like it’s been a while since I was fully at ease. It feels like it’s been a while since I was fired up and motivated to crush a goal. Heck, it feels like it’s been a while since I felt like I was “crushing” anything. After so much stop-and-go hope and letdown this past year+++ — from looking forward to then canceling big family gatherings, to stopping and starting work, to planning, promoting, then postponing my very first retreat and more — I am exhausted. Creating a big list of pie-in-the-sky goals right now, for me, feels masochistic. Almost cruel. Like I’m setting myself up for letdown by “positivity-ing” myself into a dead end.
As someone who actually DOES want to look forward with excitement and possibility (and yes, maybe some goals too), I’ve begun to ask myself:
How the heck do you start setting goals when you feel like you’ve got so much recent “proof” that reaching your goals isn’t really up to you in the first place?
I will STILL do well.
How you start is by remembering why you do it all in the first place.
All my life I’ve heard the refrain “It’ll be worth it in the end” when faced with frustration, pain, or uncertainty. There’s a part of that that’s true, and. I don’t believe the feeling you get when you get where you’re going needs to be the *only* prize there is. I believe you can get clear on how you want to approach frustration, pain, or uncertainty and make THAT APPROACH your goal. Even before you know what the challenge or destination is.
I believe the unfolding of the journey can be the destination.
I believe it all can be “worth it” in the now.
I don’t need a specific *thing* in mind to work toward this year. I just need to know how I want to feel while I’m working toward whatever it ends up being.
Those things, to me, are “goals” that transcend ages or achievements. They’re qualities I want to cultivate in my life whether I’m 35 or 95. And they’re the things, I suspect, that will actually end up defining me in the long run.
I will STILL do well.
Whether it’s a workout you do, a dissertation you write, a meal you cook, an application you send, or — in the case of Oprah circa 1986 — a show you launch, see what happens if this year, you focus less on what you get OUT of it and more about how you go INTO it.
The beauty of this shift? It prevents one thing from being your everything. It takes the pressure off of it to be perfect, and instead focuses on cultivating mental and emotional habits you can apply anywhere in your life, for your entire life.
The goal isn’t the thing you go after.
The goal is how you go after it.
May this moment be the one we release the image of how things “should” be, and what goals “should” look like, and embrace the reality of who we’ll be no matter where the winds blow us.
Things might go according to plan, or not.
It might do well, or it might not do well.
But YOU will do well.
No matter what.
And that’s what matters.
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