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“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” – Marcus Aurelius

Last year was all about letting go and embracing the change I needed to live a life closer to who I really am. For those of you who kindly followed my journey, you know it was a roller-coaster of a year. As I peeled back layer after layer, lessons were learned, realizations were had, and my life changed. 

I learned to enjoy the peaks. I learned that if I leaned hard into the valleys, the ride, while still scary, was so much easier. As the year came to a close, I found this sweet-spot, a place I could hang out and be cool, while the world and all it’s drama churned around me.  

As the end of 2012 rapidly approached, I knew I would need a new mantra for the coming year. “Letting go” worked well for me, but now it was time to take it up a notch. While I’ll continue to let go and lean into change, I knew I needed something more. I needed to challenge myself; scare myself even. 

The goal setting program I’m doing, really pushed a lot of buttons. As I’ve written here and here, it made me really uncomfortable (ok it pissed me off). My friend Sandy struggled with the program, as well. In the end we both decided that while it would have to be tweaked, it was what we needed. So, we set off separately to make our personal adjustments agreeing to hold each other accountable in the process. 

Over the past several weeks as I’ve fiddled and fussed with it, I realized my resistance to the whole stinky thing lied in the outcome portion. In a goal setting program, you’re suppose to set specific, measurable goals. The problem for me is that once I’ve set the goal, I become so locked onto that specific result that anything else that happens is nothing short of a travesty in my mind. 

Let me give you an example or two. If I decide I’m going to loose ten pounds by June 15th and instead I loose nine pounds by June 15th, I regard that as failure. I can’t celebrate the nine pounds I’ve shed. No, way. I’m totally focused on the pound I didn’t loose, and I’m devastated.  

If I decide I’m going to learn one hundred Spanish words a month, but in the month of March I only learn seventy-five words, that would be regarded by me as a failure too. Never-mind that I have seventy-five brand new words in my vocabulary. In my head, this is still an epic fail.

So as I raced towards the end of 2012, I had two realizations that shifted my thinking. The first lesson I learned from running a half marathon. It was that I need to always set the bar really, really low and move incrementally towards what I want. The second realization came from an interview I saw with Tim Ferris. Ferris said that if he fails at hitting a mark he’s set, he’s believes he’s still better off. He believes accomplishing part of a goal is always better than doing nothing. Simple glass half full thinking.

In order to do the things I want to do, I can’t just bounce around letting go and embracing change all the time. Don’t get me wrong, letting go of the ick is still a good thing for any of us to practice. It just doesn’t need to be the focus of my everyday life as it was last year. I realized that in addition to letting go and changing, I need to set really, simple basic goals for myself. As I tick off each easy accomplishment, I can nudge the bar higher and celebrate, really celebrate, every stinking success I have. So, this year my theme is going to be commitment. 

I’m committing to the people I love and things I want. I’m committing to learning new things and having new adventures. That’s what I need to focus on now. 

So, as I set goals, I’m committing to setting the bar low. I mean really, really low. I’m reminding myself that if for some reason I don’t hit the mark, it ok for me to evaluate, retool, and try again. I’m committing to being open to whatever results I do happen to achieve. Post-it notes and penicillin were a happy accidents. I have to remember that sometimes even in the midst of our apparent failures, great outcomes can be found and great lessons learned. I’m committing to incremental movement, and remembering that movement, even in the wrong direction, is better then no movement at all.

Most important though is that I’m committing to really enjoying the ride: being present, leaning in when it gets tough, and just really having a lot of fun with every single thing I do. The important thing for me is to stay open: to listen when God speaks, when the universe whispers, when the tide changes. 


  1. YES!! Go, Denise!!

    P.S. I still haven’t found my word for 2013…

    • It’ll find you, Pam. Don’t worry mine turned up just when I needed it.

  2. Looking forward to hearing about your “little” victories! Hugs!

    • Thanks, Holly. They will be little for sure.

  3. I really liked what your friend Susan said on one of your previous posts.. “I prefer to think of my goals as dreams (I actually hate the word goals).” I think I could dream dreams well and feel a lot less stressed if I was working towards living out my dream than reaching a goal! I’m starting to morph my thinking of goals as those small, step-by-step rungs on a ladder to reach the height of attainment that is our dream! Small steps work well for me and help me feel a LOT more successful than having a long way to go in achieving a big goal. 😉 I’ve got my seat belt buckled, and I’m ready to lean forward with you!

    • Sandy, I’m focusing on the baby steps…it’s all I can handle. Hopefully if I can string enough of them together I can get somewhere. Not too worried, it always works out and I have good people with me on this journey.

  4. Denise, I felt a rush of relief reading “I’m setting the bar low.” I’ve been stuck in “high bar” mode, too, and all it does is add unnecessary pressure. Every word I write is not book-deal material (but I’m writing!) and every song I compose won’t result in online CD sales (but I’m composing!) — hooray for your wisdom in recognizing the victories in baby steps. Doing little, measurable things out of sheer joy is much more motivating than beating myself over the head with a bar!


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