2015 was an awesome year filled with experiences I could not have predicted. I made a new record, joined a band, became the demo guitarist for one of my favorite guitar stores, and started a new business with a friend of mine composing music for various forms of multimedia (more on that soon). Other than that, I have some of the greatest students any teacher could ask for, and I feel very fortunate to play some regular gigs with very talented wonderful people. However, there is a thought I've had a lot this year and it deals with the nature of setting goals.
I never set out to do the things I just listed and they weren't goals or New Year's resolutions at the end of the year in 2014 (with the exception of finishing my 2nd solo record which was already in process late 2014). I'm sure we can all look back on our year and find great things that happened we couldn't have predicted or planned at the start of the year.
It's not that I'm against New Year's resolutions or goals by any means, but many of us don't stick to them for various reasons. It's so easy to get discouraged at a new goal when we fail at it one day or it's too lofty or perhaps even unrealistic. Although many studies have been done on motivation, how to create a lasting habit, success, grit and determination, etc... many of us still fail to accomplish our goals.
To borrow some wisdom from James Altucher, (podcaster, investor, writer, entrepreneur) he believes people should have themes instead of goals and I agree with him. For example, if your goal is to be more fit then you might have a theme of being a healthy person, which includes regular exercise, watching what you put into your body, sleeping well, and managing your mental, emotional, and spiritual states of mind. Maybe your theme is that you want to influence people in a positive way, be more creative or outgoing, not let fear rule your life, or try new things and get out of your comfort zone. With every new goal there is something that has to be behind it supporting it, and that is a theme. A goal without support is destined to fail.
A goal is something that is achieved once whereas a theme is a way of life. Many of us set a goal and then are unhappy until we meet that goal. Meaning, you set yourself up for unhappiness until the goal is reached. Then ironically when the goal is finally reached you feel happy for a fleeting moment and then go back to feeling not that much different from how you felt before. Anyone has noticed this if they've tried to save a specific amount of money. How did you feel when you hit the desired amount? Did you feel much different? Was it so gradual that it was no big deal? Did you get used to it quickly and just want more? I know I have felt that way.
It sounds simple, and it is. It's easy to beat yourself up if you don't accomplish a goal but if you have themes to live by and give yourself a little slack to be human every once in a while opportunities and experiences come your way that you never could have expected because you put yourself in the right position for them to happen. The Greek philosopher Seneca said, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
So as this year comes to a close I reflect on the themes in my own life and reassess what's working or not, and what I'd like to add or improve on. Perhaps we should all ask, "what do I want the themes of my life to be?"