It’s time for 2021 — both my intention and some specific goals I have in mind for myself! And if you know me at all you know that I love behavior change, both personally and professionally (check out my previous posts on building better habits and why you might choose not to set resolutions).
Let me start by saying that if I had written a post about goals this time a year ago my wrap-up would be quite dismal for all of the things I generally hope to achieve (especially as relates to my travel quests!), but by not achieving those goals a whole host of other things emerged this year, most notably peace and contentedness (and cooking scores of new recipes and reading all the things!).
However, I’ve since learned to set broader goals that lead me towards longer changes in my lifestyle. That is, rather than come up with a checklist of goals, I think about the kind of life I want to lead and what smaller goals will lead me in that direction. It is possible that individual goals will remain unachieved, but in pursuing them I will discover better balance, a new passion, or overcome a fear. This is, I believe, the way to balance the outcomes and the journey, as well as giving me focus without rigidity.
2021 Intention: Gratitude
Setting an intention has helped me stay focused not on what I want to do but how I want to be. Coaching certification helped me understand that attending to who I am matters just as much to what I do.
2020 was a perspective-shifting year and because we spent more or less nine months in our house it helped me get a sense of life up-close — the small moments, the little victories, the beauty of the everyday.
I appreciate the inner peace that 2020 brought despite the outer chaos, and I’d like to carry forward the intention to express gratitude for each day that I am given and to look for the upsides in the smallest experiences.
Unlike the specific goals I’m sharing below I don’t attach specific behaviors to intentions. I might write in a gratitude journal — and I might not. I might take a moment in silence to share thanks — and I might not. Most likely when I notice I am not in an attitude of gratitude it helps me snap back to the way I would prefer to be instead of how I might be in that moment.
So with no further ado, here are the goals I’m setting out for myself in 2021…
Goal: Maintain physical, mental, and emotional health.
2020 was a year of ups and downs where my health was concerned.
On the positive side, I’ve exercise every day since March 7th, my first day at home — which makes today Day 300! That’s kept me not only physically healthy but has kept my mind clear, helped me maintain a relatively normal sleep schedule, and keep my attitude more positive than not (as I hope my husband would confirm). I took the plunge and finally got Invisalign (and yes, I wore braces as a teenager and a retainer through college — but my teeth still moved back!). And I’ve managed my anxiety about as well as I could have hoped in a global pandemic. Wins, all.
But there were also some very difficult times — namely regarding my gut health. I got some sort of stomach bug in July and never really recovered, even with diet modifications, tests and tests and tests, and the priciest antibiotics I had ever heard of. I’m due to write a post about that experience, but feeling so crappy for six months definitively put a cramp in 2020 (you see what I did there, right?).
Choosing healthy habits feels more important that ever — moving my body every day in some way, aiming for eight hours of sleep every night, attending to preventative visits for both mental and physical health, and improving my relationship with food.
Given that it is unlikely that life will return to something resembling normal for the next 6–9 months, attending to health means that I’ll feel safe and cared for during that time. Rather than set goals for specific milestones or a weight or workout durations, I’m choosing to maintain my healthy habits and continue to find optimizations.
Goal: Settle into my new job.
[Note: Don’t worry, this photo was long, long before COVID. Actually my only work trip last year was in January — which is about 15–20 trips fewer than the normal year.]
Working from home has been an interesting experience — and it looks like it will continue for the better part of 2021. This is partially dependent on local COVID rates as well as the availability of the vaccine. In this way The Company is quite conservative, and for that I am thankful.
In October I learned that I would be leaving my current team to join a brand-new team as part of a larger re-org. I am thankful that I landed where I did (see above: gratitude). This new role is focused on many similar things as my current job, but it is serving a much broader base of internal-to-The-Company clients, developing a scalable way of delivering these “new” lines of service, and working with a much bigger organization to help all of these employees learn to do what I/we do for a living. It’s also my first job in Human Resources proper, and while that distinction might not mean much to many folks, it is meaningful to me, and a big change from fourteen years on the development side of the house.
My hope for this year is to be curious and open as I learn about the new, broader domain, humility as I work with those around me, and diligence to give my time and talents fully to help this new team succeed. And let’s hope there is some work travel this year so I can give my much-beloved colleagues some hugs and Theo chocolate!
Goal: Focus on family.
Sergio and I “celebrated” our third wedding anniversary (and eight anniversary together) this September, and, along with Astrix, we are a very happy family of three. We have fun together, we support each other in our goals, and we hope for many more years together.
But this year has helped us continue to consider if parenthood is in our future. I have previously written before about our decision to not have biological children, which leaves adoption as the way that we would build our family. We had hoped to adopt this year, but the pandemic threw a huge wrench into those plans. Not only were our lives completely different (and slightly less-suited for a such a huge life change), but for several months the agency that licenses foster and adoptive parents in Washington State was closed due to contract issues. The contracts have now been renewed and we’re starting the process of foster parent training (it’s the same as adoptive parent training in our state). We attended an orientation with one agency, but we need to first sort out what agency(ies) we want to work with throughout this process, especially as we are open to adopting kids from anywhere in the United States.
We have much to discover, but we are hopeful that we can adopt a sibling pair or trio of “older” children (likely 4+ years old). I’m excited, I’m terrified, and I just hope I can do justice to these little people that might be coming into our lives. We’ve had many wonderful conversations this year about what it might be like — now it’s time to complete our training and home study requirements and then we will wait to see if we match with kids that are a good fit for us and vice versa.
I hope that we’ll have some updates on this front soon, though given the sensitivity of the process we might keep some of this close until we are more certain of what is happening for us. We’ve also accepted that this process might take some time, or that we might not be a good fit for this at all. Whatever happens, we are excited to see what it is!
Goal: Safely travel again.
I know that some folks have risked travel this year, and I can promise you that there has been no greater urge I’ve had to resist than justify getting on a plane to ANYWHERE AT ALL.
But I just can’t.
Even though the risk to me is, in theory, small, there are too many other people that I need to think about. We’ve been in a bubble with my parents, and travel would mean severing that bubble. There’s also a chance at any point that I am an asymptomatic carrier and it’s unconscionable to me that my pleasure could cause serious harm or death to another.
There are also moments in life when no one else is watching but you know what you have done. My integrity matters to me — even if no one knew that I was breaking the guidelines, I would know that I was breaking the guidelines and I would be disappointed in myself. When I look back on this time in life I know I’ll be at peace that I did what I could do to help. I might not be an essential worker but I can keep others safe with my choices.
So in March we canceled trip after trip after trip and pledged that we wouldn’t travel until it was safe — which means that we are both vaccinated and governments have said it is safe to travel. We had hoped to have a blockbuster year of travel in 2020, making progress on some travel challenges before starting our family (see above)
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been dreaming about travel, and the hope that 2021 return to some safety and we can travel again! If we could safely travel tomorrow, here’s where we might go:
Hawai’i: Our last trip was to Kaua’i in February. We had no idea that it would be our last of the entire year! I had planned to visit O’ahu in March by myself for some much needed downtime while Sergio took a recruiting trip, so I would love to head back to O’ahu (see photos above) for malasadas, spa days, and reading on a balcony while it rains. And I suppose Sergio can come along too.
Chihuahua, Mexico: It’s now been more than a year since we’ve seen my in-laws. Even though they live a day’s journey away in another country, we tend to see them a few times a year (both visiting them and some of them visiting us here). It’s been hard for Sergio especially to be so far away from family, so as soon as we are vaccinated and we can cross the border we look forward to reuniting with nuestra familia Mexicana for food, laughter, and good conversation.
Back to Europe — The Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) or Poland/Slovakia/Hungary: We were in the final stages of planning a trip to Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary when COVID hit, so that never got off the ground — and I’m thankful we didn’t buy the tickets because we were this close to doing so.
Now that I think about returning to Europe I’m really excited by the prospect of bringing that trip to life or, alternatively, going to the Baltics. We only had a few days in Estonia, but my main takeaway from Tallinn was that I needed to spend more time there, as well as Latvia and Lithuania.
But tapping into that theme of gratitude, I’m happy that the vaccine is becoming more widely available so that we can travel again and connect with people in other places in the world!
Goal: Deepen my barre practice (or pick up a new discipline).
One of the silver linings of last year was creating my Barre With Sarah YouTube channel (you can read the whole saga here). It started on a bit of a whim but it turned out to be a way to encourage myself and others during the pandemic.
As with many things I’m always looking for the next way to expand my understanding — in this case not only for myself, but for anyone who tunes into my channel. Unfortunately there haven’t been any new virtual barre certifications that I can take from Barre Amped (yet), though I’m very interested in the other certifications, from Bootcamp to Fire to Bands and Power Stretch once they are virtual (or if it’s safe to travel again).
I’m also curious if a basic yoga certification would help me better understand and teach alignment. I’ve also looked at an AFAA Group Fitness certification as another basic fitness education requirement. In 2021 I’d like to continue my formal fitness education to make sure I’m continuing to stay up-to-date in what matters so I can be the best possible instructor for my students!
Regardless of any new certifications, I’ve got fun plans for the new blend of workouts I’m going to be offering, including a set of workouts that can help you incorporate different pieces of equipment that might be lying around your house, from bands to ankle weights and from Swiss balls to yoga blocks. Crafting new classes helps me think about the participant experience and makes me look at my workouts in a new way every time!
Goal: Grow the mind through mental pursuits.
When the body is in place, the mind can still wander! I felt even more stuck in place this year when I was struggling with all of my gut issues, which allowed me to go deeper into some of my stationary passions.
Reading, reading, reading: Y’all should know my feelings about reading! 2020 was a record year with 134 books, shattering my previous record of 120(!) — see my favorites here. I know that COVID enabled me to read as much as I have and so I don’t expect to set another record in 2021. I’m back to my regular annual goal of 100 books, or 8.3 books/month (and add me on Goodreads — I love all of the recommendations from others!).
I do want to get back into my Read the World Challenge — though I made some progress this year, I opted for reading whatever felt right instead of sticking to my prescribed pace, and I also picked some books that were absolute duds, which led to many book abandonments (but also some great reads too!). Along with continuing to read more books to become an anti-racist and books to prepare for my possible new role as parent, I can’t wait to see how my mind might expand in 2021!
Finish German course on DuoLingo (and let’s be honest — probably start a new language after that): Let’s just be clear — German is kicking my ass. It’s irritatingly close to English in some ways but the three genders and the sentence structure continues to trip me up. I had a bit of a breakthrough a few months ago and that helped me recommit to my goal.
Why not German? It is the largest part of my ethnic heritage, one of my favorite countries to visit, and I think it’s a fascinating language. I like getting to basic proficiency in languages because it helps with travel, but also because it keeps my brain sharp. Study after study show the benefits of stimulating the language learning centers in the brain, and as someone with a family history of dementia I’m looking to build lifelong habits.
Completing this course will need some more effort — and to shape the path I finally caved and paid for DuoLingo’s premium service, so I feel more prepared than ever to finally finish what I started.
And once German is complete, I have another language in my sights.
Can you guess where this is? If yes then you’ve discovered what I hope my next language will be when my German course is through.
Don’t know? I’ll put it at the end of the post :)
Keep my brain sharp: I’m also on a quest to watch less television, and the end of a year is always a good start because shoes are on a holiday hiatus which means we turn the television off and look for other pursuits. I’m a long-time jigsaw puzzle lover and I have a nice stack that is awaiting my time. I’ve got some crossword puzzles and a new maze book ready, and, of course, my baby grand always awaits. What excites me about these solo pursuits is that it keeps my brain engaged in a positive way instead of in rumination and worry.
Goal: Make our home cozier
Since we’re spending more or less every hour of every day in our house, 2021 seems like a good year to continue some of the work that we’ve done to optimize our space in 2020. From better organizing closets to finally agreeing on a shelf for our music room, we’ve made a lot of progress! I’ve been re-reading about hygge again and it’s helped me to get clear on how to de-clutter and add more cozy elements to our home. 2021 might finally be the year that we get our custom bookshelves for the library, find some nerdy additions to fill our shelves, and, perhaps, prepare some of our bedrooms for small humans.
Goal: Make room for the unexpected.
Do I tend to over-plan things? Yes, I do. This is my blessing and my curse. And when I look back at the last year there have been many surprising moments that I would not have anticipated. Because I didn’t have as many places to be or things to do I had space to try new things. We went on an eco-kick in 2020, we tried more than a hundred new recipes, I tried new hobbies like paper-cutting, and I learned to dance!
I’m not sure what opportunities will present themselves in 2021, but I would like to create enough space and slow down enough to see what emerges. Is it a new class or hobby? A new friend? A new project? A new ________ ? I want to take that openness forward and be grateful for what emerges instead of simply rushing past things in a rush to get somewhere else.
Well, that about sums up my initial goal set for 2021. Reading over these goals and my intention brings me a lot of excitement and joy. I wish you a fun, safe, and exciting start to 2021!
P.S. That photo is in Oslo, Norway, and I’d love to learn Norwegian. After German it is the second biggest part of my heritage so it intrigues me more than choosing another language randomly from a list.