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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Screw goal setting. I’m doing this instead.

I didn’t know why I was so upset, then it hit me…

My son and I were headed to a friend’s home for a visit. She had received some alarming results on a cat scan a few days before Thanksgiving. We were praying and standing firm that additional reports would be positive. But this was a time of waiting. Of not knowing. Of intense trusting. Of waking up.

Sam and I listened to Prime Country on XM as we followed the curves to her house. He reached over to turn up the volume as he said, “Oh, I like this one, Mom.”

I hadn’t heard the song in a long time.

My nostrils stung and tears lined my bottom lids. The introduction sounded in my ear, as I anticipated the lyrics. Tim McGraw’s voice came streaming through the speakers,

He said, “I was in my early forties,
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days,
Looking at the x-rays,
Talkin’ ’bout the options,
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time.”
I asked him “When it sank in,
That this might really be the real end,
How’s it hit you…
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”

And you may know the rest. His friend went sky diving, Rocky Mountain Climbing, and went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.” He “loved deeper and spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness he’d been denying. His friend said, Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.

I sang along without thinking, because I knew every word. I considered my friend’s situation for a split second and refused to allow in thoughts of not having her here with me.

A question circled back to me as I glanced in my rearview mirror, “What have you done with this year? What do you have to account for?”


I was stunned.

I drew a blank and thought “absolutely nothing.” I didn’t see consider myself one bit closer to my goals than I had been this time last year. Quiet panic set in.

I know this feeling of accusation and blank desperation- that I’m not where I want to be nor have I done a damn thing to get there.  It sneaks up from behind like a coward, wants to stay and play mind games. I know not to serve it cookies and milk or it will. Settle. All the way in.

I shivered at its presence and brushed off the feeling, like closing the window to shut out the cold draft.

I brought my mind back to my breath, the steering wheel in my grip and my foot on the gas. I looked over at my son who was singing- loudly on the words he knew, mumbling through ones he didn’t.


Later that night, my fear returned.

I sipped my wine and cooked dinner, the icy feeling of failure flirted, “What have you done with this year? Seriously?”

Knowing ambiguity for the bitch that it is, I got out a pen and paper to beat it with specifics. I titled the page “A year in review,” and began by making a top of mind gratitude list for what has “developed and become” in 2016. Some items were obvious, some subtle.

The list, coupled with flannel pajamas, comforted me.

Still, I tossed all night, like I had been for over a week.


Unsure as to why.

Except that 2017 is coming down the track like a whistling freight train.


The next morning…

I’d barely gotten into the good sleep when my alarm went off. I hit snooze twice. I tried a third time but sensed a strong voice within insisting, “Get up.” I put my feet on the cool wood floor before landing in my slippers. That woke me all the way up and not nicely.

I stood at a tall table in our kitchen and read the Bible as my coffee brewed. With a fresh cup in hand, I sat down at the desk nearby.

Tim’s lyrics came drifting back,

“To think about
What you’d do with it?
What could you do with it?
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?”

I put these questions at the top of my paper and began to write…

  • I’d laugh as much as possible and let the dumb things go.
  • I’d hug a lot and really feel my people.
  • I’d take more trips and have more adventures.
  • I’d write every day.
  • I’d be more forthcoming with advice and direction when something is clear to me.
  • I’d turn what I’ve relearned about life and God into some form that could move on without me.
  • I’d teach people how to see rather than what to see so they could go on doing it for themselves.
  • I’d go deeper and reach higher right where I’m planted, rather than striving and driving to meet some stupid goal.

I stopped for another cup of coffee but highlighted a few words before I got up.

I’d… laugh, hug, travel, write, teach, reach.


I suddenly realized my real goals were about the journey.

In that moment I knew, “These are not arbitrary goals. These are very. Good. Goals. Not the same goals I’d sit down to write if someone asked me to ‘goal set’ either.”

I’m not knocking goals, rather I’m challenging the way we go about setting them as people of purpose. When we stop to consider how precious and fleeting life is, the goals will set themselves. All we have to do is pay attention. As with everything we do, it’s as much or more about the journey, not just the destination.


I know what I need to do in 2017, and I’m sleeping soundly.


If you need some help setting goals you really care about for 2017, help is here!

Download this one page guide to set your goals. It takes less than 5 minutes.





Here’s a link to the Live Like You Were Dying- Tim McGraw video or you can watch it below.



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