As 2014 draws to a close, I find myself wondering if I accomplished my goals for the year. Was 2014 a success or something else?
At the same time, I’m trying to map out what I want to accomplish in 2015. As I examine the map, I realize the goals seem solid enough, but the path keeps changing. Life events and procrastination alter the landscape making the “You are Here” mark wiggle around at random. Mountains and chasms appear in my path as if by magic, generated by unseen outside forces. Charybdis and Scylla, the twin challenges of health and what I do about it, are PacMan ghosts dogging my heels or lying in wait, eager to gobble me up if I lose focus. All the while, the idyllic island of Circe beckons seductively, urging me to lay down my quest and spend time exploring newer and shinier projects. The seductive soundtrack for this journey is provided by the Sirens of doubt and intractable laziness.
So here I am, standing at the edge of the year, looking forward and backward. One gaze measures my progress; the other deciding where I want to go. As I contemplate past and future, I finally realize that, as the author of my life story, I need to know whether I’m a plotter or a seat-of-the-pants writer. Why? Because success looks different to these writers. The pantser has goals, but they are loosely held and subject to change. The real measure of pantser success is whether they are enjoying the journey and accomplishing meaningful (and sometimes unexpected) things along the way. The plotter has a checklist. A successful plotter year ends with all the boxes checked.
For most of my life, I have been a pantser, a spontaneous opportunist, but I’ve judged my successes by the number of checkmarks on my list. This is unfortunate because no matter how many cool unplanned things I accomplished during the year, I still didn’t get the job done.
We all have a mixture of plotter and pantser traits. As I move into the New Year, I need to better understand where I reside in the plotter-panser spectrum. I also need to develop a more realistic vision of what success will look like. The plotter in me must accept that successes of all types are still successes, even if they aren’t on the list. The pantser must understand that some goals must be achieved, despite all the shiny things catching my eye.
As I stand at the edge of the year, I lift my glass to 2014, 2015, and to realistic expectations.