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21 for 2021

Thinking about setting goals for a new year? Here's my list of manageable resolutions for 2021.

Flourish separator

The point of new year’s resolutions is to concretize a goal.  We make them because it’s easy to see how January 1 offers a chance to reset the record, begin anew, and have faith in our ability to make the most of the next 364 blank white squares.  

But I think that it’s also easy to set ourselves up for failure by dreaming big and creating all-or-nothing, pass/fail resolutions without infrastructure.  This is not to say that one should not challenge herself to lose 50 pounds or learn Mandarin by the end of the year.  But in my experience, we tend to lose our footing on the loftier paths without smaller, concrete stepping stones to show the way.  A year should be seen as an opportunity to take well-defined steps toward larger goals because achieving those gives us something to celebrate and builds stamina.  Smaller brass rings have their places, too.  

For me, the 20 for 2020 list worked well as a manageable, purposeful list of intentions to guide my growth throughout the year.  I’m not ashamed that I included things like “clean the junk drawer”, because holding myself accountable for small things that matter (it’s mentally taxing to have to root through the same drawer 3-4 times a day every time you need the scissors) help condition me to uphold a regiment for working toward major goals.  I love looking back on the year and seeing a record of achievement because it helps me to envision the possibilities of another calendar.  

So if you’ve been thinking about setting intentions for the year ahead, I encourage you to start small.  No one has to see your list and know that you’ve included “buy new underwear” because you’ve been neglecting to do so and they’re all so stretched and frayed that you’re embarrassed at the doctor’s office.  (That’s obviously never happened to me).  Anything that will boost your happiness or productivity deserves its place on your list. 

Everything I came up with this year falls into the category of “Self”, “Family”, or “Home”, so I’ve grouped those smaller goals to work toward these three larger aims.

Home: Homesteading practices and comfort.

  1. Grow three new crops.  I’m excited about our garden this year, and even though I’m still trying to figure things out, I’d like to plant at least three new fruits or veggies.  I’m not saying they’ll actually make it, but we’re going to try.

  2. Organize the spice cabinet.  Similar to the junk drawer saga, my spice cabinet gets used several times a day and involves me muttering while sorting through cluttered bottles as they fall out of the cabinet and risk shattering on the countertop.  I need a better system.

  3. Make vanilla extract.  So in The Prairie Homestead Cookbook, which I talked about when I made those delicious potato stacks, there are instructions for making homemade vanilla extract.  We go through a lot, and I always buy the good stuff, so I figured why not make some?  It’s a pretty hands-off process, a thoughtful gift, and a way to control the quality of your ingredients.  It takes several months though, so I need to think ahead if I want to make it happen this year.  

  4. Make soap or candles.  I’ve been experimenting with essential oils for a while now and have made my own face serum, sugar scrub, face wash, and body wash, but I want to try one of these.  I like tinkering with recipes and making things that are useful.

  5. Buy nice bedding.  Everyone knows that we spend significant chunks of our lives sleeping and it’s worth investing in the gear, but the thought of purchasing these items is so daunting for me.  I get so confused with thread count, materials (because pricey doesn’t always equal best...some of the silkiest sheets tear really easily), memory foam, down comforters and duvets vs. bed-in-a-bag, skirts, pillows, etc.  Not to mention, the color of our bedroom walls is difficult.  It’s a warm gray and depending on the light can look purple, so I struggle with colors, especially on a screen.  And since luxe bedding isn’t cheap, I’m afraid of buying the wrong thing.  But I need to get a handle on my research, get over the inertia, and get it done because I know it will be worth it.  

Family: Intentional gathering.

  1. Teach my kids how to tell time.  I don’t know if there’s a point where this is taught in school, but my oldest is in first grade and there are so many instances during the day where it would be helpful if they understood how time works.  I’ve explained it, but not thoroughly or consistently, so I need to do so.  

  2. Take Doc to the beach.  Doc is our Newfoundland, and these dogs love water.  In fact, they have webbed paws and swim with a strong breaststroke instead of a doggie paddle.  They are an ocean rescue breed and instinctively know how to save someone who is drowning (isn’t that cool?), yet our poor Newf has never seen the ocean.  He is only 2, so I don’t feel too terrible yet, but I’d like to make sure we take him this year in the offseason.  

  3. Practice Spanish with my husband.  Last year, one of my intentions was to speak more Spanish.  Covid didn’t help with my efforts to create a casual conversation group, and to be honest I didn’t try very hard to pursue other avenues.  I still would love to practice my Spanish while helping native Spanish-speakers learn English, but in the meantime I realized that I can set a much more attainable goal right here at home.  My husband studied Spanish in school as well, so why not set aside a night or two a week to review and practice with each other?  I’m thinking like watching movies in Spanish and talking about them, not like grammar quizzes and flashcards, but hey, we’ve been known to get a little nerdy.  

  4. Spend an afternoon with each child separately.  This one seems easy, but unless I plan the time, it doesn’t happen.  Even though we’ve spent so much time together this past year, it’s still nice to bond with a son or daughter exclusively.  They are growing by leaps and bounds and their little personalities are shaping overnight.

  5. Think of something special for Dad’s 60th.  He’s “who ya gonna call” for every member of my family, and I want to make sure we hit the mark for him this year.  

  6. Schedule family portraits.  We’re not ones for stuffy studio portraits, but capture our kids’ chubby cheeks blowing bubbles while sitting on a blanket in the dappled sunlight?  Priceless.  They’re growing like weeds and we’re due this year.

  7. Spend a weekend with mom.  My mom and I are Steel Magnolias close, but time gets away from you if you don’t pencil it in.  In the past we’ve done the NYC Food and Wine festival, taken weekend trips to see friends, and even traveled to Rome together.  I don’t know when restrictions will lift, but I want to have a plan in place and prioritize this fun, important time with her.  

  8. Schedule family and friends visits.  This one is along the same lines, but how many times do you say to someone “let’s get together soon” and it never happens?  Years have rolled by on these intentions, and I’ve learned that I must, must, must assign a date and put it on the calendar.  Even if it changes or ends up getting cancelled, the likelihood of the gathering actually happening increases enormously.  When Covid is a thing of the past, I intend to take my get-togethers more seriously.  

  9. Take a kid-centered trip.  When we watch The Princess and the Frog and they’re curious about New Orleans, or when they read a book about the Pilgrims and want to learn about Plymouth Plantation, I think about how badly I want to harness and encourage that curiosity and show them as much of the world as I am able.  My hope is that sometime this year we will be able to travel, and when we do, I want them to have some agency in directing the compass.  

Self: Expansion.

  1. Play the flute.  I played in school and loved it.  This goal involves either fixing the used flute I own or looking into purchasing another.  I probably also have to re-learn how to read music, but I distinctly remember the peace that came with playing this instrument and I want to experience it again.

  2. Take a class.  It is important to grow.  I’m not sure if this will be along the lines of a Great Course in Mythology or a hands-on French cooking class, but this teacher enjoys being a student.

  3. Step 2, up 2.  This is how I’m defining my fitness goals for the year.  I love to walk and swim, and I understand how important strength training is, especially as we age.  I’m going to use my planner to track at least 2 cardio sessions and 2 strength training sessions per week.  

  4. Research volunteer opportunities.  If the kids return to school under normal circumstances, I’ll find myself with two free hours every morning.  This is not a huge amount of time, but I realized that if I wanted to volunteer those hours, I wouldn’t even know where to go.  I feel like half the battle is networking and understanding where help is needed when you are available.

  5. Go horseback riding.  Gretchen Rubin (author and creator of the podcast, love her ideas) says that if we can remember what made us happy when we were ten years old, those are pretty good indicators of what would make us happy now.  This certainly rings true for me as far as books and food are concerned, but something I’ve neglected but never stopped loving is horses.  We have several beautiful horse farms nearby, and there’s no reason I can’t revive this passion as a hobby.  My super supportive husband gave me a riding helmet for my birthday today, and I purchased a Groupon to ride with a friend, so it’s on!  

  6. Figure out how to incorporate podcasts into my routine.  Speaking of Gretchen Rubin, her podcast was one I listened to while driving, and this habit had such a positive effect on my mood.  Instead of feeling like I just wasted 45 minutes in traffic, the episodes would leave me feeling energized and creative.  Now that I’m not really driving anywhere, I find myself not listening to podcasts, either.  I need to work them into my day, either while exercising or doing dishes or something.  I always benefit from them.

  7. Work toward a writing project and blog promotion.  This one comes last because it’s one of those loftier goals that I warned against at the beginning of this post.  It carries the inherent danger of never being achieved, unless I begin small.  That’s why this year I am “working toward” a “project”, whatever that may look like, and taking steps to actively promote this blog.  I have end goals in mind but am practical enough to know they are not yet within reach.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction to move from thought to action.  Research has commenced and intentions have been solidified.  The image is less blurry and more in focus.

This ended up being a much longer post than I intended, and if you’re still reading, I hope I’ve inspired you in cooking up your own menu for this year.  Have fun with it and remember it’s all a work in progress.

I want every day to be a fresh start on expanding what is possible.

― Oprah Winfrey


Kristin writes:
Jan 7, 2021 7:35am
This is such a great idea — I like separating the intentions by category. And I’m grabbing adding the podcast idea into my routine. There are so many I’m missing.
Heather Walsh writes:
Jan 7, 2021 10:32am
Kristin, I feel like podcasts always give me something to think about! I'm going to try to listen while I'm making dinner if my kids are occupied. I also need to remember to not have an all-or-nothing mentality with it. I can always listen in chunks, right? Thanks so much for reading.
Paige S writes:
Jan 6, 2021 9:02am
What a fun way to frame these, categorized and "21 for 2021." I am being more open-ended with my resolutions this year, but really going to try to focus on finding silver linings and positives in every situation, since I tend to lean towards the negative. Fingers crossed.
Heather Walsh writes:
Jan 6, 2021 1:38pm
Hi Paige! That sounds like a great plan, especially the positive thinking approach. Go easy on yourself, and celebrate the small wins. Thanks so much for reading.
Sandy writes:
Jan 5, 2021 8:42pm
I love horseback riding! Hopefully we can take a sister's trip at some point during this crazy year.
Heather Walsh writes:
Jan 5, 2021 9:03pm
I'd love to blaze some trails with you!

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