Talking about setting goals isn’t the same as the actual setting of those goals, but allow me to venture down that path briefly.

For me, 2014 was lousy in terms of achieving goals. At the start of the year, I had set forth to achieve the following items:

  • Complete the Spanish track on Duolingo.com
  • Read 24 books
  • Give a presentation at a programming meetup
  • Work with Jonathan Sundquist to plan the Midwest PHP 2015 Conference
  • Build and launch a web application using OOP principles
  • Build a WordPress plugin
  • Play a show with my new band
  • Record a new album
  • Create frame-able artwork on paper (any amount – even just one!)
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer meats

Now, my new band played two shows this summer, and we recorded a demo in June; and I built the website for the Midwest PHP 2015 Conference, and read through 331 submitted talks to select just 32 for the event. Aside from those, though, I was pretty light on the completion scale of things – the Spanish track sits unfinished; as of today, I’ve completed just 7 books in 2014; I’ve drawn some, but nothing on paper; and…well, you get the point.

The point here isn’t to hem and haw about the things I didn’t accomplish. In fact, I accomplished some great things I didn’t set out to do in January of last year, like greatly reducing my debts, taking on my first freelance projects, and assembling a weekly gathering of programmers to work on personal projects (alas, since disbanded). The point is that life happens, often in ways one doesn’t expect, and yet it’s still important to take stock of where we’ve been so that we can move forward with purpose.

I’m beginning to draft goals for the new year, and have already submitted several to my boss that I’d like to achieve in a professional capacity in 2015. Some of those are modifications of unachieved items from this list (speaking at a meetup; building a WordPress plugin and/or web application using OOP principles). As I’m reviewing last year’s list and evaluating where I’d like to be twelve months from now, I’m reminded of the importance of setting goals that are measurable and attainable. ‘Read 24 books’, sure – that’s two per month, and in 2013, I read 39. ‘Create frame-able artwork on paper’ – that’s a bit more obscure. Who determines whether it’s frame-able? I could scribble on a sheet of paper, buy a frame for it, and hang it on the wall like I’m the next coming of Picasso, but that doesn’t make it art, does it?

It’s important to have goals. It’s more important not to use your unachieved goals against you, because you can take stock and determine whether that goal was actually worthwhile to yourself to achieve. If it was, give it another go next year. However, what’s most important is to make sure that your goals are measurable, or you’ll never know whether you achieved them at all.