A slightly different approach to New Year's Goals.
LIN JIANG | MARCH 2022 | PROFILE
By nature, I’m a very competitive and ambitious person, so it only makes sense that my New Year’s goals followed that same path. My goals of the past were always quantitative, always precise, and always left me feeling incredibly frustrated when I couldn’t complete them. They generally followed this pattern:
1. Cook 5 times a week.
2. Exercise at least 4 times a week.
3. Monitor my weekly spending and save 30% of my income every month.
I made a lot of small goals, because it seemed like breaking down each goal into easily definable categories made them more achievable. But for whatever reason, I found it hard to achieve these “small” goals (say, for example, I only managed to work out one time that week) and I was left reeling.
Around New Year's 2020, I felt like a complete failure. I had no time, no desire to cook or work out regularly, all while haphazardly juggling school and work. Quitting my job to start a venture from the ground up left me in an incredibly tight financial situation, and I was relying on my student loans to keep me afloat. I was jobless, alone, and attempting to start Yishi; I had no team and no family support, only pressure from them to quit entrepreneurship.
What was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I achieve the things that I had always been expected to achieve?
Growing up in China, my parents raised me to be realistic. I received a lot of pressure to get a real job, and failure was never an option. My life was full of studying, achievements and aspiring for more and more. I never really slowed down, never stopped to assess what I really wanted. I developed an eating disorder in high school, and my life was plagued by numbers, and, well, goals – how much I weighed, how much I ate, how much I lost.
Suddenly, I hit a breaking point. I was exhausted. I was forced to take a step back and reassess how I was approaching my life. That’s when I decided I was done with goal setting. I decided to focus on the present, and put all of myself into the tasks immediately in front of me.
Whenever I have time for something, I do it. No more and no less. I soon found that I began doing things because I actually enjoyed them, not because I had to do them. When I wake up in the morning and I have time, I do about 15 minutes of cardio. If I have more time, I’ll do more. When my goal was to workout 4 times a week, it felt like a punishment. Now when I workout, I do it because it makes my body and mind feel good.
This New Year a friend of mine asked what my goals were, and I faltered. I hadn’t even stopped to consider them. Eventually I came up with the following: First and foremost, I want to take the time to focus on myself and understand what I need in order to be happy. So far, I’ve found that in balance. I do want to eat healthier, and I do want to exercise more. But I also appreciate indulgence. If I want to eat a slice of cake, I will. If you quantify something, it’s really hard to justify indulgence. The only measurable part of my goals now is in my continued happiness.
This is not to say that goal setting with quantifiable goals is not good. I think for some people, it’s essential. But I'm saying it’s okay to not have clearly defined goals.
As the founder of a startup, I’m not comparing my companies success to that of other startups. As someone who had an eating disorder in the past, I am choosing to look past the numbers on the scale, and the calculable objectives I must achieve. And as a human being in search of a happy life, I’m choosing to be kind to myself, ensuring the environment within my control is a healthy, gratifying and balanced.
With love, oatmeal, & balance,
Lin, Founder & CEO of Yishi