I love setting goals.
Every December, I sit down with a fresh new notebook and spend a few hours mulling over what I want to accomplish in the coming 12 months. And, for the past three years, one of these New Year's resolutions has remained the same: Read 40 books.
It's cemented its place on the list year after year because I never quite manage to hit the target. I always come up a few books short.
To some, reading 40 books over the course of a year might seem easy — just ask my best friend, who read upwards of 60 in 2017 alone. To others, it's an implausible, difficult goal. But for me, it's a solid balance between stretching myself to read more without setting the bar so high that I think I have no chance of ever reaching it.
The resolution to read more started in 2014, when I was fresh out of college and finally had free time I could dedicate to non-school books. Coupled with a 45-minute daily commute by train, my general intention was to knock a few books off my to-read list, and I managed that without a problem.
So, when 2015 rolled around, I decided to quantify my goals.
That year, I only read 28, so I kept the resolution for 2016. I ended last year with 32 books, and signed on for another year of aiming for 40. And, as 2017 draws to a close, I'll finish with 35 on the list.
Why do I keep pushing for 40 when I never hit my goal? Because I'm making progress. Each year, I've gotten closer and closer. There's no champagne or confetti waiting for me at the other end, but reading is something I truly enjoy. Committing to intentionally spending more time with a book in hand is fulfilling.
It's easy to let life get in the way of accomplishing goals, even when the goal is as small as dedicating more time to reading. For me, using a number allowed me to break down the larger, abstract idea into smaller, attainable increments and monitor my progress throughout the year.
I first heard this explained as setting "SMART" goals. That means they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Saying "I wish I made more time for reading" doesn't leave me with any real, actionable steps. But reframing that as "I'm going to read four books by the end of January" provides a starting point from which I can create a plan.
Although I'm a few volumes short of hitting my 40-book goal in 2017, you can bet it's on the list for 2018. Perhaps this will finally be my year.
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