New choices and new directions for a new year

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

It was mid-morning at the Proctor Starbucks in early January. I was at a table for two waiting for someone. As I glanced out the window, I could not help hearing a conversation at the table behind me.

“So what are you goals for this year?” I heard an adult male ask.

A higher pitched voice responded that she intended to learn the piano, attend a certain specialized camp in the summer, visit a foreign country and save a set amount of money by the end of the year.

The older male voiced his approval and then asked how she did on her projected goals for the year that had just ended.

I could hear papers being shuffled and then her calm and determined voice state that she had met most of her goals, had struggled with a few and abandoned or modified several.

As I listened, I could not keep myself from wondering about the relationship behind these words.

This conversation was clearly one of a series. It sounded like a ritual, a gathering of two people with the sole intention of making defined goals for the coming year – and re-assessing the previous projections, and presumably re-evaluating the year – and the appropriateness or value of earlier projected intentions.

It sounded like a rarified, but crucial, defining exercise for those of any age.

Allen C. Mason statue in the Allen C. Mason Plaza on the corner of North 26th and Adams, adjacent to Tacoma Public Library’s Wheelock Branch. The work of local artist Paul R. Michaels, commissioned by the Proctor District Association and the Tacoma Historical Society. Mr. Mason always leans into the future, sports a jaunty top hat, extends a welcoming hand and is remembered as “Tacoma’s Best Salesman.”  Photo: Morf Morford

Allen C. Mason statue in the Allen C. Mason Plaza on the corner of North 26th and Adams, adjacent to Tacoma Public Library’s Wheelock Branch. The work of local artist Paul R. Michaels, commissioned by the Proctor District Association and the Tacoma Historical Society. Mr. Mason always leans into the future, sports a jaunty top hat, extends a welcoming hand and is remembered as “Tacoma’s Best Salesman.” Photo: Morf Morford

How different my life would be if someone, anyone, would have taken me aside and asked me to project what I wanted to accomplish in any given year.

Reevaluating my progress each year would be the greatest gift and best way to define and distinguish each year.

I had to (discreetly) turn around and see who were the vectors of this series of accidental revelations on my part.

I just took a quick glance, but it looked like a father and daughter. The daughter looked about age ten.

As I said, this had obviously been going on for several years. This girl, thanks to this simple exercise, (and much more) was certainly going places in her life.

Even at that age, she had multiple pages of annual projected, accomplished, reformulated or abandoned goals.

She had written documentation of goals achieved, skills mastered, camps attended and places visited.

She, thanks to this father figure, if not literal father, had established a life long habit of forecasting, applying and continually recalibrating her life.

At a level few adults know, her life made sense, her life had a focus – and she, even a child, had learned to take into consideration the unpredictable aspects – the shifts of preferences, the opening or closing of opportunities.

Some things, she observed, weren’t as important to her as she thought they might be. And some opportunities presented themselves unexpectedly.

Each year, she noted, had its own character and personality, its own possibilities and challenges.

Some goals proved to be unrealistic, others were too easy. As she grew older, her list became less a list of activities to check off and more a list of challenges to become a fuller, stronger and more courageous person.

The easily accomplished goals were the most disappointing.

Those that stretched and challenged her – the ones that seemed unreachable just a year before were the most invigorating – the ones she was most proud of – even if she had failed to complete them.

After going through the goals for the year, the focus shifted a bit.

“How about your goals for the next two years? The next five years?”

I could barely believe what I was hearing. This girl was getting a practical version of an MBA.

Without thinking about it, she was compiling a resume/ scrapbook and portfolio that would serve her well in any situation

No matter where this girl went in her life, this experience would be the ultimate set of transferrable skills.

I could tell from this brief conversation that she was already, at age ten or so, determined, focused, realistic and ready to take on the world and make her place in it.

I thought of so many students I have worked with over too many years who had drifted through life, with nary a plan, intention or reevaluation (or even comprehension) of years past.

This girl, unlike far too many of my students, would not find herself locked into a series of dead-end jobs – or even worse, destructive relationships.

This girl had set a course in life, and knew well, at age ten, that any course is subject to correction – this is not necessarily a frustration – it is just part of the process.

And goals need to be worth pursuing.

I encourage everyone – especially parents – to take on this one practice, this framing and reframing of each year.

Looking backward can be instructive, and looking forward can be challenging and inspiring.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Bonne année!

Frohes neues Jahr!

С новым годом!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Feliĉan Novjaron!

Happy New Year!