The Infamous (Anti) Goal-Setting Post of 2013
Photo courtesy of Sally M..

The Infamous (Anti) Goal-Setting Post of 2013

Written by Emilie

Topics: Goals

I’ve been pondering the New Years goal-setting issue for a few weeks now. I set very specific New Years goals for myself last year and the year before, and I reached most of them. In general, goal-setting has been good to me.

But over the last 6 months, I’ve noticed that I have a hard time, not with reigning in my interests and being productive, but with granting myself the free time to pursue whims and “pointless” activities.

I have a tendency to be TOO structured, too disciplined. I know, cry me a river. But ritualizing everything can be just as bad as being all over the place. You need balance. Plus pointless exploration (doing an activity for no end result) can lead you to interesting places and seep into your “real” work in ways you never would have imagined. Play time is every bit as important for a multipotentialite as focus time.

Erin, one of our awesome puttypeeps, once mentioned that she wanted to work on making her focus time more focused and her free time more free. I can relate.

In the spirit of pushing myself to let go of the rules and the need to be productive all the time, I am not setting specific goals for 2013. Instead, I have chosen a theme (because who doesn’t love an overarching theme).

My theme for 2013 is Embodiment.

The theme of embodiment has 3 meanings to me.

Interpretation #1: Getting out into the physical world more.

I want to spend less time behind the screen and more time inhabiting physical space. This could look like a number of different things. It might mean more speaking engagements, in-person workshops or co-working arrangements. Or maybe it’ll mean volunteering at a musical theatre camp for kids, or doing theatre myself! Maybe I’ll go hiking more. Who knows. I have plans to drive to LA in February and spend a month writing and recording an album with my best friend. It’s a crazy plan that we concocted last summer, and we’re just about ready to hit the road. This is the sort of thing I’m talking about. Using my hands.

Speaking of using my hands, I’m actually reading Austin Kleon’s book, Steal like an Artist right now (recommended. Super multipod-friendly), and he talks about the idea of having two desks in your office: one is an analogue desk where you “make things with your hands,” and the other is digital, where you house your laptop, etc. No digital tools are allowed on the analogue desk and vice versa. I love this idea and might just try it out for myself.

Interpretation #2: Getting out of my head and into my body.

This one is related to my health goals. As I mentioned in my annual review, 2012 was the year in which I found the Paleo diet and overcame a lot of my health challenges. I literally went from feeling like my body was falling apart to being able to eat (and absorb) a range of nutrient-dense foods, having color back in my face, being able to get through a day without requiring a nap, getting my hormones balanced, and getting rid of the dark circles under my eyes that I had had my whole life (a reaction to gluten I posit).

Now that I’m doing better physically, I feel like I am ready to optimize my performance. Namely, I want to FEEL strong. I don’t really care about losing weight or anything. It’s more psychological. After you go through the kind of physical turmoil I’ve been through in recent years, you feel like you lack control over what’s happening to your body. I want to feel powerful again.

I also worry too much. It’s an issue I’ve had my entire life. But instead of fixating on it, I’m going to try to pull myself out of my head and into my body through physical exercise.

I went to my first “boot camp” the other day and it was surprisingly fun. It’s at a gym near my house, which will make it far more likely that I’ll attend. It’s also expensive, which again, will make it far more likely that I will go. But I’ve been talking about going for months now, and I finally did. It was hard yes, but fun. Lots of kettle bell swings and weights and body weight exercises. We got into teams of two and went through the circuit. Everyone was really nice and supportive. I am sore today, but it’s a good sore.

Interpretation #3: Embodying my visions now

We all know that Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Well, I want to work harder to apply this principle internally.

It goes like this. If you want to be more confident, then start living and behaving the way a confident person would live and behave. If you want to make more money, go about your day believing that you have more than you need. It may feel like a lie at first, but I’ve found that when you feel the feeling first, the external circumstances tend to rearrange themselves to make it true.

This principle has served me well in the past, and I want to recommit to it going forward.

So there we go— embodiment.


I have printed the word out and hung it by my bed as a reminder each day when I wake up. I don’t know what specific activities or projects I will be working on this year, and I am excited about that. It’s time to go with the flow, get out into the world, and trust that things will work out. Because they always do.

Happy New Year Multipotentialites!

Your Turn

What kind of intentions did you set for 2013? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


The doors to the Puttytribe are opening on Wednesday, January 9 for 24 hours only. Will 2013 be the year that you start taking your multipotentiality seriously?


  1. Joshua says:

    I ignored the New Year’s resolution hype from the various advice-givers I’ve followed on twitter. It was just overload. So it’s nice to read this article where you’re not giving advice or goal setting!

    “It may feel like a lie at first, but I’ve found that when you feel the feeling first, the external circumstances tend to rearrange themselves to make it true.”

    I want to be an influence in the world, on people, on the Puttytribe, without fear of being judged. I was surprised to realize recently I still haven’t let go of that fear, and that hit me.

    I had just watched a huddle in the Puttytribe, and everyone was just totally at ease and open, nobody rushing to fill in the silence or please the others, just being real. I wanted to experience that, exactly that!

    I find I have an impulse to please everyone, I go out of my way to be what they want -pleasant, clever or whatever I sense they need. Sometimes I’m afraid to be exactly what I am. So this whole idea of embodiment is perfect for me too, it means just embodying what I am regardless.

    Although it’s just a word, I can’t think of a better one. I want to give up that tense feeling I get with people who really matter to me, caring too much about how I appear to those I admire, those who I am trying to make a good impression on.

    Because then my real self doesn’t get a chance to be expressed. So I’m stealing it from you, Emilie. *Yoink*

    • Emilie says:

      Steal it, Josh. I like how many different meanings the word can have. Yours is a good one. Also, it’s cool how you have such insight into yourself. You’re awesome. I seriously keep telling my girlfriend how cool “that guy who also went to evergreen” is. But no need to please me. Just do yo thing. :)

  2. First of all, I am so glad I discovered Puttylike. I have finally understood what’s happening to me – I am not going crazy, I am only expressing my multipotentiality in a world of non-multipotentialites. Drawing inspiration from all the awesome multipotentialites here, I’ve decided to smoosh my love for words with my experiments in simplicity and freelancing (The website has gone live just today). I only wish I had found Puttylike sooner. But the new year is no time for regrets. So, moving on. Like you, I am veering away from pursuing productivity and focusing on fun and whimsical activities.

    My top 3 goals for 2013 are:
    1. Giving free rein to my curious, creative side to pursue any activity that catches my fancy
    2. Becoming more realistic about money and not settling for less
    3. Simplifying my life to focus on what matters most

  3. Orrin says:

    Nice. I especially like point #2 and that’s a theme that’s been growing in importance for me too recently. Being “in your body” is also being “in the moment” and let’s you enjoy what’s going on around you as it’s happening. I can get so wrapped up in unrelated thoughts that I miss the magic of what’s happening right before me.

    As for 2013: I’m also not a fan of “goal setting” per se. I like to write a list of things I’d like to do and achieve for the year and then just kinda forget about it. Revisiting at the end of the year I find I generally do a good job of getting through most of what I’d written.. or sometimes my decisions and interests took me down a different path and I wound up with a bunch of different achievements.

    • Emilie says:

      Great approach, Orrin. I agree, being “in the moment” is also something I want to get better at. Time moves so fast, and being goal-oriented can often make it move even faster. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Jen says:

    1. Simplify
    2. Focus on doing things that are best for my well-being, not what I “should” be doing.
    3. Embodiment (stolen. Thanks!)

  5. Sharise says:

    I’ve found that picking a theme for the year can be really cool. The first time I did this was last year. The theme was clarity. I didn’t become crystal clear sure about everything in my life or anything like that, but I learned so much about myself and what I want and how to get there. This year’s theme feels like transformation (very fitting since 2013 is the year of the snake) and I’m hoping to really make some progress on my goals this year.

    I’ve found putting a time limit on my goals hasn’t really worked for me so far, so instead of setting yearly goals I have several ongoing major goals and several ‘once I accomplish x I’ll work on y” goals. (And of course, being a multipotentialite I’ve also got a bunch of future project ideas.)

    I love the two desks idea! For the past few years I’ve been wanting my own office with a desk and an art table. Never thought of it as analogue and digital, but that’s exactly what it is!

    • Emilie says:

      Awesome, Sharise. I look forward to hearing about how your year of transformation goes. And I agree, flexibility is so important when you’ve got many projects on the go. You never want to end up resenting those projects. Great to hear from you!

  6. Eliza says:

    I really love the idea of a theme for the year. It allows for so much more wiggle room, which is always nice ;) Focus is probably going to be a big theme for me this year. I have made a huge habit out of saying yes to everything, all the time. If the project sounds cool, I’ll do it, even if there’s not way humanly possible for me to get it done in the time I’ve allotted myself to do it (that whole 24 hours in a day problem…) I often end up thinking about the next project before finishing the first, which of course takes a tole on the how the project I’ll be working on at that time turns out.

    So 2013 will be the year I focus on just a few things at a time. I want to give each project I do the proper attention it actually deserves.

  7. Erin says:

    I went goal-free this year, too. Goals have always felt really constricting to me. For direction in 2013, I picked a word, too: balance. Not in a boring 2D sense, but as in finding time in my life to do all different kinds of things harmoniously, not just one thing until I’ve completely burned myself out. If that makes sense! Starting with giving my personal projects more of their share of my time — business has been hogging it all :)

    Thanks for the reminder about my intention to make my focused time more focused and my free time more free (and for the shout-out)! That totally goes with my balance theme.

  8. Emma says:

    Ah! I did the same thing! I picked a word (for me it was ‘light’) that I want to characterize 2013.

  9. Marc says:

    Hey Emilie

    For the most part, I’m freeing myself from too many specific goals (earn x-thousand per year, etc) but still keeping in minds’ eye things I want to do, be, experience, etc.

    This is partly influenced by both listening to audiobook version of Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, but also Tim Ferriss’ 4HWW which I picked up at the library.

    They both talk about goal making slightly differently, so I’m adapting my process this year to stay specific with the 1 or 2 important daily tasks that help me develop my 80/20 as (properly important, not ‘check emails every 5 minutes’ important).

    At the same time, I’m setting my ‘Dreamline’ no further than 6-months and being non-specific about the ‘how’ these might be done, just taking small steps. Any other ambitions beyond 6-months I’m not really focussing on.. they’re there alright, but are being left to the background so they simmer & float about naturally as dreams do.

    so I guess it’s less ‘goal-setting’ or not, but more action planning & ambition following. Opening my goals up more like a US football endzone than ice hockey net

    • Emilie says:

      Awesome. I haven’t read Drive, though I’ve heard a LOT about it. Maybe I should get the audiobook. Tim’s approach is cool. I did that waaay back in the day. I like to revise 4hww every now and then too. Such a foundational book.

      I’m excited to see where you go this year, Marc. Keep me posted. :)

      • Marc says:

        will do Emilie, drifting in & out of Puttytribe as I go & took holiday period off from thinking about my RB

        now I hope to use the fresh momentum of the new year to push me onwards :)

  10. Livia says:

    I like the idea of a theme for a year – and I too see the necessity for me to set some goals this year, too. So I’ll go for both approaches: one of my specific goals is to develop my nanowrimo novel idea into a real good draft within the first six months (and then publish), the other idea has to do with my eating habits ;-)
    I also found a theme which will be a guiding principle for these and other goals. 2013 it is ‘commitment’. This is what I feel I need now, for the development of my skills, my blog, my novel, my body and mind.

  11. Interestingly mine is fairly similar to yours- to creatively and physically engage with my surroundings, using all my senses, no matter where that is. My creative practice explores sense of place, which I’ve mostly done by sitting at the screen and writing about places other than where I am! Now I’m incorporating walking, mapping and photography into the equation to touch base with my own external settings. I also have a tendency to get stuck in my head and I love that you’ve used the term ’embodiment’ (and that you printed it- thanks for the idea!) I wonder if many multipotentialites have this tendency? Certainly a lot of creative people I know do…

    • Emilie says:

      Beautiful. I love how you expressed that: using all your senses. Sounds like you’re already having fun with it. I should go for a talk today. :)

      I’m a big fan of leaving inspirational notes for myself around my apartment. Otherwise it’s so hard to stay on track. I need the daily reminder.

  12. Cherilyn says:

    Did a similar theme-pickin’, goal-dumpin’ idea this year and I love it! There’s a sense of adventure because there’s space to explore. And because I love wordplay, I see so many rich layers of meaning that unfold as the year goes by. Last year’s theme was “tend,” as in “care for” and “usually do” (patterns). Fascinating stuff. I take the whole month of January to sort out my themes for the year.

    Cheers to you, Emilie, for encouraging us to get of the treadmill and into our own wondrous selves!

  13. Abby says:

    I, too, have given up on goals. I’ve tried setting goals and always set them in a manic fit of optimism, then get completely overwhelmed when I can’t possibly do it all. I do have what I call “targets” – what I am aiming for. But all I worry about is, what is my next step to get there (sort of like David Allen’s Next Action but broader, akin to a project).

    For 2013 I have chosen “Clarity” as my theme. That covers everything from gaining a clearer understanding of what I want to do with my life to clearing out the clutter in my office and studio. Having a theme helps me know what to focus on as I decide which projects have priority.

  14. Hannah says:

    Oooh, I love the idea of choosing a theme instead of resolutions!

    I’ve really struggled to stick to resolutions in the past, and instead of being something that motivates me to create my ideal life, the concept of resolutions becomes something that provokes dread and ambivalence.

    Choosing a theme means that you aren’t wedded to a certain goal or project, but can align your activities and actions throughout the year to the overarching principle. It’s a lot more allowing for the fact that our goals and preferences change over 12 months.

    My theme for this year is: Be bold.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post :)

  15. David Delp says:

    I love goals, but not because I think achieving them will make me happier. I like to focus and goals help with that. Otherwise I’d be all over the place all the time, and there are places I think I’d like to go so, setting little goals moves me toward them.

    My biggest goal this year is being a Finisher. I’m great at starting things, but finishing feels even better. That’s my theme.

    Oh, and being a Connector. Hence, my recent comments. I can get caught up finishing things all on my own. I need to reach out more.

    Hello Emille! Hello everyone!

  16. Ian says:

    Just to wish you all the best in 2013 Emilie!

    Good luck, whichever way it takes you.

    Stay well

  17. Cristina says:

    Hey Em,

    This is a great post to remember us that life has to have unproductive moments too, or we get to live like machines!
    I usually set goals just for fun, like climbing twice a month, visit a new museum or exibition every week, give 5 hugs a day, things with meaning that don’t directly relate with productivity but contribute to live the life I love.

    I had never heard about Austin Kleon, but I’m usig two desks for years, one for digital and on to draw, because that’s my main activity after work. It’s great because you get to do what you really want with no distractions and everything is set up to work anytime, I love it! :)

    My theme for this year is to Fly high, nowadays I don’t wanna walk or run, I just want to fly in every aspect of my existence. Here in Portugal there’s a dictate that says, “big climb, bigger the fall, but I’m an optimist ;)

    I wish you the higher flies of your life for this year!

    A hug,

  18. Willi M says:

    I wondered if you and I should connect, but who am I kidding. First, I saw the word “multi-potential” and now I see you and I used the same New Year’s image for our blogs LOL.

    Great post. This year will mark my first full year of the hubby and I living together. It hasn’t been easy, but I want us to have a great first year. I also want to secure my first, second, third…etc. clients. I think the keyword is prosperous.

  19. Ginger says:

    Wow, this is such a great post. I too want to focus during focus time and be free during free–that is have better boundaries. I really like the idea of using the body as a way of doing that–it has such reasonable limits!

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