Natalie Ogbourne

Last January it occurred to me that I was without focus so I decided it was time to set some goals and get myself back on track. I stuck with this quest for about a month before my enthusiasm waned and it all got set aside. I told myself that things had just gotten really busy.

In early November I asked my husband about dreams. His. Mine. Ours. It was a disheartening conversation. Neither of us could come up with much. I had vague memories of having dreams and silly things that I wanted to do someday. Today it might be called a bucket list. Eighteen years ago it was just a list of things I wanted to do. Now I don’t even know where it is.

It was at this point I began to suspect that I knew where my goals had gone: My to-do list ate them. And then it ate my dreams for dessert.

My to-do list didn’t act alone in this. Over time there was a slow shift in what I looked at to define my moments, my days, and eventually, myself. At some point, I quit consulting my goals and dreams and looked only to the lists of tasks that I needed to do. Apparently, I was an accomplice.

Strangely, I was my own victim. Though far from sinister, as my list grew in both size and influence it began consuming more and more of my time and energy along with my goals and dreams. I found myself moving mechanically through my days, seeing only the circumstances of the moment, doing only the next thing, taking only the next step.

I lost vision. My sense of purpose deteriorated. I got dull.

I can’t afford to be dull. Who can? Too much is at stake for me to lose vision and purpose. They remind me why I am here. They inform my goals and nourish my dreams. They give meaning to the myriad tasks that eventually find their way on to my to-do list.

So for this new year, something different, three Rs: restore, retrain, and remember. Retrain myself to look beyond the next step, at least a little way out into the future. Restore a mindset conducive to setting goals and dreaming dreams. Remember what defines my moments, my days, and me.

And my to-do list? It remains, in a neatly organized app, but it is going on a strict goal-free, dream-free diet. Not for its health, but for mine.