36 Books: An Ungoal

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I have a secret. I lied when I said I wasn’t making any other personal goals for 2016 (other than the marathon/half marathon) at the moment. Well…sort of.

At the dawn of every year, Goodreads asks users to participate in a 2016 reading challenge. Despite my newly-minted “no goals!” stance, I couldn’t resist the allure of that question on the screen, provoking me with “how many books can you read in 2016?” and leaving me with a blank box where I could fill in any number my heart desired.

Last year I made it a goal to read 36 books. It was ambitious, but I was goal-happy and determined. Predictably, I failed miserably at reading 36 books in one year. I pretty much gave up trying after a few months. So when that Goodreads 2016 challenge flashed before my eyes, what did I do? I typed 36 into that box. Again.

But here’s the twist. Despite throwing my name into the 2016 reading challenge, I am not making it a goal of mine to read 3 books a month in 2016. In fact, I’m fairly certain right now that I will fail at this challenge.

…confused yet? Let me explain.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I have one of those pesky success-oriented personalities – I am highly motivated by accomplishment and a sense of achievement. I’m an INFJ and that J part is a desire to structure the world around me – working toward a goal helps me fulfill that need for structure. Hence my constant hunger for success in running and year after year of throwing down a zillion new resolutions.

So, you can see how a year of taking life day by day and focusing on one big thing at a time is a big step outside my structured little comfort zone.

And that was what went through my head as I signed onto that challenge. That and some questions: is there value in setting “goals” you don’t take that seriously? What if I set a challenge for myself and resolve that whether I complete it or not, I’m going to be happy either way? What if I just want to enjoy the idea of it, to put that number out there as something to play with and imagine, and just let it be there quietly on the sidelines as I go about my life, watching the whole game but never butting in?

I call it un-goaling. A goal that’s not a goal. Something I put my name down for without committing to. A possibility with no pressure.

Of course, there are some commitments in life you don’t back out of and some big goals you need to take seriously. But this one is my ungoal. Maybe just putting it out there will inspire me in some way. Maybe, by some miracle from the heavens, I will actually do it. Or maybe it will turn into a forgotten nothing and this post is a big waste of finger energy.

I don’t know what will come of setting a random “goal” I have no intention of “achieving”. And that’s the point. Ungoaling.

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10 thoughts on “36 Books: An Ungoal

  1. I love it. I always set random goals for mileage, like I will run x number of miles in this year. My goal was 2000 for the past five years or so. I just hit it. I upped it to 2500 this year, but I’m sure it will take me a few years to nail that one! I do love reading, but I really only read during my summer break. I hate admitting that. Have fun and report back on any good books you find!

  2. I love reading but I never made a goal (or ungoal hehe) of a set number of books to read. Like Allison, I normally only read in the summer because the only time I choose to make time for it. HOWEVER I am proud to say that for the past several months, I have been reading every night before I go to bed. It’s mostly just fluffy fun stuff. Good to fall asleep to.

  3. I seem to go on jags with reading. I will read voraciously for a bit, then for a couple of weeks, maybe just peruse through magazines. Sometimes it is hard to figure out what I “feel” like reading. Right now, I am in a low-commitment fluff stage–I have too much other stress to deal with anything deeper, but I always read before bed.

  4. I wish I had as much time to read as I used to. Even though at Oxford I was always reading history for schoolwork, I always took a half hour or so for fiction before bed, and just fell out of the habit in law school. But I’d like to start again. I read through some of the books that turned out to be wonderful for my during that time. I think we INFJs struggle a little with the whole concept of goals in general, because we want to structure the world around us as you say – but then it’s frustrating when man plans and God laughs, isn’t it?

  5. I love reading, but it’s a goal I constantly fail at! I think part of my problem is a pile such a large reading list and then get overwhelmed and go and re-read a favorite book instead. I’m considering cutting out weekday TV time this Lent to spend that time reading, since reading is such a good mental and spiritual habit.
    I’m excited to hear what books you read! Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?

  6. I love reading just to read, so I’ve never thought about having a goal for number to read. Our school sets a goal for teachers (30 books in the school year, 50 for students) so I aim for that goal and I count blogs and educational articles toward the goal 🙂

  7. I kind of love this. I too set a goal on Goodreads and failed. Yet I set the same one again this year. I am hoping that I hit it but I am not overly stressing about it either. I used to read all the time but then I started running then I discovered social media and I feel like I ran out of time. I am trying to devote my lunches to real books though.

  8. I like this! I’ve never really been hugely motivated by goals… I tend to do what I like and move on if I don’t like something (that has been my downfall many times). I do like reading a lot, and I read before bed. I don’t set any goals or anything, and I’m not sure if I could reach 36 books in a year. I’ve read two books in January… so maybe 24? Haha!

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever set a reading goal before? I have to read before I can go asleep even if it’s just a couple of pages (and if my puppy lets me). Right now I’m reading Go Set a Watchman.

  10. Very interesting concept. My mind works like yours, goal driven. But this may be a new thought process because I get in these mind battles about goals. I’m posting about my marathon planning today…can you say confused mind lol

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