In early January 2022 I joined the Half Price Books challenge to read 50 books in 2022. Excited, I printed the record-keeping sheet they emailed me and set my goal: one book a week with two weeks off. I started off strong and kept the pace.
Then spring came with its sunshine and blooms and I started to fall behind. Trying not to get worried about it, I told myself I would catch up. Summer finally arrived. In Wisconsin we all become a bit dazzled by warm sunshine, and distracted by the desire to do all things summerlike in 90 days before winter comes again. "I'll read outside around the pool on weekends and during the long evenings, " I firmly told myself. By Labor Day I was only at 22 books---but oh, what books they were---the sweeping Ken Follett epic The Evening and the Morning, Elizabeth Strout's tender Oh William!, and the amazing true story of the last frontiersman in Alaska (he is from Appleton Wisconsin) The Final Frontiersman by James Campbell.
I decided I needed to recalibrate. It works for Siri. The goal setting process of developing a plan, measuring success, and the subsequent sense of success or failure was not working for me in this situation. In fact, it was eroding my joy of reading and replacing it with striving and competition within myself.
So, I looked to a concept from yoga called a "sankalpa." Sankalpa is your heartfelt intention. San= An idea that is formed in the heart. Kalpa= Committed Intention. I know my heart's desire since I was a girl is to read whatever I can get my eyeballs on. My sincere intention was to enjoy my reading time and achieve the goal of the Half Price Book challenge. However, I got a goal mixed up with an intention.
First, the goal was not created by me. Half Price books came up with the number 50. Unrealistic number? Maybe, maybe not. But it was not my number and by the end of October I decided to let go of that number. I would need to read only children's books with big print and lots of pictures to make it to 50. Sort of not the point.
Second, what was the difference between 50 or 25, or even 65?? More is not better, and less is not worse in this situation. As I looked deep into my heart, I realized that what I really intended in 2022 was to carve out dedicated time for myself to read non-professional books that delight my senses, help me to see the world through the eyes of others, and transport me to new places. I thought setting a goal of reading 50 books would help me to do this, when in fact, what I needed was to give myself permission and encouragement to create space in my days for fiction reading without guilt.
So, In November I picked up Elizabeth Strout's new book Lucy by the Sea and was captivated. It was the only time this year that I gave a book a "five star plus" rating (rating the books we read was another part of the Half Price Book challenge). I read it slowly, deliberately savoring every spare word of her simple yet evocative writing style. I was not in a race to get to the next book. I loved the experience. It fed me, which is what a positive intention is supposed to do.
I promise myself to not confuse setting a nourishing intention with rigid goal setting in 2023!