Going the Distance

Going the Distance: Goals for 2022

by Kyle Barnhart

1 January 2022

Actually, It’s Good To Want Things (or, Don’t Let The Lizard Drive)

Back in January of 2021, I set some discrete goals for myself. Do a handstand. Turn a friend into a close friend. Reach out to someone I hadn’t talked to in a long time. Be a more brave, confident communicator. Write more. Read more. I kept them in a notebook and reflected on them throughout the year. They weren’t strictly SMART goals, but they were as easy to quantify and judge.

Setting goals was kind of a big deal for me.

In the past, my cynical, pessimistic outlook left me skeptical of setting personal goals, especially in my own life. New Year’s Resolutions felt fundamentally dishonest or, at best, they were a hack for socially-motivated people to seek accountability for things they wanted to achieve. Why wait for the New Year, I would ask myself. Why not go ahead and make that change? Why make a big deal about it? Or— even better— why change at all?

Because the act of wanting something and doing the work is fundamental to a life well-lived. Goals put us in tune with our values. The act of having and pursuing goals is a very, very effective way of defining who we are and who we are not. Goals are the interface between our outside selves and our inside selves.

You don’t need goals to survive. We all come equipped with some intrinsic motivators. The Basic Human model comes with features like PainAversion™, SexDrive™, DeathFear™, and ValidationSeeker™. When we don’t define a higher purpose for ourselves, we default to our biology and instincts and allow these lizard-brain motivators to guide our actions.

You’ve probably had days in your own life, if not entire years, where the only reason you got out of bed was to avoid the hassle and pain of not getting out of bed. Living like this is an existence, to be sure, but it’s not a particularly well-lived existence. These intrinsic motivators are aimless. They propel our lives in random directions most convenient to short-term survival and the continued propagation of the human species. Evolution likes those things. But the longer you live without a purpose, the further you will drift from the place you think you should be.

We all have a place we think we should be.

Defining goals requires introspection and a degree of earnest honesty that can feel, as the kids would say, cringe. Most people don’t have to dive this deep into their psyche and root around in the muck to find happiness, do they? No, not everyone does. A person can stumble into their own long-term happiness by riding the right mix of privilege and luck. But god help them when that luck runs out.

In retrospect, I avoided setting goals for myself because I didn’t want to confront these bigger questions about myself and What I Want and What Makes Me Tick. I was scared of being wrong. I was scared of committing to an answer. The thing I didn’t realize until recently is that someone is always driving your life: Either you’re driving, or the lizard in your lizard-brain is driving.

So, anyways, I had some goals in 2021. It turns out that I like having goals because I’m a big ol’ nerd who finds purpose in growth. The most satisfying pursuits of the year were the ones that leveled me up. I love learning new things. I love getting better at things I already know how to do. I love watching my stats go up.

I wouldn’t have known that about myself without considering what I want, making a plan to achieve those desires, following through to the best of my ability, then sitting down to critically assess what worked and what didn’t. I’ve done that work off-camera and, well… here we are.

Based on my goals from last year and a bit of self-reflection, I came up with a theme for my goals in 2022: Going The Distance. Going further. Doing more. Taking these aspects of myself that I love and pushing them into new, uncharted territories.

So. These are my goals for 2022.

Write a book-length thing.

Writing thirty short stories in a month was by no means an easy thing to do, but the fact that it was just as easy as exercising every day was a revelation to me. I learned it was possible to write with intention, constrained by a framework and toward a goal. I learned that these things are not antithetical to my enjoyment of writing.

Suddenly, writing a book-length thing was achievable and way more possible than I’d ever believed.

I have not decided whether that book-length thing is a collection of longer stories or essays or a single, cohesive narrative, but I want to do it. I want to write a book-length thing by the end of the year. And I want to treat it like something valuable. I want to take it seriously, like a publishable work of art.

Run a marathon.

This was one of my goals from last year that got half-done, in that I did run a half-marathon for the first time in nearly ten years. And I did a pretty good job, finishing with a respectable time of 1:37:42. However, I did not fully commit to this goal and, as a result, I never signed up for a run nor did I do the planning and training necessary to run a full marathon.

So, this year I’m going to sign up for a marathon and I’m going to run it. Simple as.

I mean, part of me wants to have this notch in my belt. A marathon just feels like something I should have done by now. Another part of me wonders where this pursuit of running faster and further ends. I’ve got a familial history of running. I’ve also got a familial history of bad knees.

Take 12 trips.

The constraints of the pandemic and the tease of the New Normal that we got before the Second Great Winter Lockdown were a hard lesson in seizing opportunities for new experiences while they’re available. But the pandemic also taught me a lot about intentionality. You have to create opportunities for new experiences and special moments with friends and loved ones.

So, hey, I’ll take one trip a month this year.

And the cool thing is, these trips can be whatever I want them to be. I can ride a train to Philly or rent a car to drive to Tennessee and do everything or do absolutely nothing. I can invite folks to join me for the trip or meet people when I get there. I can make it social or I can make it intimate.

One trip a month. Weekends. Long Weekends. Whole weeks. Meetups. Solo journeys. Dates. Whatever.

I realize this goal is predicated on a level of privilege, and I certainly don’t mean to gloat. It’s not like I have grand designs for big getaways or opulent vacations. I just want to get out of DC once a month. I want to utilize my freedom as a childless dude in a regional transit hub who works from a laptop and, like, actually have the experiences I moved up here to have.

And I’m not going to apologize for doing that.

Do a handstand.

Fuck. I’m still working on doing a handstand. I can do a headstand and I can do a frogstand and I’ve watched every single video on YouTube about progressing to this skill.

This is the year I do a fucking handstand.