Last week my roommate Anna came home and alerted me to a recent article in the New York Times column Modern Love. For despite my being a perpetual bachelor, Anna knows that I love to talk and gossip about relationships. In the article Mandy Len Catron (author of the 2015 viral article To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This) talks about her practice of drafting a yearly relationship contract with her long term boyfriend Mark. She writes that the contract covers everything from “sex to chores to finances to expectations for the future.” The contract even has an overarching mission statement for the relationship, which for her and Mark is to “aspire to help each other be more ethically-minded and generous friends, community members and global citizens.” While a relationship contract might sound like the antithesis of that spontaneous kind of love and romance that Hollywood likes to glorify, the author found it to be an incredibly helpful practice in her relationship, and one that helped her and her partner grow ever closer while protecting what was personally important to each as an individual.
Lacking a romantic relationship, I currently have no way of testing out this exact practice, yet even in my bachelordom this idea resonated with me. For a contract or mission statement is not only useful in our relationships with romantic partners, but potentially extremely powerful in helping us navigate our relationship with life at large. Without exactly knowing why, I have at times adopted a mission statement for my own life. Just look at my outdated About Me page on this blog site where I talk about practicing the Art, Craft, and Critique of music. For about three years, I have operated under the assumption that if I consistently pour my effort into these three endeavors, my musicianship would grow and my musical career would benefit. Luckily this has mostly been the case. Yet since starting this new chapter of my life in New York, I’ve become aware that my personal contract needs updating.
I confess that this move to New York City was not the byproduct of a crystal clear vision for my life. Instead, I moved here in large part because I felt like many elements of my musical and personal life in Arkansas were either stagnating or diminishing, and thus I needed a change. It has been somewhat uncomfortable to find that an obvious path to career success and personal contentment has not magically unfolded before my eyes since moving here. Overall I am happy to be here, yet I’ve often found myself drifting into self-doubt and confusion. Many a morning I wake up and wonder what the hell I’m supposed to be doing.
It would be great if someone would just tell me what I’m supposed to be doing, but one of the most beautiful and simultaneously uncomfortable things about my life is that I’ve largely been afforded the freedom to choose for myself what is right for my life. I’m aware that not everyone has this privilege— ultimately it is something I am extremely grateful for, and something I certainly do not want to take for granted. Lacking a magical spirit guide to tell me what I should be doing and also wanting to take full advantage of this freedom of choice, I’ve recently been interrogating myself about what it is that I truly want for my life. As a result of this process, I’ve come up with a three year plan for myself incorporating short and long-term goals I have.
Now I’m not going to tell you what my plan is. I’m a little self conscious about how lofty the plan might sound, and I don’t want to give my haters (do I have haters?) a chance to cast doubt on my goals. I’m not Tom Brady— I do not thrive on proving people wrong. I’m Lucas Murray— I thrive on encouragement from others.
I would also like to encourage you, whoever you are, wherever you are, to set goals for yourself and really go for them. I don’t think there’s any surefire, scientific, foolproof way for you to achieve your goals. This isn’t The Secret! And I’m not Tony Robbins (it’d be cool if I was though; I’d probably have a few more blog followers). The truth is, you might not achieve your goals. Yet the benefit of having a goal is immediate— it gives your life order and direction, and it gives you the personal peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are working towards something. Plus, hey, you might achieve your goals— and wouldn’t that be great.