January Mulligan

January 2018 was not a great month for me. My mom died in early January. She was 90 years old and ready to die — the day before she died I asked if she wanted to talk with a priest, she said, “I have already talked to two different priests!” She had her affairs in order from pre-paying for her funeral expenses to writing on the non-visible side of every piece of furniture and picture in her house – who that item was to go to after her death. I grieved, reflected a lot, and talked with my family many hours, but did not advance my professional goals last month.

I had many plans that I did not start or move forward in January. So, I am taking a mulligan (or “do over”) for January and “starting” my new goals and intentions today – on February first. You see, there is nothing really special about January one. Someone invented it as the start of the year – but it does not coincide with the lunar calendar, with a solstice or equinox. Because January first is an arbitrary starting point – you can decide any time that you want to start something new. Missing a window of time like “the start of the year” can happen for a variety of reasons.

Let me be clear, I know I will still need time to grieve and reflect. I am simply recalibrating the time that I will need to do things like clean up my home office, and start writing projects. Time sequenced goals are important, but setting a goal means that one is aiming at something, that a particular task is of value. If the task is of value – it can be accomplished well after the original goal. Sometimes more important life tasks arise that demand attention, like the death of a loved one. Taking a mulligan does not mean that I am not holding myself accountable to my goals, merely that I am adjusting the goal. Think of it this way. If I start out driving from Houston to Dallas and encounter road work or an accident that stalls my time – I still have the goal of getting to Dallas. I may have to sit in traffic, or I might explore an alternate route – my destination awaits, but once I have encountered an unavoidable obstacle – I must manage my focus on the goal in a different way.

How was your January? If you did not make progress toward important goals, perhaps you want to take a mulligan too. And if goals like increasing the meaning in your life, increasing your resilience or understanding and increasing your happiness are on your list – you may want to explore classes I am teaching starting in February – see below for details.

Michael Winters is a Psychologist in Houston focusing on marriage counseling and therapy. Michael received his PhD from the University of Memphis and has been practicing since 1991.