Forget Your New Year's Resolutions Set Powerful Goals Instead
I used to make New Year's Resolutions, then gave them up a few years ago. I decided that if I wasn't going to keep them anyway (or only kept them through January), then what was the point? Of course, this approach does not work very well either; it may have protected me from the disappointment of realizing that I had yet again forgotten my resolutions, but it still did not move me towards where I wanted to go.
One of the reasons New Year's Resolutions often end up forgotten or left aside may be that they are based on what we don't want instead of what we do want. If it has been your pattern to think in terms of losing weight or stopping a bad habit, try something different this year. Think instead in terms of what you want to create in 2012. Try a shift from vague or generalized resolutions into specific, concrete goals and a plan to reach them.
The following series of questions will help you get set up to succeed in reaching your 2012 goals. Of course, these can apply to any area of your life-career, relationships, finances, spirituality, creativity, and so on-but for now I will focus on examples using goals around health and wellness.
What are your goals for the year?
The first step, obviously, is to set your goals. Set goals that are:
- Specific: Don't say you will lose weight, say you will weigh X amount by a specific date. You will want a definite way to know if and when you reach your goal. If your goal is more general, like that you want to feel better overall, make it more specific so you have some criteria to evaluate. What would it mean to feel better? That you have a consistent level of energy through the day? That you wake up feeling energized and ready to go? That you can do your normal activities with ease?
- Positive: Say what you want, not what you don't want. Instead of I want to get rid of my sugar cravings perhaps you want a healthy relationship to food, eating what your body needs when it needs it.
- Ambitious but realistic: Push yourself, but don't make them impossible. Also, be ready to adjust your goals as you begin to take action and learn more; if you find that your initial goal was too ambitious, set a longer time frame.
- State them as if they've already happened: I weigh X pounds.
Why do you want these goals?
One of the reasons many of us stop working for our goals is because we turn them into chores, into things we have to do, which we then resist doing. Instead, consider what reaching your goals will fulfill for you. Allow that to pull you towards reaching them instead of feeling like you have to push yourself. If you want to go to bed earlier so you get more sleep, you are not likely to keep it up for long if you feel like you are giving something up. Look for what getting more sleep will do for you-perhaps give you more energy, a clearer and sharper mind, and allow you to be at your best each day. Post what reaching your goal will fulfill for you somewhere where you will see it every day to remind you.
What will you need to let go of to achieve your goals?
Striving for goals is a process of change, and change requires letting go. When we lack awareness of what we will need to let go of in reaching for our goals, we may unconsciously undermine our progress toward them. Though we might need to let go of something concrete (such as our favorite late-night ice cream snack), it is most often aspects of our identity that we are unwilling to let go of that stand in our way. The familiarity of our identity, even if it is uncomfortable, makes us hold on, especially when we are unsure what will replace it. See if you can get a sense of what aspects of who you are will have to change for you to reach your goal.
What structures do you have in place to keep you going?
I've had problems with setting goals and then forgetting all about them because I did not build them into my life. We each need to find what works best for us, but at the basis is creating the plan, with specific action steps, to reach your goals. Once you create your plan and action steps, put those steps into your calendar or task management system so they stay front and center. Also consider letting someone know about your goals, so they can help keep you accountable; you might even find someone close to you has a similar goal and find ways to work together, supporting each other more directly.
How can you slightly adjust what you are already doing to meet your goals with more ease?
Having new goals does not necessarily mean you have to make drastic changes. If you want to eat healthier, you might be able to change some of the recipes you already make to incorporate healthier ingredients. If you would like more strength, you can spice up the time you already set aside for exercise to vary your routine to get a mix of aerobic, anaerobic, and stretching. See if there are ways to adjust what you already do to make reaching your goals easier.
I encourage you, if you haven't already, to schedule in some time this week to clarify your goals and create the structures necessary to carry you forward. Let's make 2012 a year of fulfillment