Laina Shulman, DC
Effective goal setting is not a process that begins January 1 and ends the same week. Implementing simple steps daily will start you on the road to discovering and achieving your goals. The more you focus on the details, the clearer your goal will become. Adding details like who, what, where, when, and how youâ??ll achieve that goal will make it more specific and attainable.
You ran around getting ready for the holidays, wrapped 47 presents, visited five different families in two days, and when it was all over, you collapsed on the couch. Now your best friend wonders if you want to set a pact to help each other keep your New Year’s resolutions.
“Sure,” you think, resolving to hang out on the couch and order in takeout. Kicking back, you try to recall whether or not you kept your resolutions last year. The problem is that you can’t even remember what you resolved to improve. You wonder: Is it useful setting resolutions or are you just setting yourself up for failure?
According to an Opinion Research Corp. survey, only 45 percent of people set New Year’s resolutions in 2005, down from 88 percent who did so in the past.
Why have we given up on resolutions? It could be because only 8 percent of people feel that they achieve the resolutions they set. Those of us who don’t follow through on our resolutions end up with a great deal of negative self-talk. We disappoint ourselves and eventually give up.
Why are Resolutions so Hard to Keep?
New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep because we usually set them at a time of year when we are already overwhelmed. And often we haven’t taken the time to think about what we want to do. We also tend to make our resolutions based on what we think other people would like us to do. We hear ourselves say: “I really should join a gym” or “I really should try to eat healthier.” We try to correct what we think society perceives as our flaws, without asking ourselves what we would truly love to have in our lives.
I am not suggesting that we abandon goal setting, just that we take our time before deciding exactly which goals to focus on. Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize how you would love your life to look. Are you able to block outside input and discover what is right for you? Can you see the details? Are you smiling?
The more you focus on the details, the clearer your goal will become. Adding details like who, what, where, when, and how you’ll achieve that goal will make it more specific and attainable.
But be honest with yourself. Developing a new behaviour requires effort until it becomes a habit. Let’s say that your goal is to make healthier food choices. To make this goal a reality, you need to plan how you will establish new habits. Where will you find simple, healthy recipes that fit in with your lifestyle? How will you prepare healthy meals in the amount of time you have available? Will you prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them? Are you willing to go to the grocery store more often to ensure that you have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand?
Although developing this new behaviour will require some work at the beginning, after one month it will begin to fit seamlessly into your life, much like all of your current habits. Taking the time to develop new habits that support your goals is definitely time well spent.
Hearing Opportunity Knock
We are bombarded with information and most of us have developed filters that help us ignore what is unimportant and focus in on what will move us toward our goals. A case in point: I am fairly certain that if a new shoe store were to open near my office I would not only notice it, I would without doubt remember to go to the opening sale. My husband would drive by the store hundreds of times and never see it, the same way I would never notice a new fishing store if it were to open nearby.
Similarly, when you decide on a new goal, you will find opportunities to move your life in that direction. If you do decide to make healthier food choices, you will develop radar that directs you to that goal. All of a sudden you will notice new produce stores, you will hear people talking about organic food delivery services, and you will notice when seasonal fruits and vegetables go to market.
A Series of Simple Steps
Effective goal setting is not a process that begins January 1 and ends the same week. Implementing simple steps daily will start you on the road to discovering and achieving your goals.
Use the same time every day to daydream about the goals you would love to achieve. The few quiet minutes before bed are often the best time to create a picture of what you would love your future to look like. As you see yourself achieving your goal, ask yourself: What steps did I take toward my goal today? Perhaps you set a goal to eat healthier snacks and stopped on your way home to buy apples. By celebrating your successes, both large and small, you send yourself the message that you are a worthy person who is moving toward their goals.
Remember to update your goals regularly or even set new ones. We are all constantly evolving and so are our goals. Deciding that you do not wish to make sacrifices in certain areas of your life in order to reach goals in other areas is not failure. Honouring what is most meaningful to you is crucial when planning your future.
When you are lying on the couch this month feeling exhausted after a hectic holiday season, let your mind wander. Imagine what you would love the many areas of your life to look like over the next year. Resolve to take a small step in that direction each day. It is amazing how far 365 small steps will take you in one year.
As for me, I have to run. My dinner just arrived and I resolved not to eat take out and write at the same time.
Getting Started with Goal Setting
If you are having trouble getting started setting new goals, begin by looking at each
individual area of your life. Ask yourself how you would like each aspect of life to look one year from now. Divide your life into seven areas:
In order to ensure no areas are ignored, visualize the changes you would love to see in each area separately. But remember that focusing all of your energy on a goal that encompasses only one area of your life creates chaos in the areas that have been forgotten. Work to blend the different aspects of life, creating a clear picture of the life you desire.