Unlike some people, I really look forward to January and New Years resolutions. Since I was in high school, it has been a time when I dig out my goals from last year and feel satisfied in what I accomplished and learned.* Here are two fun exercises to do with yourself.
1. Write down someday/maybe goals.
It's okay if you think you'll never accomplish them. This is just a brainstorming exercise if you are one of those people who "don't have any goals". Write down anything you've ever wanted to do, be, or have. Places you'd like to go, people you'd like to meet, things you'd like to learn... pretty much anything. It's okay if these things don't "go together" or "make sense" in light of your current circumstances. Keep these in a folder to reflect on every year. When you need some direction on smaller, one-year goals, pull out your Someday/Maybe list. Would you like to have your own business? Write down three business books you could read in 2015, or think of one skill related to your dream business that you could learn. OR, think of a short term micro-business that could give you the credentials or experience to start your own "real" business.
2. Create your "ideal day".
This is one of my favorites. Write down 5-10 things you would like to do every day. Things that would make your day feel like a real winner. My ideal day has things like, "1 hour writing" and "a bike ride". I also include some weekly items that I don't have to do every day like "going to garage sales" or "selling things on Ebay". Keep this list to review every day. Make it a game to see how close each day comes to being "ideal". A few years ago, I went through a whole year listing what activities I did every day, which "next steps" I had taken, and how close I had gotten to bigger goals. I accomplished SO MUCH that year, mostly due to keeping myself accountable. Now I don't make time for journaling every day, but that year helped me memorize and solidify my long-term goals.
Don't Broadcast Your Goals
Only share your goals with people who can and will help you accomplish them. If you want to save money, don't go telling your spendthrift best friend about how you are going to hang laundry on the line. She will probably just laugh at you, 1) because she doesn't understand why you would want stiff pants, or 2) because she tried being frugal before and failed, and wants to justify her current lifestyle. Besides my husband, I don't really share my goals with anyone.
Many popular motivational speakers will encourage you to shut "negative" people out of your life that don't agree with you and have the same goals. I don't think this is a great idea. In real life, you can't just shut out your family, people you work with, or anyone who disagrees with you. It is to your best advantage to be friends with everyone as much as possible. In a conversation, just focus on the other person instead of tooting your own horn. They might find out through the grapevine that you line-dry, but it will not come across as a personal insult to them.
Reflecting on Last Year's Goals
Instead of feeling discouraged at the goals you didn't reach in 2014, simply roll them into next year's goals. For example, I have been wanting to grow mushrooms for years. It was once again on my list for 2014, and once again I didn't grow a single mushroom. I didn't even TRY to grow a single mushroom. But I don't feel bad about it, because I did plenty of other new things this year.
If you do feel bad about an item that didn't get done, there are two possible reasons:
1) You really should have got it done, but you procrastinated and let other things get in the way.
2) It's not that important to you, BUT it's been on your list for years.
In the first case, this item (for a lot of people it is 'losing weight') really needs to be your top priority, above small things like growing mushrooms. Chances are that you have tried at this goal before and failed- something I will address in a future article.
In the second case, it is okay to just give up on something, even if it has been on your list so long it feels like an old friend. Maybe it doesn't align with your current circumstances or goals. No matter how much I want to be an Olympic athlete, 2015 is not the time, and my little apartment is not the place. :)
What you must understand about goal-setting is: NOT EVERYTHING WILL HAPPEN LIKE YOU WRITE IT DOWN. This is why you should not be afraid to write down goals because "I might not get them done". The important thing, and the real goal of goal-setting as I see it, is that
AT LEAST SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN.
Even if you only get one thing done this year, that's something to celebrate!
Did you accomplish anything this year? Big or small?
Next time we'll be talking about structural change vs. behavioral change, and how you can better reach your goals.