Along with countless ads for every weight loss program known to man, I've also seen a number of articles and comments the past two days denouncing new years resolutions. I think many people become discouraged by resolutions after one slip up, and then give up. Resolutions always feel so black and white; for example, in the past I would make a resolution on new years eve to eat healthier and then immediately feel guilty and give up when I ate a leftover cookie at 2 pm on January 1.
Instead of continuing to make (and break) resolutions, a few years ago I started setting goals. I've found that setting goals allows me to work with intentionality and accountability toward achieving things I want while not being discouraged when I inevitably mess up. After never keeping a resolution, I've been amazed at what I've accomplished on my list of goals over the past few years. Organizing the specific goals I wanted to achieve, and how I planned to do it, gave me a sense of direction that I had been missing with my lofty resolutions.
Setting goals has become a peaceful and enjoyable practice of self-reflection and introspection. I'll find a quiet spot, curl up with a fresh notebook and some music, and start to brainstorm. My goals always encompass four categories: physical, spiritual, professional and personal. Within each category, I try to keep the number of goals realistic; about two to three for a total of eight to twelve goals that might take a year or more to complete. This might seem like a lot compared to one resolution, but these are goals that span every facet of my life and are not dramatic, overnight changes. They are objectives that I work on daily and complete some quicker than others.
Going back to my earlier example, let's say one of my physical goals is to improve my health by eating a more balanced diet. While this is a noble goal, it lacks specifics on how I'll actually achieve it. Does this mean that I'm going to cut out refined sugar, follow a particular diet, eat only organic food, or create meal plans for the week? Goals require an explanation of how you will achieve them and measure the achievement or they will remain ambiguous targets that you'll never complete. Breaking goals down into simple actions also makes them seem much more manageable. For example, it can be daunting to start working out when your goal is to look like a professional athlete; but if you start with a workout plan that schedules out your gym time, runs, or fitness classes you can see and feel tangible results quickly.
The same philosophy can be applied to your professional, personal, and spiritual goals. If you are after a promotion or are trying to save more money, decide exactly how you are going to do this, write it down, and hold yourself to these specific actions.
Setting goals and tracking your progress is a powerful way to add direction and a basic structure toward living the life you desire. It's a daily commitment that will keep you focused on the things that are most important to you and it provides you with a way to reflect on and appreciate your many accomplishments. It also isn't all or nothing, so enjoy those cheat days where you eat something unhealthy or take a vacation day from work to relax. Accomplishment can only occur when combined with rest and recovery, and unlike resolutions, goals encourage us to live our best life, not a perfect life.
Cheers to 2017 and 365 days of opportunity to achieve your goals!