More Than Just a Hashtag: Goal Setting for the New Year
We’re getting closer to the new year. So yes, it means we have to scroll through the same old “new year, new me” posts, as well as the “I’m cutting off all toxic people in the new year” declarations. Though I’m not exactly sure how someone has several people to cut off every single year (makes you wonder how they’re always slipping through the cracks).
But along with that, I’ve also been seeing so many posts and messages regarding what people are claiming for their lives in 2019, what they are looking forward to, and what they are hopeful for. It’s always nice to see such kind and uplifting messages. Oftentimes we will have a vision of what we want to accomplish, but not necessarily a game plan in order to get there. This is what separates declaring a resolution from setting a goal.
Goals vs. Resolutions
Though I’ve never been interested in New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve also never thought them to be a bad thing. When we look at the definition of a resolution, it is “a firm decision to do or not do something”, which is great! It’s good to finally call out a problem or issue that you’re having and make a declaration that you will change it. The declaration is the first step; unfortunately, a lot of us treat it as if it’s the only step. We’re stating the obvious (what we want) but we’re not exploring the detailed ‘how’ (what we’re going to do to get that result). The real work begins when we align that desired result with feasible goals, and then we reach our feasible goals after we have mapped out a plan of action
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Importance of Goal Setting
What I like about goal setting is that it helps to simplify. Not a lot of us are encouraged to dream big like we were as kids; some of us stray away from dreaming too big because we don’t truly believe we can achieve what we want. Goal setting helps to take something that may be bigger than you, and simplify it so that the desired result feels much more attainable. Rather than being afraid of your goals, you can be excited about them!
The most common New Year’s Resolution to date is “I’m going to lose weight/eat healthy/exercise more.” Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of people who declare this resolution actually end up following through. Your local gym will be packed for the month of January, the rush will settle down a little in February, and by March it will likely go back to how it normally was before all the Resolution makers showed up. This is all because those people did not come up with a game plan to accomplish what they want to do. If you want to lose weight, cool. How much weight are you going to lose? In what span of time are you going to do it? How many days per week are you going to work out? How much time in those days will you spend working out? How are you going to change your diet? How are you going to go about meal planning? What are some ways that you will hold yourself accountable to your lifestyle changes? These are all questions that a great percentage of people fail to ask themselves, which leads to abandoning their resolution.
When we are able to set goals and draw out a game plan to execute those goals, our big dream feels a lot less far-fetched and we are able to give ourselves a necessary boost of confidence!
How to Set Your Goals
Everyone is a little different. Your goals are a reflection of your expectations and standards for yourself! Depending on what or who your goals involve, you may need to tag up with someone of positive influence to help you map this out! However, there are some pretty general ways to get started with the goal-setting process that have been helpful for me. You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T Goals before; these are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. I like to use this as a baseline for what I’m trying to figure out for myself.
Work Out the Details
In my previous example, I sighted how the people who set out to lose weight ultimately didn’t achieve their goals because they did not game plan. A big part of this is making sure you specify exactly what you want to accomplish. So rather than saying “I’m going to lose weight this year”, you could say “I’m going to lose [x] pounds by [x] date”. Instead of saying “I want to increase my business profit” you could say “I want to increase my business profit by [x]% within [x] time frame”. Putting a set number or date on our goals not only makes them far less intimidating but also make it much easier to measure our progress. How can you measure whether or not you’re “on track” if your track doesn’t have a destination?
Work with Deadlines
Your goal will remain a wish unless you start putting time blocks on what you want to accomplish. Along with the ‘big’ goal, it helps to have small goals (or checkpoints) to go through along the way. Example: “By [checkpoint date] I want to be [this far] in my progress to achieving [the big goal]. Having a series of smaller goals that set you up for the end result will also help keep your goals realistic without necessarily being too rigid. As we accomplish these checkpoint goals, we find ourselves growing more confident in our abilities, and our belief in accomplishing the ‘big goal’ gradually rises along with it. There’s a saying that “one day” is not a day in the week. We can’t expect to reach our goals if we can’t figure out when it will get done! Pinning our expected accomplishments with a set date creates a better sense of urgency.
Share Your Goals
I’ll admit that this is probably the concept of goal-setting that I am working to overcome the most. While reading in my spare time, I came across a phrase that read something along the lines of “not sharing your goals is the coward’s way out”. A little harsh, but there’s a lot of truth to that. We’re reluctant to share our goals with people because we don’t want to end up with eggs on our faces. We think we can get away with not accomplishing a goal because, really, who’s going to know about it? It’s one thing if I fail, but does everyone have to know that I’ve failed? I remind myself that I have to stray away from the idea that by not accomplishing my goals exactly how or when I planned to, I’m somehow a failure.
The reality is a true failure only occurs when you stop trying. By creating a sense of accountability, we give ourselves at least a few people to answer to. When I made the decision to be more conscious about my health in April, I literally told anyone willing to listen that I was planning to lose 10% of my body fat by end of September. Before I knew it, I would have friends asking me every so often: “How’s the weight loss going?”. We’re much more likely to get ourselves into gear when there is an external expectation set in place.
Again, this is something that will look a little different for everyone but getting organized is essential. I depend a lot on resources through my phone apps and Google accounts to keep track of my tasks. In addition, I keep a whiteboard in my room that highlights some of my goals and action plans for the month. Look at what ways will best help you to keep organized; it could be a physical or virtual calendar, a task app, a notebook, a whiteboard, etc. Figure out what works best for you.
You may have heard this phrase from Admiral William H. McRaven’s viral commencement speech for the University of Texas: “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed”. In his book Make Your Bed, he explains how tackling the seemingly little things can set us up for a bigger impact. When he was serving in the Navy, making his bed demonstrated “discipline…attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task”.
I can’t speak for everyone, only myself. When my room is cluttered when my place is a mess, when my laundry hasn’t been done: my mind is also cluttered. It’s also easy for me to get wrapped up in trivial things instead of tasks that are really important. And I’m likely to talk myself out of a task that could propel me forward if I can hide behind weak excuses. So when I say ‘get organized’, it’s not just about daily goals and tasks, but life in general. It may sound silly, but I ended up planning out those aspects of my life as well. I schedule my appointments in my calendar, but I also keep track of when I need to clean, do laundry, wash/style my hair, pray, read my bible, etc. If I can make sure I have those “little” tasks under control, I can put my focus and mental energy on my other tasks. Get yourself organized so that you’re removing any unnecessary stress that could distract you from your goals.
Your Goals are Your Goals
It sounds obvious, but I can’t emphasize this enough. Think about track meets or horse races. The racing horses are equipped with blinders on the side of their eyes, why is that? It’s so that they can be rid of their peripheral vision and drive their focus forward. They won’t be looking at the other horses in the lanes next to them, their vision is only limited to their own path they are running. When we set goals, we have to act the same way. It’s very easy to get caught up with where everyone else is, how far your friends are going, who is ‘ahead’ of you, and who is ‘behind’ you, but these are distractions. When we focus away from ourselves and what it is that we need to do to keep moving forward, we inadvertently set ourselves up for failure. Because we get so caught up in checking everything beside and behind us, we end up falling behind ourselves. Alternatively, we could set goals that are entirely too stretching and unfeasible; and when we don’t meet them we feel discouraged. When we’re setting up our goals, we can’t create them based on someone else’s progress.
These are all things that I’m trying to work on for myself. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be really thinking about where I am, where I want to be, and how I’m planning on getting there. And I highly encourage you to put some thought into your goals as well, whether it be for your business, your education, or your own personal/spiritual growth.
So go forth! Get that bread, secure the bag, or whatever it is that the kids say now because Lord knows I don’t keep up.
*Originally published December 19, 2018