If you’re like me, you experience January as a sort of cleanse and renewal. This is the time of year when we are inundated with information about how to write goals, gain clarity on our life’s purpose, and the intrigue of trying a new diet or exercise program, to be better than last year. Without fail, there is an influx of people at the gym I visit and everyone is madly pounding away on the treadmills and throwing around weights. I feel like they do this begrudgingly with a “power through it” mentality so they can check it off their list for the day and move on to activities that are far more pleasurable.
Then, February – or even skimming the last week of January, those individuals’ ghosts of sweaty past are all that remain. I always wonder what happens to them. Do they find another gym, buy some home equipment, or have they simply fallen out of the habit and scratched that goal off their list with a thick, black sharpie? We’ve all been there with some goal that we felt lost its luster, fizzled, and died a long slow death. I know I have. I have notebooks and journals filled with ideas, thoughts, and goals. So what makes some goals stay alive and see the sweet light of day while others dry up and slink into the shadows growing ever more faint?
I’m sure we have all heard of SMART goals and perhaps are required to write them in your profession, like I am. A brief breakdown of this acronym is S – specific, M – meaningful, A – action oriented, R – realistic, T – timely. While this acronym is helpful and if you’ve never given it a try for your goal setting, I encourage you to do so. I, however, have not found a lot of success with this approach. I think I fall down right away with specific and then later down the road at realistic. Everything I approach is like the roots of a tree, which hardly makes the goal specific, but rather a tangled snarly mess of an idea. Then there is realistic. Well, I never really know if something is realistic. Is it realistic simply by me declaring it is realistic? I struggle with that one. Maybe it has to do with confidence? Not sure. At one point in history the 4 minute mile was not realistic and there were actually physicians that claimed it was impossible for the human body to achieve that goal without killing itself. Then, someone proved everyone wrong and ran the mile in under 4 minutes. Then it happened again and again. So – was it realistic when that first individual decided to make that his goal?
Moving on from the SMART goal paradigm, I’ll share with you what I have found the most helpful in setting aspirations for myself. First, do less. If I want to do something, accomplish something that I haven’t done before, what makes me think that I’ll simply be able to add the steps to accomplish that goal to my life without giving up something else? You need to do less of the things that will not assist you in reaching the goal. Take a look at your week. What activities during your week could you outsource or ask for help with that do not serve your path toward goal achievement? An example of this would be those many mundane tasks that we do that keep us doing things all the time! Like laundry, meal preparation, and house cleaning. Looking at that list, what things can you entrust others to do for you? Maybe a spouse (rotate who is doing what), children in the house, or hiring help. Personally, those are my options and I take advantage of all of them. It is only by doing this that I have freed up time in my schedule to work on things that are going to move me forward with my goals.
Next, surround yourself with a support group. These are people or even one person that will support you, motivate you, and keep you accountable. You will be far more successful if you plan ahead with who these people or person will be so you have them to call upon when you start falling off the rails – or just even to check in with to share your progress or ask for feedback. In addition to a support group, consider a mentor. This could be someone in your community that you meet with that has done what you want to do or someone you meet on social media or through a site that offers coaching on what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
Lastly, schedule time on your calendar in which you will work on your goal. It needs to be in front of your face, set an alarm or reminder on your phone, and make sure you see it clearly when you are looking at your obligations for the week. If it truly matters to you, then you need to hold space for it.
Letting it go
We are creatures of doing and setting our sights higher. Reaching for the stars is admirable and keeps us fulfilled and vibrant. However, often we fall short of large expectations and then feel defeated, vowing to never try again. January can be a cleansing month and a month of renewed hope for goals that got lost in the previous year. Maybe you’re planning to do this year differently and have a foolproof plan for that. If you do, I applaud you and wish you all the best on your journey. If you’re like the rest of us and aren’t sure where to start or are cringing at the thought of falling short again, give my ideas a try and let me know how it goes. When all is said and done, we really benefit the most from focusing on our actions and letting go of the grand expectation that lies at the end of the rainbow. You might just end up more surprised and fulfilled than you imagined.