I want to tell you a story about New Year’s Resolutions and setting goals.
You see, when I was a little girl I used to get so excited at the prospect of New Year’s Resolutions. I would set these wildly impossible goals (my most common one was to write in my journal daily — which never worked for me…).
Every year I would set these lofty goals, these grand ambitions, and then January would turn into February and I would run out of enthusiasm or energy and my ambitions would fall by the wayside.
What I learned from this experience was that I was a disappointment.
I learned that I could expect to disappoint myself. It was a hard lesson to swallow — and it eventually turned me off of goal-setting forever.
Year after year I made my goals smaller and smaller and smaller until it seemed like I would be unable to disappoint myself — and still I always managed it.
Is your history with setting goals a similarly fraught and damaging one?
If so, then I’m happy to inform you that I’ve since discovered I was making two critical goal-setting mistakes.
The first mistake was that I usually set “self-improving” goals for myself.
You know the ones I’m talking about — the resolve that this will be the year you finally lose those 15 lbs, or the year you’ll hit the gym 3 times a week religiously, or the year you’ll write in your journal every single day.
You can tell a goal is of the “self-improving” sort because you’re really sure you should set it but you really don’t want to. If the idea of dragging yourself to the gym three times a week feels heavy and sluggish in your body, then you’ve found yourself a “self-improving” resolution that I’m prepared to bet right now you won’t keep past Valentine’s day.
The second mistake was that I set quantitative goals, not qualitative ones
You could argue that this is kind-of cheating. But if you set your goal to be “write in journal every day” the first day you miss it (for any reason) your brain will inform you that you’ve failed, that you are an awful disappointment, and that you should feel eternally guilty. Or at least that’s what my brain does — your brain may be less fundamentally broken…
If your goal is not to “write in journal every day” but is to “journal often” or “journal regularly” or “make time to journal at least one time each week” then this is a much more achievable which you are less likely to fail at (although if your goal is of the self-improving sort, then there’s usually no hope for it…).
But for those of you out there who are as goal-shy as I am these days — here’s what I suggest you actually do.
I suggest you kick goals to the curb and try something new: set intentions for the new year and decide on what you’re no longer willing to tolerate. Because this works so, so much better for me.
So here I go.
In 2016 I am no longer willing to tolerate:
- Feeling exhausted all the time
- Having my time pulled in too many directions
- Trying to squeeze more out of the same number of minutes
- Letting other people’s needs steamroll my own
- Feeling guilty for having needs that defy societal expectations
In 2016 I intend to:
- Live courageously
- Take bold actions
- Let myself be seen
- Trust my body
- Honor my need for rest
- Ask for support when I need it
- Admit when I’m overextended
And, for the overachiever special, my word or theme for 2016 is
And you might think that those aren’t specific enough and concrete enough and how will I know when I’ve achieved them? (gasp!), but I think that’s actually the beauty of defining your goals for the year ahead in this way.
I’ll know when I’ve achieved them because I will feel bold, I will feel daring, I will feel rested, and I will feel like I’m stepping into the shoes that have been waiting for me all my life.
And yes, I’ll be turning those lists of things I’m not longer willing to tolerate and of intentions into concrete actions — but the trick, you see, is that those actions are not my goals.
Those actions are just ideas for things I might do to bring my life into better alignment with my goals. And if I fail at some of them or decide in June that I’m not interested in those ideas anymore I haven’t failed at my goals — I’ll still be right on target just as long as I keep checking in and realigning myself with my intentions as I navigate the twists and turns of 2016.
I’d love to hear from you! What’s your relationship to goal-setting? Love them? Hate them? Love-to-hate them? Let me know what you’re doing to prepare for the coming year in the comments below. And if you’ve picked a word or a theme for 2016, I DARE you to share it! 😉