Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Forget New Year's Resolutions: How to Set and Achieve Goals

I attended a New Year’s Eve party, and not one person admitted to making resolutions. Every single person said, “I don’t make them because I won’t keep ‘em.” Fair enough. It takes only six weeks at the gym to see that people start off enthusiastic and then give up on their resolutions.
However, I feel that most of us set goals on a fairly consistent basis, either for work or school or whatever. We may not set my goals on January 1, but we do have goals and achieve some of them. What enables us to meet some goals successfully and then fail at others?
·         Desire to reach a goal. If I don’t care about it, I won’t do it. I have to want the end result and be able to at least tolerate the steps between to get to the end result.

 ·         Practicality. How can I know if a goal is practical or not? Difficult to say. My suggestion: understand yourself and your limits and then aim a little above that. Be aware of time or other restraints or circumstances that would impede you and either mitigate them or adjust your goal accordingly. Perhaps starting out with a small, easily achievable goal would help me gain confidence and a grasp of how to handle your goal efforts in the context of everyday life. Then again perhaps diving right in and giving everything to the goal forces you to figure out how to handle it all together. Get a feel for what works for you and do it. 

·         Map of steps. For more complicated goals, I need to have a plan of attack or even a set of smaller goals. Cutting a larger goal into bite-sized pieces make the process more palatable. (Enough food metaphor for you?) What steps will lead me to the end result? Map it out and follow it.

 ·         Accountability. If I know someone will ask me about my progress, I will more likely work on that goal. During NaNoWriMo, friends and family members asked me about my progress, which made me want to be able to report only good news. 

·         Buddy system. For some goals, it helps to have someone work on a goal with me. If I forget, he or she can help me remember. If I lose desire, knowing that he or she is doing it too motivates me. 

·         Record of progress. If I work towards a goal but see no progress, it makes me feel that I wasted my effort pointlessly. However, if I monitor my progress, however small, I can see that end result inching closer. Use whatever system of recording that will motivate you. 

·         Smart support and choices. If I want to achieve a goal, I can’t surround myself with things or people who will distract me from achieving that goal. Both the choices we make and the choices of people around us could either support or sabotage efforts toward a goal.

 ·         Rewards. Progress is its own reward in some goals. In others, more tangible rewards help keep motivation up. On the other hand, for me failure is its own punishment. If you need a punishment to ward off laziness or apathy, I suggest keeping it on the lighter side to prevent self-loathing or discouragement. 

·         Overthrow of apathy. If/when apathy sets in, reevaluate the goal. Is it realistic and attainable? Am I seeing the results I want? If not, why not? What can and can’t I change?

 ·         Reflection. I honestly leave this one out most of the time, but it can be helpful for making and accomplishing future goals. What helped you succeed in this goal? What didn’t work that led to failure? What can you learn from it that you can use later or change later?

I really haven’t set any “New Year’s resolutions” for myself, mostly because I was already working on a couple of goals, and I don’t need to add to the pile and make it harder for myself just for convention.
So forget the formal title of resolutions if you want, but don’t give up on setting and at the very least trying to achieve goals. We all are always changing, developing, growing. And goals allow us to have at least some control of how we change, develop, and grow.

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