How to Set Goals
We all know the age-old story of setting goals— some really ambitious personal goals— at the start of a new year, only to see our drive to reach those goals deplete with every passing week.
Why is it that we can all recognize and acknowledge this human behavior, chuckling at the fact that January always sees the biggest influx of gym memberships and personal training clients, and still be the person that eagerly sets all kinds of goals we are never able to realistically meet?
I’ll tell you why: because we set goals with an ideal in mind. On a day to day, we all easily recognize the ways that real life does not mirror an ideal… dare I say almost ever. Yet still, we set goals with this idea of perfection in mind.
When we don’t plan for the unplanned, it becomes very easy to let our ideal life slide for the one that is actually happening. Which is how it should be.
“THIS year is the year. I’m going to get my shit together, practice some discipline and finally lose the 30 pounds I’ve been trying to lose for the past two years.”
Then, as ambitiously as these goals are set, life happens and we begin to lose steam. You know… life: We get sick, our kids get sick, our pets get sick… your boss asks you to stay late a couple of nights in a row, your car breaks down, an old friend visits unexpectedly. Things happen that are inconvenient, unplanned. and outside of our control every. single. day.
And when these things come up, we tend to see them as roadblocks, hiccups, and detours from our goals, rather than an expected part of the process. When we don’t plan for the unplanned, it becomes very easy to let our ideal life slide for the one that is actually happening. Which is how it should be.
The All or Nothing Trap
The problem is that by letting our ideal life slide, we usually let it all slide, especially in the case of new years resolutions. There’s this contagious, motivating, and dangerous energy this time of year that is very all-or-nothing.
“New year, new me! Say goodbye to that loser from 2020, we are coming into this year all light, positivity, and motivation. Look at me now, world!”
This message of hardcore, nonstop-motivated change is typically promoted by someone trying to get you to buy something, anyways. So, how about we cut the bullshit…
With that kind of attitude, all it takes is one unexpected, and most likely unpleasant, change of plans to derail us. The pressure we put on ourselves to stick to our goals either becomes obsessive to the point that we experience more and more stress (with fewer results to show for it ). Or, we give up completely and resort to the old ways that led us to this point in the first place.
All or nothing very rarely leads to “all”. Perfection doesn’t exist, so when push comes to shove and our only choices are all or nothing… nothing wins. And instead of seeing this as a universal truth, we tend to view it as a personal failure.
Buying Success: The Big Lie
Obviously, society doesn’t help with this. Social media only shows you the people that are (seemingly) crushing life and their goals. Instagram health coaches convince us we just haven’t found the right plan for us and if we only fork over enough cash, they will let us in on all the secrets and suddenly reach new levels of success.
(Pro tip: that’s not how it works. You can shell out as much cash as you want, but no one else is going to do it for you. And for the most part, nothing these online coaches will have to say is new, revolutionary, or even all that specific to your individual needs as it is.)
But what if this isn’t a personal failure, and
Set Goals: A Different Approach
I made a list of five tasks/mindsets/intentions that I wanted to achieve and I kept it in my purse where I would see it every day:
- Develop a personal practice
- Be intentional, always
- Treat myself as a WHOLE being
- Read everything
I had made specific measurable goals in the past that I’d never been able to stick to. I felt like shit, knew I needed to change, and also knew my mindset needed some work. I picked these intentions because they were specific to a direction I wanted to go and away I wanted to feel, but my method of getting there was left up to interpretation.
On a subconscious level, I think I knew I had no idea the year I was about to have. I was reflecting on the past few years and how dramatically my life had shifted in ways I never expected it would. I started maintaining the perspective that not knowing what’s going to happen next is one of the best parts of life. That having dreams and ambition is important, but trusting the process and knowing I am allowed to change my mind, method, and direction as many times as I need to to find my path is what has brought me true happiness and freedom in this past year.
So, set goals—big ones! And, dream crazy dreams! But make way for life, too, and be sure to plan for the unplanned. Be flexible in your process, and set goals that pursue growth, change,
Dream Crazy Dreams
This year, my list looks like this:
- Courage in vulnerability
- Be 5 minutes early
- Financial freedom
- Growth in everything
Did you set goals? What’s on your list? Write it down and keep it somewhere you will regularly be reminded by it throughout the year. And remember to be compassionate with yourself and try not to take anything too seriously. It’s just life.