A goal without a plan is just a wish.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The cold wintry month of new beginnings and reflection is upon us once again. January’s primary buzzword — resolution — dares us to make 2018 better than 2017, whatever that means.
While we can reassess our goals and define new ones at any time, the new year has a funny way of getting us to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Change and growth sound amusing on day one, but come February most of us have already jumped off the bandwagon.
A resolution can trigger a fleeting moment of motivation or the beginning of a transformation. Why do some fizzle out while others light a fire? The energy behind it and the process in place make all the difference. Keep this checklist in mind as you take on your goals for 2018.
Steps for identifying & pursuing healthy goals
Do you truly believe that you can accomplish the goal you have set? If not, we have bigger problems. There is often an emphasis on setting achievable goals — but their achievability is irrelevant if you do not believe you can get there. Believing acts as a precursor to achieving. Your resolutions might be tough, but deep down you need to truly know that you can attain them.
As Antoine reminds us above, planning turns wishes into goals. Resolutions are only as meaningful as the roadmap you implement. Getting to the finish line matters, but the person you become along the way matters more. Before committing to an endpoint, outline how your daily life will need to change. To fully embrace the goal, you will have to embrace your new lifestyle. If the goal excites you but the plan you have crafted is unrealistic, then design a new one or tweak your goal. Many writers want to complete a novel, but only those who successfully implement a strategy manage to do so. The rest are simply dreamers.
The power of our actions is a gift that’s easy to forget. Building an understanding of cause and effect greatly boosts our faith in our own potential. Mini objectives along the way remind you of your progress, making your ultimate goal less overwhelming. Trusting in the effects of hard work inspires us to push on. Reaching smaller objectives will reenergize you and keep you committed to your end goal.
Luck should not play a part in your ability to achieve. If your resolution depends on multiple unlikely factors that are entirely out of your control, then choose a new one. Your resolution is personal — a byproduct of your dedication. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by making sure you are in charge. If your current resolution is to run a marathon with your sister this year, rewrite it: my resolution is to run a marathon and support my sister along the way should she choose to train too. Your resolution is yours alone. Projecting it onto someone else could leave both of you discouraged.
My goal this year is to avoid getting any Ds in school. My goal this year is to be a straight-A student. See the difference in the structure of those assertions? The former constructs the objective around failure, while the latter uses success as the focal point. Try not to let fear be your motivator. Remind yourself of the positive trickle-down effects that achieving your goal will have on your life. Focusing on what will happen if you fail makes you more likely to do so.
Admitting our desires to ourselves and others can be scary. Acknowledging what we want draws a line in the sand. However, along with that touch of fear should be a layer of excitement. Resolve grows from knowing you are sacrificing your old ways for a worthy cause. Set goals that light a fire in your belly, not ones that just sound responsible or reasonable. That fire will fuel your journey even when the end is nowhere in sight. Be bold and choose authentic resolutions that speak to you!
If writing your resolution out on paper proves challenging consider that a red flag. Vagueness is dangerous because it provides us with loopholes and escapes: we can backtrack later, ease up on our wording or “forget” the requirements. You cannot argue with what is in ink. Refine your resolution down to a sentence. Repeat it to yourself to make sure it feels right. Feel free to set mini goals or other guidelines. Regardless, make sure that you memorize the one-sentence version of your resolution. Hang it on your mirror. This is what commitment looks like — articulating your goals and facing them head on.
Teaming up with an accountability partner feels like cheating but it’s not! Find a friend, mentor or coach who will keep you accountable. They will check in with you every so often to make sure you’re on track and maybe you’ll do the same for them. Pairing up can give you a safe place to vent your frustrations and work through challenges. Your resolutions belong to you, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.
Whatever your goals for 2018, recognize that they are only goals if you are working toward them via an implemented plan. Reference these tricks to keep you on track, but above all treat yourself with compassion as you positively work to change your ways. Happy new year and happy goal setting!