Resolutions are like the black sheep of the New Year, but beware, goal setting has also come under fire. It seems like more and more you hear people saying that they’re not going to set goals. Even though it’s popular to avoid such unsavory words as resolutions, goals, planning, and habits, don’t give up on your desires to improve and dream about what life holds for you!
Goal setting can be a powerful force for improving your life and helping you grow. Let’s list a few reasons why:
- It keeps you from becoming stagnant.
- It helps you have laser focus on your priorities.
- It’s good for your personal growth and development.
- It helps you learn about yourself and live an intentional life.
“Setting goals is a worthy endeavor. We know that our Heavenly Father has goals because He has told us that His work and glory is ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ You don’t need an invitation before you start moving in the direction of your righteous goals. You don’t need to wait for permission to become the person you were designed to be. Sometimes the thing that holds us back is fear.
We might be afraid that we won’t succeed, that we will succeed, that we might be embarrassed, that success might change us, or that it might change the people we love. And so we wait. Or give up. An old proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
So, let’s debunk some common myths when it comes to goal setting so that you can continue creating that purposeful and intentional life you desire.
Myth #1: Goal setting is difficult
Goal setting is basically deciding what you will spend your time doing in the near future. It does require that you think about your life and what you want out of it, but just because something requires time and thought doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. It simply requires honesty and focus. You have to be honest with yourself to process where you are and where you want to be. Don’t be discouraged by how far you have yet to go but rather be encouraged by the progress you’ve already made and the opportunities for growth that lie ahead of you.
An easy way to begin your goal-setting process is to ask yourself what your heart really wants–in your relationships (with yourself, God, and others)? in your finances? in your health–(mental and physical)? in your job?
What do you deeply desire in your life?
Don’t get sucked into worrying about how to reach the end result. Just take it one step at a time.
Next, look at your life priorities and break them down into manageable categories. I break my goals down into 5 categories which are the main areas of life most important to me and include spiritual, family, personal, financial, and home. Your categories may be different from mine and will vary depending upon your priorities, but thinking about 5 important things for the year instead of 30 can take away the overwhelm of goal setting and increase your ability to accomplish them as well.
If you try to set too many goals in each area you may face idea overload and lose your focus. For example, if you just had a baby, maybe your goal is literally to make dinner every day or change into something other than a t-shirt each morning (…at least those were my personal goals whenever I’d have a baby–it’s true). I do have subcategories for some of my areas like the personal category includes physical, mental, social, and fun, so I usually have 4 goals total under personal but only 1 for each subcategory.
If you’re starting out making goals, just pick one subcategory you want to focus on and make your goal.
Myth #2: Goal setting doesn’t work
I loved this reminder and warning about our goals from Jon Acuff when I read his book, “Finish.”
“What was astonishing to me is something that should be more apparent to all of us: the exercises that caused people to increase their progress dramatically were those that took the pressure off, those that did away with the crippling perfectionism that caused people to quit their goals. Whether they were trying to lose a pants size, write more content on a blog, or get a raise, the results were the same. The less that people aimed for perfect, the more productive they became. It turns out that trying harder isn’t the answer. Grinding more isn’t the solution. If you want to finish, you’ve got to do all that you can to get rid of your perfectionism right out of the gate.”
Along with recognizing and combating perfectionism, here are a few other ways to make your goals stick.
Evaluate your mindset: You may be stuck in a limiting mindset where you tell yourself that you lack the time, money, or energy to live the life you want. You may be caught up in the shoulds of life instead of taking responsibility for your own dreams and desires. Maybe you believe your circumstances can’t change or you’ve become a little too comfortable where you’re at.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspect of what you’re trying to accomplish (I have to get rid of my clothes so I can be more organized), reframe your thinking to look at the benefit you’ll receive from it (I can’t wait to save time in the morning getting dressed because my closet has less clutter).
Let me say it again–
Focus on the benefit of accomplishing the goal, not on what you have to change or give up. Focus on the growth and progress you’ve had and don’t get side tracked by your seeming failure.
Uchtdorf continued, “Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail—at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short. Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure. When we approach our goals this way, failure doesn’t have to limit us. Remember, even if we fail to reach our ultimate desired destination right away, we will have made progress along the road that will lead to it.”
Get specific and write down your goals for greater clarity: Another suggestion from Mystie Winkler of Simply Convivial is to write out your goal and its outcome using an “I will…so that” phrase, which helps you remember why you wanted to accomplish that goal in the first place. So in the above example, you would physically write out: “I will get rid of 20 items of clothing that no longer fit me or work for my life so that I can see what I have, get dressed quicker, and feel less stress in the morning.”
Use habits to your advantage: After you set a goal, think about the small habits you can use to help your brain work on autopilot toward your objectives. At the end of last year when I was reviewing my routines and block schedule (in order to have time to accomplish one of my goals), I realized that I only had 15-20 minutes of time each morning to do my makeup, hair, and get dressed–which I can do if I don’t have to shower and dry my hair. Because I was spending extra time getting ready, it cut into my time to work on other things. If I wanted my mornings to go smoother and get work done before attending to the kids, I needed to shower the night before. So I changed a few things around in order to do this. Honestly, I’m still working on this one, but the days I’m able to shower at night, my mornings are sooo much better, and it helps my progress by allowing the time I need to accomplish my goals.
Understand which area needs your attention–planning or doing: There are two processes that have to be looked at you’re trying to make and achieve your goals–planning and doing. If you think about it, you probably naturally gravitate to one or the other of these. If you said both, I congratulate you. Obviously we have to learn how to do each of these effectively. Planning and doing are both critical to reaching your goals.
Maybe you’re a natural planner and you love to create and check lists, organize, and like to think about what needs to be done. You may spend your time lost in research. If you’re a planner, you may be tempted to think that your goals aren’t met because you didn’t plan well enough. You may tell yourself that you need another spreadsheet or list or tracking system to be more effective in reaching your goals, but the question you really need to ask yourself is “Have I put in the work and consistent effort to fully execute the plan (even if you do so imperfectly)?”
Or maybe you’re a doer. If something sounds good, you get up and do it. You jump in with both feet because you’re excited to accomplish your objectives. You get stuff done. Period. And you don’t take a long time to think about it. You may discount the importance of planning because who has time for that? You want to get to the good stuff. It’s okay to gravitate toward action, but remember that planning can take you even further if you know how to do it effectively and quickly so you can get to work.
There’s a time to plan, but there’s also a time to execute the plan. Don’t try to change your action steps at 1 p.m. when you’re supposed to be knee deep in the doing phase of making dinner. Wait to reevaluate your plan until you’re back in the planning phase. Also give yourself a good long chunk of time before you change up your plan and start doing things differently. That’s the only way to get the kind of feedback you need to improve your plan or reach your goals.
Myth #3: Goals are pointless and end up being the same each year.
One of the most common reasons you may have heard as an excuse for getting rid of goals is that it’s not worth your time. Many people assume that, much like resolutions, your goals will be forgotten eventually, and hence, it’s pointless to even make them in the first place. It can be disheartening to see the same goals pop up on your list each year, and you may also feel bad because you were overly enthusiastic with your plans or tried to do too much, but it’s far from pointless.
There may be a few reasons you’re moving your goals over each year. As you examine your unfinished goals, ask yourself why you didn’t accomplish that goal? Did your priorities change? Did you bite off more than you could chew? Was it a project that required more steps than you anticipated? Did it require resources you didn’t have?
The way to overcome this is to use a system which will help you regularly review your progress and keep it manageable. The beautiful thing is that there is no one way to do that. Some people journal their progress, some write notes on their bathroom mirror. It doesn’t really matter what you do so long as it keeps your goals on your brain.
If the original goal you had is not something desirable to you anymore, that’s okay. Let it go. If it is, think about what you need to do to make progress on it. Maybe you need more time to complete it or additional skills and training or maybe you just need to recommit and remind yourself why it’s important to you.
Whew–take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for reading this far and debunking those myths surrounding goal setting.
By now you know how to make goal setting simple, effective, and easy to remember. You did that through deciding what you want out of life, being honest with yourself, constantly working on your mindset (thinking about the benefits of your goals), using the help of habits, writing your goals down, and thinking about whether you need to focus more on your plan or your implementation.
You can have a successful year meeting your goals–no matter if it’s at the new year or any time throughout. Make this year amazing my friend!
I would love to know in the comments below what helps you set goals and stick to them each year.