Finally, it is finished. A new year is upon us.
And as Miss Stacey from Anne of Green Gables said, “Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes.”
But apparently, not everyone is quite ready to jump on board and set New Year Resolutions for the year ahead. 2020 asked an unexpected question: “Why bother setting goals at all?”
Common resolutions prior to last year:
Us: “Be more social.” (2020: “Nope.”)
Us: “Spend more time with my parents.” (2020: “Too dangerous”)
Us: “Travel more” (2020: “LOL”)
I can understand the reluctancy to plan for the year ahead! But those who have scrapped the process of making resolutions and goals for 2021 because of this past year, are forgetting something important:
There’s a difference between
making New Year’s resolutions and setting goals.
This week we explore the difference and look at what makes for successful goal setting. Because the setting is the starting point, but getting to the finish-line takes commitment and a plan!
Here’s the bottom line: goals that you set once a year DON’T HAPPEN. Simply listing a bunch of vague wishes for the future without a plan to get there is a surefire way to fail at reaching them.
A story conducted by the American Society of Training and Development showed that people were only 25% likely to reach their goal if they “consciously decided to do so”. (This implies that they did a little more thinking/planning than simply listing or wishing as we do at the start of a new year.) That percentage doubled when those in the study created a plan, increased to 65% when they committed to OTHERS to follow that plan…and 85% of those studied achieved their goal when they met with a coach weekly to work toward their goal!
“Setting” yourself up for success involves three steps:
If we want to seriously consider how to set ourselves up for success, we need to start with a step that many miss. I don’t know about you, but when I decide to put my “all” into achieving a goal, I want to start off by making sure it’s the right one! You’ve likely heard the old adage about the man who spent his whole life climbing the ladder, only to reach the top and learn it was leaning against the wrong wall. This step also includes getting clear on why I want to pursue this goal…so I can make sure it aligns with my values and what I want most out of this life (and the next).
Two of my favorite verses to meditate on when “going after it” are Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” and Mark 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Before I set any goals, I vet them first! This means getting quiet and taking them to my CEO for approval and direction before setting them in ink. I don’t ever want to go after something that’s goes against God’s overall purpose/plan for me, and I want to be sure He’ll be in the center of whatever I pursue.
Setting a goal takes intentionality and commitment if we’re to see it through, but that doesn’t necessarily mean investing a huge amount of time, effort or attention to detail. After all, when you set the goal of finding a new pair of jeans, you likely have two steps: decide to get them and get it done! Generally speaking, the larger the goal, the larger the planning investment up front.
I recommend starting with the end in mind. What will it look like when you’ve reached your goal? What “evidence” will you have that it’s complete? Write the answers out clearly. Include the date it will be achieved by and a measurable description of success. Next, I work backwards by listing every single action that I’ll need to take in order to get there. Here’s something you may not have considered that can make or break the success of a goal: What feelings will you need in order to take those actions, and what thoughts will you need to believe and focus on, to generate those feelings? We often put our full attention to the actions, but this can lead short term success of our goals, or quitting before we see them come to fruition.
As much as I enjoy that process of setting (so much in fact, that I often have to limit myself with a timer to get it done and move on!) the process of getting is also a step that we overlook. You might wonder how it’s possible to “overlook” this part…. Let me explain.
So often, when we set goals, we think that the “finished product” will bring us joy. We put all our focus there, and imagine that life will be “better” when we’ve hit our goal. Surely we’ll be “happier” when we get “there.” But this is a lie. The truth is that results (like circumstances) don’t create feelings. It’s our thoughts that create emotions.
Neuroscience now shows that when we accomplish each of the small steps along the path to the end goal, we have thoughts like “It’s working!” and “I can do this!” which give us Dopamine hits (the pleasure/reward neurotransmitter), further motivating us toward the goal. We can tap into this science and use it to further increase the odds of achieving our goals by pausing to appreciate and enjoy the process and every little win along the way.
Contentment is loving what is
equally to what can be.
Miss Stacey’s not wrong…but tomorrow will have new problems to solve and goals to set…because that’s just the kind of universe we live in. Then again, a large part of what makes life so interesting is that change is constant and there’s always a new day ahead with new possibilities. Which also means new goals to vet, set, and get!
Need some help going after it?
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