Each new year promises us a fresh start, a time to reflect on our lives, and an opportunity to discover and set (or reset) our priorities.
Whether we call them resolutions, goals, or a vision for the year, we want to ensure that we build success and momentum as we move forward with our commitments.
Here are some ways to make your goals enjoyable and boost your likelihood of success.
When it’s time to make those goals, invite your inner critic to take a break. Some New Year’s resolutions sound like thinly concealed self-flagellation. Listen to how you sound when you speak your goal.
Are you secretly saying, “I hate you, body, and I’m going to make you lose 50 pounds over the next year or else”? I guarantee that your body, which may be wiser than you are, will hear the hidden loathing in your goals, and reject your plans by February.
Why not start by giving yourself high marks for your commitment and create a platform of possibility for your endeavors? Take a page from The Art of Possibility by Rosamunde Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.
The authors describe how Benjamin, at the beginning of each term, announces to the students in his classes that they are going to be awarded an A for the course.
The only requirement? To write a letter at the close of the term that starts with Dear Mr. Zander, I earned my A because… then follows with a description of what he or she did to merit the grade.
Start your year by giving yourself an A for goal achievement, know that you’re fine the way you are, and then earn your grade.
Most of us gravitate towards the things we like to do and often do them first. So, use fun to your advantage. There’s a way to make every goal more attractive, delicious, or rewarding.
If you decide to give up carbs, spend a little extra time creating meals that are so delicious that you can’t resist your new way of eating. I dislike the local gym, but I discovered that I love Zumba. Now I dance my heart out and sweat has become my friend.
Even if a task doesn’t sound fun (like organizing the office), use a little creativity to make it so. Add rituals and pleasurable practices to transform a dreadful task into something pleasurable.
Before I start tidying my space, I put on my favorite music and add a hint of lavender to the air. I promise myself that after I file, I’ll reward myself by putting up new art and beautifying the space.
By adding fun, beauty, and pleasure to the process, I’m much more effective than when I try to muscle through something I don’t like.
If I were prepping to win the Tour de France, then maybe I’d find the mantra “no-pain, no-gain” motivating, and I’d be willing to stick precisely to plan.
But I’m a 60-plus-old adult with a life, and I’ve learned that I need to balance determination and flexibility, discipline and flow. Sometimes goals need to bend.
For example, I have a BFF who lives to paint and sets weekly targets for time in her art studio. But then her phone rings and she learns from her mother’s assisted living center that her Mom has another urinary tract infection or has taken a fall. At that moment, plans for painting are over.
My friend has learned that there are days when her goals have to be put on pause. Fortunately, she’s made of sturdy bamboo and, once the emergencies are over, she’ll right herself and keep going. There’s always another day.
Sure, it’d be great to lose 20 pounds in two weeks, but unless you’re under supervision, why not make goals that are more modest and doable? Wouldn’t you rather lose two pounds a week and feel like a winner, rather than try to lose 20 pounds quickly and miss your target?
We sabotage ourselves by setting too many unrealistic goals. Three priority goals are all I can handle.
More and more, I’m learning the benefit of keeping goals small. Momentum is key, and when we succeed at small steps, we gain the power to keep going.
Goals never happen in a vacuum. Our physical and social environments can support or sabotage what we want to achieve. Make sure your home, office, or physical environment reinforces your goals.
A former client wanted (and needed) to lose weight. Yet, she felt compelled to fix all the meals for her two teenage sons, athletes who required a high-calorie, high-carb diet. She stocked her cabinets with food that was great for their diet, terrible for hers. Guess who never lost weight?
Add positive triggers that reinforce your good habits. Want to start running again in the morning? Put your running shoes next to your bed where you’ll practically trip over them when you get up. Set up your environment with meaningful triggers to help you remember your goals.
I don’t recommend sharing your goals on social media with people who aren’t vested in your success. Better to share with one person who matters. I share my goals and vision with the BFF I mention above. We talk weekly and reinforce each other’s desire to meet our intentions.
I can’t tell you how useful it is to have one person who can applaud a small step forward or help me problem-solve when things have broken down. She also brings compassion and realism when she knows I’m pushing myself too hard.
Why make big goals only to be miserly offering yourself credit for what you do? Better to make small goals and enjoy celebrating your accomplishments. Remember, you’ve already earned that A.
My niece used to be intensely self-critical as a teenager. I’d take her to her weekly horseback riding lesson, watch her progress nicely, and then, on the way home, be subjected to her running commentary about all the ways she’d screwed up.
She believed that if she gave herself credit for less than a perfect job, it would diminish her motivation. She used the logic of a hormonally-stressed 16-year-old brain. Aren’t you glad that we’re older and have the experience to know that celebrating small, half-victories builds our stamina and motivation?
So now, have fun setting those goals. They’re for you to enjoy. Never give up and never beat yourself up. Heap lots of praise on yourself for everything you can do, and if you need a little extra applause, send me a line, and you’ll be able to hear me cheer.
How do you set your goals? Do you enjoy small victories or are you used to only thinking in big terms? Who is the person that cheers you on? Please share in the comments below and let’s start a discussion!