Some Thoughts on Setting Goals, Having Resolutions, and Being Supportive of Your Growth
Friday, December 31, 2010
Over the course of my life, I've spent years setting new years resolutions I never followed through on--at least, not past February. In January I'd create great lists of things I'd wanted for myself and the step-by-step plans I intended to put in place in order to get there. These lists and plans were always, mind you, well intentioned and enthusiastic, and I was happy to share my plans with anyone who I loved and/or would listen. Come February or March, I'd face the subsequent embarrassment and humiliation as I shamefully avoided or dismissed questions about how I was progressing towards my goals--questions from any of the 9882738947298347 people I'd broadcast my goals to in the first week in January.
Since it's the season to be setting goals, making resolutions, and planning/projecting for the new year ahead, I've come across a lot of articles or editorials on the subject of setting intentions for the year ahead. One author suggested that if you have goals or resolutions in mind that you truly want to achieve, the best thing you can do is keep your lips zipped. That's right, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, this dude suggested that if you truly wanted to meet a goal, you stood a much better chance of meeting it by keeping it private and NOT sharing it with everyone you love or anyone who will listen. According to his study, the simple act of sharing a goal or intention gives us such rewards from those around us who, in the interest of supporting us, offer encouragement, congratulations, admiration, and/or a simple pat on the back, that we often lack the motivation to follow through and ACTUALLY work towards our goal. By simply sharing the goal, we've already gotten all the positive feedback we wanted and already got a good taste of what it's like to have said goal be a part of our identity. So what's the need to ACTUALLY follow through? His study tracked two different groups of people, one who kept their goals quiet and one who shared them, and overwhelmingly, the ones who shared made far less progress than their private counterparts. Pretty interesting.
One other thing I read about goal setting this week was an editorial piece written by a neat young woman who decided a few years back that she'd not set any goals for herself that weren't things she ACTUALLY wanted to do. After years of forcing herself to table her novels and read ONLY self-help literature and ancient yogic texts, this young woman decided to set a goal to read ONLY fiction for the year. And while she didn't stick to this perfectly, she read more and enjoyed more of what she read than she had for years prior. The moral of her writing: set goals that are a) clearly in line with who you are and your design for yourself and b) that you can pretty easily achieve with few tweaks--things you'd probably be doing anyway, whether you list them as goals or not.
At the end of 2009 I crafted a hefty list of around 30 goals for myself in 2010 (see prior blog for details). I also made them pretty public (well, I posted them HERE, for instance). I did NOT, however, share them with every person I knew and loved--although I did share some of them at various points along the way. I made progress on every goal I set for myself, achieved most of them, and even surpassed my intentions on a few. While I shared my goals here on sparkpeople, I didn't blab them to every person in my life, which afforded me space to mess up, space to consider, revamp, prioritize, etc. Finding that balance between sharing in a safe place and allowing myself some privacy was key for me. So was the fact that I chose plenty of moderate goals, goals within my grasp, yet goals that ALSO asked me to step outside of my comfort zone. They were goals that put me several steps closer to the kind of person I wanted to be, that moved me forward and allowed me to progress towards the design I have for my life, BUT did not demand that I become an entirely new person or that I arrive at the new me by such-and-such a date. While many of them were quite specific (in terms of numbers, distances, pounds lost, etc.), those specifics were loving and gentle and realistic, and they were tempered by goals that allowed for a bit of creativity and flexibility.
The bottom line for me is this: this past year I achieved more than I ever have in the past in terms of moving myself towards living my very best life possible. There was no punishment for not meeting a goal, no deadline by which these things needed to be finished, and my goals were set in a way that asked for PROGRESS and not PERFECTION. I fully intend to set new goals for myself in 2011--and share them here in a safe environment, and share selectively in my "real life." Having goals keeps me thinking, working, motivated, and excited. But my goals will be realistic, loving, and continue to demand only progress, not perfection, only effort, not completion. It's an on-going journey, the journey towards being the best me I can be! I'm excited about the promise of a next chapter. Having goals makes me even MORE excited. Having realistic goals, goals that are in line with the person I am aiming to become, and goals that, in the working towards them, bring me joy, peace, and self-respect makes me even MOOOORRRREEEE excited.
All my best to you, sparkfriends, for a healthy and happy new year ahead. Be good and loving to yourself as you set those goals and celebrate the successes of 2010!