Every year, I go through a similar cycle of reflecting on the past year, setting goals for the new year, and strategizing to achieve the new goals. Every year, I see people doing something similar. The difference? I tend to achieve my goals while I watch others give up. I don't say that to boast. I recognize how difficult it is to set goals and achieve them. Whether it is because I'm faced with the daunting exercise of my will or because I am actually challenged beyond what is possible, setting and achieving "New Year's Resolutions" is difficult. Here are some of the things I've learned:
Don't wait until the New Year
It's so common for us to set a date and wait until that date comes to make a change. I have two issues with that, and both of them have to do with the narrative we tell ourselves.
When we wait until the date comes to make the change, we ascribe a certain meaning to this change. Instead of viewing it as a part of our new identity, we view it as so time-bound that it can only be successful within that timeframe. The change exists outside of us.
That simply doesn't work. At least not in the long-term.
The story you tell yourself matters (alluding to Brene Brown), and successful change initiatives require the adoption of a new identity. "New year, new you" is a nice catch phrase, but why do we have to wait until the "New Year"? If I identify something worth changing on January 1, it is worth changing tomorrow. That leads to the second issue.
- When we bind our goals to a timeline, we design a new excuse to avoid other changes. Again, if I identify something worth changing on January 1, it is worth changing tomorrow. So if it is Tuesday, January 23, what do I do? Have I so conditioned myself to only make changes on a Monday or on the 1st of the year that I end up writing it off? My narrative might tell me that I can’t make a change unless there are certain conditions.
This might sound odd because of SMART goals and Mager’s performance-based objectives. Typically, time is a valuable tool in setting goals. The issue is when time assumes the identity of a change effort instead of you taking on that identity.
Some goals are significantly interupted by the happenings of life. One of my 2018 goals is to hike the Presidential Range up in New Hampshire. Slight issue: my back has been bothering me quite a bit lately. What will I do if I'm unable to train for it? What will I do if I'm unable to even attempt it?
If I were to do an evaluation of my life goals with some weighted criterion, I'd say that long-term health would be the most heavily weighted. That means that my hiking goal, while it is super important to me, is not worth risking my long-term health. Underneath the prestige of hiking that portion of the Appalachian trail is the feeling of accomplishment after overcoming a tremendous physical challenge.
In reality, my goal isn't to just hike the Presidential Range; it is to embrace nature and the beauty of the world, it is to strive forward, it is to push my physical limits, and it is to feel accomplished.
The Presidential Range is just a means to another end. I'm prepared to pivot, if needed.
Embrace failure; press forward
This ties back to the narrative we tell ourselves. We have to guard our identity from being crushed by failure. If I do not accomplish my goals for 2018, I'm no less of a man than I am today. It will certainly be difficult to face failure; however, I can't let it define me. It is my response to failure that defines who I am.
How will I respond to the success and failure? How will it shape my decisions and goals in the future?
What do you think?
So what will you do this year? What goals do you have for yourself?
Enjoy the New Year! Regardless of what happens within it, make it the best one yet :)