Setting goals for the new year.
Okay, so I might be a little bit late with this post. I mean, it is, after all, January 26. And by this time most people have reached the “I might have been a little bit insane when I set this resolution” phase. According to one study from 20071, fully one-third of New Year’s resolutions are broken by January 30. And the remaining two-thirds don’t have long to wait. Less than 23% of resolutions see completion come December 31.
But I wanted to wait until you had reached that point to write this post. That way you might put a little more faith in my words.
Most New Year’s resolutions are articulated in the form of actions. The top 10 resolutions include
- get out of debt,
- lose weight,
- start exercising,
- eat healthy,
- get organized,
- learn something new,
- spend more time with family and friends,
- work less and play more,
- stop a bad habit (smoking, overeating, drinking),
- and change jobs.
The problem is each action requires completion. If it’s incomplete in any way, shape or form, then we believe we have failed. Again. And so we take a deep breath, let out a sigh, and say to ourselves, “This just wasn’t my year. Maybe next year.” And we give up. Again.
Because when our New Year’s resolutions are nothing more than actions, they become trite. Meaningless. They have no depth, and thus there is no motivation within us to reach for them.
The ultimate resolutions have to involve an in-depth change, an adjustment in our very makeup. Genuine resolutions are soul-stretching. They create a visceral reaction when we think about them.
They change you at your very core. They allow growth and development over multiple life areas. They become a part of your essence, your being.
New Year’s values?
I have always loved New Year’s because of setting resolutions. I am a very goal-oriented, organized and focused person. The chance to sit down and plan out what I want for the coming year and how I was going to get it was as good as a trip to Disneyland for me. My eyes would light up. I would go to the office supply store and prepare myself with a new planner, notebooks and the perfect pens. As soon as Christmas was over, I would start mapping out my plans for the new year. I read books and blogs. I had categories and subcategories. I set SMART goals and broke them down. Trust me, I know how to eat an elephant, and I had my meal plan all laid out, month by month, week by week, day by day.
A few years ago I realized something. No matter how many goals I set or how many things I accomplished, I was trying to become something different from the outside in. But the only true way to change is from the inside out.
I decided that instead of trying to change my behavior, I needed to change myself. And that couldn’t come by checking tasks off a to-do list or adding stickers to an exercise chart. This was an inside job.
Goals change behavior from the outside in. Values change people from the inside out.
Instead of looking outward at what I wanted to accomplish, I looked inward to what I wanted to become. How would I feel when I had realized my goal? And what attribute, quality or characteristic did I need to adopt in order to achieve this vision of myself? I narrowed my vision down to a single word, and then took that single word as my “New Year’s Word.”
My first time doing this was following a particularly rough year. I had gone through a difficult divorce, had faced some challenges with my children, and was more or less re-inventing myself. When I thought about what I wanted by the end of the year, I just wanted to be someone. So my word for the year was “Be.”
I wrote it everywhere, on my bathroom mirror, on sticky notes on my fridge and in my car, on my computer monitor, and next to my bed. Every place I went I thought about who, what, and how I wanted to be that day. It was life-changing.
Recently I have been focused on building my business. I often felt stretched in multiple directions, with my mind always in two or three places at once. So this year I chose the word “Presence.”
I want to remember to be present with my children when I am home. I want to be present for my clients when they are in my office. I have to be present with myself to stay tuned into where I am emotionally and what I need for self-care. My word helps remind of these things.
But my word is not your word.
You have a word inside of you and it’s just for you. I suspect you won’t have to search too hard for your word. It’s probably been nagging at you for some time. It’s the word you push back into the shadows because it scares you. It’s the word that puts you at the edge of what’s comfortable, a word that stretches you and makes you anxious.
Let your word come. What is it for you? Simplify? Clear? Heart? Acceptance? Trust? Vulnerable? Risk? Love? Challenge? Gratitude? Abundance? Engaged? Attentive? Honor?
When you have identified your word, it’s time to start living it. Take it in. Let it become a part of you. If you fail, then pick back up and start again. Because true change isn’t about perfection, or completion, or realization. It’s about acceptance and process and growth. It’s about authenticity and value.
And that is how you change your life.