Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Setting Goals and Bettering Ourselves

You gotta put in the work to achieve ANYTHING!

  Resolutions and the setting of new goals go hand in hand with the start of a new year. I, for one, have never been much of a New Year's Resolution setter.

  Matter of fact, I don't think I've ever consciously made a resolution at the beginning of a new year. Sure, I've set plenty of goals for myself over the years, but never a 'New Year's Resolution'.

  For whatever reason, this year I'm contemplating actually jotting a few down. (Or am I too late? Seeing as were already a few weeks into 2012!) It dawned on me, that I haven't consciously set out to achieve one particular thing in quite some time: haven't written it down, and really set my mind to it.

  And when you think about it, that's exactly how we make ourselves better. You consciously put your mind towards achieving a goal, and you formulate a plan on exactly how you're going to do it. We're all works in progress, and bettering myself and my quality of life, is something that has grown to be a priority for me.

  There's one thing, though, that I don't like about New Year's Resolutions: Why do we wait for a new year to try to better ourselves?

  Maybe we should make monthly goals. Those might be easier to stick to, and easier to evaluate. After all, isn't one of the more-amusing things about setting New Year's Resolutions is how quickly they are broken?

  Anyways, onto some resolutions.

Set Up for Success
  So if I'm going to make some resolutions, I want to set myself up to be successful -- to follow through with them. It takes some honesty and self-evaluation. What do you want to change about your life? What do you want to pursue?

  Remember, not every goal and resolution has to be a huge epiphany. They can be light-hearted and smaller-scale too. But it's the deeper ones that probably will be the most difficult to achieve, and in-turn, have the most payoff.

  The most important thing when setting goals, is to make them manageable. You have to have a clear vision of what exactly you are trying to achieve. The more-specific, the better.

  The days of saying, 'I want to be healthier' or 'I want a better job' are over. What EXACTLY does that mean? Being healthier and getting a better job have different meanings for everyone. What does it mean, and what does it look like to YOU?

A Goal Pyramid
  Probably the most-productive way to setting long term goals and resolutions is to make a goal pyramid.

Top Level
  At the top of that pyramid is your very specific, very detailed goal. Define your goal. Make it measurable. Give it a time limit. And make it realistic. (Nothing like biting off too much, and immediately making things seem impossible.)

  As we all know, achieving a goal is difficult. A lot of times, we have to do things that are unpleasant and uncomfortable in order to reach that goal. It's during those unpleasant times we can lose our motivation. If achieving our goals were easy, we'd all be perfect human-beings though, wouldn't we?

  Somehow, in order to provide ourselves with the motivation, we have to form an attachment to our goal. What will reaching my goal make me feel like? What does it feel like in my mind when I reach my goal? Why is it worth it?

  We can accomplish anything if we feel it is worth it, and we feel it is achievable. Our reasons are the source for our motivation.

  I think forming this emotional attachment is the most important aspect of reaching our goals. Isn't the inability to stay motivated the biggest excuse used when goals AREN'T achieved? Someone else's motivations or reasons won't help you reach YOUR goals. It's within you.

  So we ask ourselves: how will my life be better when this goal is attained?

  That's what will keep you going. Outside motivations might help in the interim, but it's what is within (your reasons; why you want your goal) that will keep you on track. 

Second and Third Level
  The second level of the pyramid is the road map to achieving your goal. What are the more-immediate steps, or goals, to achieving our ultimate goal at the top of the pyramid? What can you do today?

  Essentially, they are a series of smaller-scaled goals.

  You can break your pyramid down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Our daily goals will help us achieve our weekly goals, and our weekly goals will help us achieve our monthly goals, and so on.

  Shorter-term goals are easier to evaluate, and are easier to hold ourselves accountable to. The HUGE goal may seem overwhelming, and too difficult, but when broken down into a series of smaller goals, it's made to seem more-achievable. And that's what this is all about. We want to set ourselves up for success.
"One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time." – John Wanamaker

Tell it to the World
  Once our goals are set, and our pyramid is made, tell people about your goals! More than likely, it will help us stick to our guns -- be accountable. When you tell someone what you want to achieve, you'll probably be less-likely to throw in the towel. And if they're important to you, more often than not, they will offer support to you along the way.

  Finally, it becomes about action! It's about work ethic, and doing our work on a daily basis to reach our goals. It's common-knowledge that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. It doesn't happen overnight, so we can't expect immediate change. It's a long process. 

Breaking Through Negative Thoughts
  While action is at the forefront of goal achievement, our minds have a tendency to get in the way too, can't they? We must learn to deal with, and manage negative thoughts. Changing our mindset goes hand in hand with modifying our behavior. We have to train our brain. How can we respond to negative thoughts and behaviors with things that are positive and reaffirming?
  When negative thoughts creep into our minds, it's then we need to go back, and re-read our reasons. Remind ourselves of our motivations! Why are these difficult/uncomfortable times worth it? What did we want to feel like, again?

  Another way to turn a negative into a positive is to provide yourself with incentives. Reward yourself! When you reach a weekly or monthly goal, give yourself a pat on the back. (not just a mental pat on the back, but an actual reward for yourself!) Create reaffirming rewards for reaching your smaller-step-goals. Positive reinforcement helps in the journey.

  Resolutions and goals are very achievable, but it's a difficult journey, no doubt. The key is motivation! We have to believe in ourselves, and continually remind ourselves why our goals are important to us along the way.

  How many of you all set New Year's Resolutions? Or do you set goals for yourself on a regular basis?

  I'm going to give my New Year's Resolutions some serious thought, and I'll let you know what they are in the coming weeks!



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