There’s NOTHING magic about it. . . or IS there?
It doesn’t matter which expert you read or which self-help guide you consult, they all seem to agree that writing goals gets you some place. But this time of year when I ask people if they’re making goals for the year, they shrink back. So, if making goals is effective, why do so many avoid them? I’ve been doing some thinking about that and here are a couple of reflections:
- We think goals = trouble – Most of us were introduced to “goals” by someone who had a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda of wanting us to be more productive. Subtly, or not-so-subtly, teachers or parents or coaches wanted us to commit to doing something they had in mind, whether or not it was genuinely our desire. Are we afraid that if we DON’T accomplish what we said we wanted, someone will yell at us; maybe we’re afraid we’ll yell at ourselves! I remember asking a mentor of mine if she had goals for the year. Yes, she replied: earn more, work less, have fun, do good. Wow, I thought, are you allowed to want to earn more AND work less? Now that’s a goal I could really get onboard with!
- We don’t realize that goals are about what we WANT: what would make my life swell? what would enrich my life? who would I LIKE to be with more? Even when we begin to turn our thinking around, sometimes we have trouble considering, “IF everything were to go as well as it possibly could during the coming year, what would that look like, sound like, feel like?” As it turns out, goals are NOT about other people; they’re about reaching inside our self and finding what energizes us. What would thrill us? If we pursue that line of thinking, slowly we begin to feel the energy stirring, our enthusiasm building.
- It’s helpful to put goals into terms which allow us to be absolutely clear whether we did them or not. So, “improving my health” is too vague; “walking 2 miles three times a week” is so clear we can check how we’re doing right away. Again, terms of your goal don’t have to suit anyone but you!
- Think about all areas of your life. Sometimes work or business life can be going great but we feel disconnected, burned out. Or we feel out of touch with our sister or friend. Do we need to think about social goals or maybe spiritual ones? If I seek to be spiritually refreshed, what do I believe will make that happen? More naps? More meaningful reading? Time in meditation? What about time for creativity? What feels right for you? Maybe, like a pal of mine, you need to read more mysteries!
A dear friend and I have met for lunch in Januarys for decades to share our goals for the upcoming year(s). Last year when I called her she told me she isn’t doing goals anymore. WHAT! I demanded. But we’ve done goals for years! What do you mean you aren’t anymore? Nope, she said. I’m doing “theme” for the year.
When we met for lunch I asked her to explain. She decided that rather than specific goals, she wanted to work on her overall perspective. One year her theme was, “Good enough.” A lifelong perfectionist, to let some things slide was a huge accomplishment for her. Then last year her theme was, “If I were going to do this the EASY way, how would I do it?” She told of giving an (almost) effortless dinner party for 24: she gathered her favorite casserole and serving dishes; took them to a delicious restaurant; asked them to fill them with her order; deliver them to her home at a given time along with two servers to prepare and clean up. She reported the most successful and EASIEST dinner she’d ever hosted!
I encourage you to ask your kids, what do you want this year? Encourage them to think of their own curiosity, their own interests, their own well-being. If “What do YOU need right now?” seems like a confounding question to them (or to you), it just means they need more practice!
Once you’ve taken a quiet morning or gray afternoon to do some thinking and to write it down, no one else has to see it. In fact, researchers tell us, you don’t have to look at it again. Once you’ve thought and you’ve written, put it away and you’ll be stunned at how, 12 months later, next new years day, how many of your goals will have “accomplished themselves!”
I double-dog dare you to try it!