New Year New You? Embracing Effective Goal Setting for the New Year
It’s that time of year when we tend to become reflective on all that’s transpired over the past 12 months. For some of us, we may be overjoyed at the progress we’ve made this year toward our goals. Others of us may feel lackluster or even depressed when thinking about the steps taken. I’ll admit, this year has been a difficult one for me as I know it has been for many. In fact, plenty of folks I’ve spoken with share the same sense that there has yet to be any true recovery from the horrors of 2020. Though we live in a ‘new normal’ it still doesn’t feel very normal. How then can we set honest and thoughtful resolutions for the year ahead that will leave us feeling good about ourselves next December?
When I talk with clients about goal setting I often hear similar complaints and concerns: “I start off strong and then it all falls away” or “it just feels overwhelming”. These issues are rarely a product of a person’s abilities and skills. Rather, more often than not the way we go about setting and working on our goals is inherently flawed. It is important to be intentional about what kinds of goals I set and how I go about achieving them in order to be effective in meeting them. Below is an approach I encourage for practical and mindful goal-setting.
1. Pick one clear and measurable goal.
I talk to plenty of clients whose vision for the future is often entangled with a myriad of goals which leads them to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed to make changes. For example, a client with goals to move to another state, start a new career, overcome fears of traveling, and develop new relationships, will likely find themselves stuck with where to start or how to move forward. For this reason, I encourage focusing on just one big goal at a time. Once I meet this big goal it is easy to move on to the next, this will actually save me time on meeting all of the goals because rather than becoming overwhelmed and stuck I can make progress over time. If that goal is moving out of state I would encourage making the goal measurable in some way. Perhaps this client would set the goal as: I will move out of state by January 2024. This goal is clear and measurable – the client will know they met it if by January 2024 they live in a different place.
2. Break it down.
So you’ve picked your starting goal. Now we have to break it down into digestible pieces that feel realistic to make progress on. Moving out of state in a year is too big to just accomplish in one step – breaking it down makes it easier to start working on. For this goal, it might make sense to start by researching other places to live and making a spreadsheet. The client might start by listing each state they’re interested in and then doing research. Breaking it down might look like this:
1. List the states I’m interested in – 1 hour x 1 time
2. Research 1 state per day based on: - 1 hour/ day x 10 days (or however many states)
a. Cost of living
c. Relative ease of travel elsewhere
d. Closeness to friends & family
e. Job availability
3. Pick a state to move to based on information gathered – 1 hour x 1 time
4. Visit the state/ area to move and look into housing options – 1 weekend
5. Secure housing – Time varies depending on housing option
6. Apply for jobs near the new place – 3 jobs/ day x 7 days
7. Secure moving support – 1 hour/ day x 7 days
3. Be intentional about following the plan.
Once the goal is broken down it’s a lot easier to start taking steps. As seen above I recommend time blocking how much time is expected for each step in the goal so as to avoid burnout. It’s ok if certain steps take a bit longer than expected, life is in fact what happens when we’re busy making other plans, but making sure that I’m not overwhelming myself is an important part of this process. Our goals are important to us so it’s easy to get tunnel vision and want to solely focus on them, but this can lead to the “why even bother” feelings of frustration that cause many of us to give up. Having a plan and sticking to it allows us to feel accomplished every step of the way and maintain the motivation necessary to make big changes.
4. Reward your progress.
It’s easy to get caught up in the work and forget to give ourselves a pat on the back for the progress we’re making. Obviously, when that client is living somewhere new they will feel a great sense of accomplishment and relief, but it’s important to reward all of the little steps to get there as well to maintain motivation. This could look like taking oneself to a nice dinner for every step completed, or perhaps allowing others to celebrate the small victories through sharing on social media. However one chooses to do it, the feeling of being one step closer to a big goal is an important part of effective goal-setting and helps us to stay the course when things don’t go according to plan.
I personally avoid setting lofty new year’s resolutions as I find my goals tend to shift from midnight on January 1 throughout the rest of the month and year. That being said, I do believe that mindful and intentional goal-setting is an important part of happy and whole living. Being clear about what I aim for and how I intend to get it makes the more monotonous parts of life more rewarding. This new year I am wishing fulfillment, learning, and growth for all of you on your journey. As always I am here to provide a helping hand wherever needed.