Do you wonder as you are making your New Year resolution: “Do my goals have to be realistic, or can I just write whatever I want?”
Go ahead, write “whatever you want” in your New Year resolution and don’t worry about being realistic. Did I just hear you gasp? Good. Now relax, breathe normally, and I will share with you how you can write what you write in order to give yourself the best chances of achieving your goal, realistic or not.
1. Phrase your goal in the present tense, and make it positive. For example, “I am healthy”. “I am in a loving relationship”. Not “I don’t want to be sick anymore”, and not “I want to stop meeting guys who are wrong for me”.
2. Phrase each goal using the acronym SMART:
Specific (“I want to fly to Europe this May”, not “I want to travel more”)
Measurable (“I want to fit into size 6 jeans by April”, not “I want to lose weight”)
Attainable (“I want to perform in front of an audience before the end of the year”, not “I want to be the lead singer for Met Opera starting next week”)
Relevant (something that you truly care about, something meaningful to you)
Timed (“Move to the new house by August of this year”, not “Move”)
3. Make your goal inspiring. For example, losing weight may not necessarily sound inspiring, even if it is something you want. It can be hard to lose weight, and maybe you like eating, and probably you don’t have time to go to the gym, and it is too cold outside to start jogging in January, isn’t it? What may sound more inspiring than setting a goal of losing weight is setting a goal of running a relay race with your son at his school’s family sporting event without having to stop and catch your breath. Set your eyes on that relay race, and all of a sudden, cookies look less appealing, and shoveling snow makes you feel like you are a superhero on a mission.
4. Set a goal that is uncomplicated in terms of phrasing. For example, “Move to California and get a great job” may create too much of a push-and-pull if you don’t really want to leave friends and family behind. You may be subconsciously sabotaging an opportunity of getting a great job in California just so that you won’t have to move far from your friends and family.
5. Integrate the goal into your life, involving all of your senses. For example, if you want to start your own business this year, integrate this goal into all parts of her life: create a vision board or a Pinterest collection related to your business, and always keep it in sight (post it on the fridge, or in the office, or as a computer screen background); read something every day in relation to your business; spend time with other entrepreneurs, and meet more people who work in your field. Weave this goal into your life, so that you don’t get startled or taken aback, and don’t start sabotaging yourself when your goal starts materializing.
6. Embody. Embodiment is a technique that can be best described by “feel now the way you will feel then”. Close your eyes, and envision that your goal has already been achieved. What do you feel? How do you sit in your chair differently? How do you hold your head? How do you feel about yourself? Where are you? How is your environment different from what it was before your goal was achieved? Feel that feeling, embody it, and practice it often, even if for a few minutes a day. The sense of fulfillment that you experience after having achieved your goal is not something that is waiting for you at the end of your goal; it is something that you bring with you. If you don’t feel comfortable now, you won’t feel comfortable then. Notice what needs to change so that you feel more comfortable. Own it now, so that you will have it “then”.
And here is a quick test for whether your New Year resolution is going to stick: if you are willing to take on your goal starting now, today, without waiting for the New Year, then it sounds like you are ready to embrace this goal as a part of your new life. If you are not ready now, then whatever is giving a push-back in your heart to this goal now will give the same push-back on January 1st.
Let me end with a confession: I don’t make New Year resolutions. I believe that setting goals and shaping your life is an ongoing process rather than a once-a-year occasion. So, do you have to be realistic as you set your life goals? Well, who knows for sure what is realistic? Life can surpass all of our expectations. What you need to consider is how you want to feel and whether your goal is inspiring, because if you nail that, your life will be shaped to become more fulfilling, whether or not your original goal is realistic.
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