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Goal Setting Gone Wrong

full-of-possibilitesIt can be a little ominous to step into the new year. We’ve got 2013 behind us with all of its screw ups and proud moments. All of our mistakes have the opportunity to we wiped clean as we begin January. It’s a great feeling, this fresh start before us. But, at the same time, there is also a sense of pressure to do better, be better and achieve more than we did last year. This feeling can be a little overwhelming, especially if we feel like we keep repeating history of unsuccessful changes year to year. But there are are ways of making peace with this feeling and becoming more confident in taking action to make your goals happen. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Resolutions are Out

The most popular habit as we enter the new year is to draft up a list of resolutions or goals that we hope to achieve to become new and improved for the year. It becomes an annual ritual. The only part is it becomes less and less believable every year, as we attempt to master the same resolutions over and over again. We may decide that we don’t like the word “resolution” we we decide to use the word “goal” instead. But the idea is the same. We come up with a list of often lofty, ambitious goals that we hope to achieve if we can muster up the willpower to “be good” 90% of the time.

Now I’m all for goal setting, but most people choose too many to focus on, without enough attention spent on the baby steps. The other problem, is that we’re not really connected to why these goals are important to us. Most people base their goals on what they should be doing or how they should be living. Should lose weight, should quit smoking, should cook more at home. When people hear the word “should” it creates resistance inside of us because these types of goals are generally accepted cultural expectations. Our happiness (or self worth) becomes postponed until we achieve these goals. So what happens if achieving our goals takes 6 months or more to complete? That’s a lot of willpower to sustain to “stay good” 90% of the time. We might feel marginally good when we get closer to the goal, but if we stray or slip up, we start to feel crappy about ourselves and our once bright outlook starts to fade. Thus, we can lose motivation to stick with it after just a few weeks. Worse yet, what if we “fail” at our goals? What kind of conclusions are we drawing about ourselves.

Vision Crafting is In

Enter the new resolution/goal paradigm. Life coaching experts recommend creating a vision (or story) of your ideal life as one of the most effective ways to get your mindset positively and enthusiastically aligned with change. What’s different about working on a vision first instead of multiple goals is that the vision captures the feelings and essence of what you’re trying to achieve. The truth is, none of us are after “having a flat belly” for the sake of looking good alone. The reason we want certain goals is that we think that attaining these goals will allow us to feel a certain way. Sometimes we are so focused on goal chasing that we forget why we want it in the first place. The great thing about designing your goals around a personal vision, is that you end up creating an entire destination alive with character, detail, and feeling. It can become so life-like that you begin to feel it inside of you, and that feeling is good. When we feel good, we want to do good, so it makes taking the action steps a little easier to follow through with.

A fun and hands-on way to create your vision is to create an actual, physical, glue and paper collage board. In some cases this can look like a collage of magazine cut outs, phrases, quotes, photos, or other mementos that you want to represent your best life. Or if you’re less inclined to making messes, this could be done on your computer. In the social media world of Pinterest you will find a gazillion examples of these boards with themes from health & fitness to home decor.

The other thing(s) you’re wrong about

Have you said “no pain, no gain” lately? What’s this phrase even mean? That we must suffer to get results? How ridiculous is that? And who would even want to commit to anything if we believe that the entire process produces pain, suffering or just plain misery? May I shed new light on the subject, please? The latest research in the field of positive psychology indicates that those who are happiest, experiencing the most positive emotions (more frequently than the negative ones) are the people who are the most successful and flourishing in life. When we surround ourselves with positivity, we are more likely to reach our goals. So consider this next time you set a goal. Choose something that lights you up during the act of reaching it. It could be a long road ahead of you, so might as well make it an enjoyable one.

What about your motivation? Are you counting on it to get you out the door to the gym? Here’s the weird thing about motivation. The word gets confused with the word “motivator” which is the deeper reason behind why we do what we do. Motivation is just the feeling energy or proclivity we have in the moment, at any given time. If we were able to consistently keep the big picture open on our journey we could see that “yes eating cookies after dinner doesn’t speed up weight loss.” My motivator to not eat the cookies is to look & feel good in my jeans. But that has nothing to do with motivation. My motivation (feeling energy) after dinner is to feel good & relax and cookies are a convenient and habitual way to do this. We tend to choose “what’s in it for me” in the moment- even if we have ambitious goals for the future. We tend to choose what will make us feel good. But the good news is that we can choose many ways or things that make us feel good. We can put these things into 2 categories “supports my vision & long term goals” or “takes me further from my vision & goals” to gain clarity. Then we can choose wisely.

Goal Setting Done Right

Here’s the summary for you to create an exciting and meaningful 2014.

  1. Define the long term vision (theme or story) of your ideal life to guide you in setting goals.
  2. Choose your goals wisely. Only select the ones that really jazz you up when you think about achieving them. Stay away from “shoulds.”
  3. Limit the goals you actively pursue. 3 or less. Quality over quantity.
  4. Figure out how pursuing these goals can feel good. More positivity = greater success.
  5. Get clear on when your motivation takes you closer to your vision or keeps you further from it.

So how about it? Feeling ready to take a new outlook on your 2014? Which goal are you ready to tackle? Leave a comment below.

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