Make This a Year of Improvement and Growth
It’s that time of year again: time for New Year’s resolutions, dreaming, and seizing the day. My wife and I discussed our own goals for this year the other night and what we would like to accomplish individually and as a family. I have made my share of resolutions that have gone unfulfilled in years past, but something feels different about this year. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll be writing a blog about adjusting expectations, but I hope I’m right about this year being unique. I don’t believe that I have a misguided hope, but instead I have made a few key changes that you can also apply to your goals and resolutions. Here are my 7 tips for goals that stick.
1. Make your goals concrete…
In the past I’ve had vague goals like be healthy, pray more or lose weight. You may say that a few of those seem to be pretty concrete, after all I can spend more time in prayer or drop pounds and see my progress. But you will not reach your goals if they are a mirage of unclear desires. You may wander towards them for a few weeks but without a mental image of where you are going, how can you ever hope to arrive? Some of my clear cut goals for the year are exercising 3-4x a week, learning 5-10 songs on the guitar, developing 2 classes on therapy/parenting, praying a half hour a day, and taking part in a read the Bible in a year program. At the end of the year I either match these numbers or I don’t, there is no “Well I kind of did that…I guess.”
2. … but also flexible.
Notice how I also leave myself flexibility in these goals. I don’t say which songs I will learn on the guitar, I might bite off more than I can chew and need to learn easier songs. Another example is I don’t say how I will exercise. Some days I might make it to the gym or run but other days it might be a walk, bike ride, or like yesterday playing in the yard with the kids. When setting your goals give yourself a clear vision but don’t set everything in stone. Allow for some flexibility because life happens. If I tell myself that I am going to work out every Tuesday and on some random Tuesday in January my kids get sick and I don’t have the time, it is easy to give up. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Make a plan, just in case.
Have a plan for if/when your resolutions are derailed. Not necessarily what are you going to switch it to, but what will you do to get back on track. Too often we engage in all or nothing thinking, and when we fall short of perfection, we give up. Remember: progress, not perfection. Goals are not meant to perfect us but to improve upon what we are already doing.
4. Make your OWN goals – not someone else’s.
It’s important to know ourselves and be realistic. Developing classes and reading the Bible in a year might not be something you feel would fit your schedule, and that is fine. To me it is because I enjoy researching and teaching, and I like sticking to a schedule. I was realistic in saying I would develop two classes because for me, 6 months to develop a class seems like enough time.
5. Assess your progress.
I’m not going to wait until June to check my progress. I am going to sit down after 90 days with all my goals, and see what I am doing well and what I need to adjust at that time if anything. After that, my plan is to continue these quarterly check-ins.
6. Find some accountability.
I know that I will not be able to stick to these goals on my own. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, my wife is going to help keep me accountable as well as some of my close friends and family. When I sit down on the couch, and gaze at the TV, my 9 year old will undoubtedly ask me about giving up watching TV. Write your goals down; speak them out loud. The more you speak your goals and share them with others the more likely you are to stick with them. For the important goals that are life-changing, create a support network and share them with as many people as you can. When you achieve your goal, celebrate with these people who have been your confidant, cheerleader and support.
7. Set goals with purpose.
Something else to consider. How do these changes make my life better and allow me to better serve others? Are these goals for building up community or filling me up in order to give myself for others, or are they set out of vanity? For me, guitar playing is for our family to have more music, exercise is for better health physically and mentally, the classes are for contribution to the community, and scripture is for all areas of my life and being able to find myself in God’s story, which always leads to love and community. What goals with purpose can you set for this year?
Go forth, set clear goals, tell others about them, and give yourself flexibility and patience in achieving them. Then, this will be a year of improvement and growth.