It’s the beginning of a fresh new year, you’ve set some resolutions and you’re ready to tackle them! Maybe you’re planning to lose some weight or finally quit smoking or just put an end to procrastinating on those things you need to get done. And then… you know what it’s like, the first week of January comes and goes, you take a few stabs at those intentions, but before long you find yourself falling right back into how you’ve always done things in the past. You feel disappointed and frustrated with yourself. You’re still stuck with the consequences of excess weight or procrastination and worst of all it seems hopeless to change.
Maybe you’ve been through this experience so many times before that setting goals feels like a waste of time. After all, if you’ve failed in the past, why set yourself up for more of the same? And how do you even decide where to start anyway?
Setting goals can feel daunting. But if you don’t know what you’re aiming for in life you’re likely to settle for whatever falls in your lap. So it’s definitely worth pushing past some of the blocks that are keeping you stuck. Here are five tips that can help you to get yourself on the right track and stay there.
1- Start with your emotions
How do you want to FEEL in the coming year? Do you want to feel more CONFIDENT, more HEALTHY, more RELAXED? Do you want to feel free, appreciated, powerful, safe? What are the two or three emotions you most want to experience more of? Allow this to guide you in choosing where to focus your time and attention - if what you are spending energy on isn’t likely to bring you more of those feelings then you may be barking up the wrong tree.
2- Remember, it’s ok to change your mind
Remember when you were a kid in school and you got to try out all kinds of different activities in gym class or extra curricular teams and clubs? You probably tried a bunch of different things before settling on a couple of sports or hobbies that you really enjoyed doing and were successful at. It can be easy to get caught in paralysis by analysis if you are worried about setting the perfect goal or making the correct choice. Give yourself permission to set a goal, start working toward it, and if you realize along the way that you want to change course, do it! The learnings you get from experiences like that can be incredibly valuable. Sitting on the fence, analyzing, as life passes you by... not so much.
3- Have a plan, and leverage your imagination
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
We aren’t likely to get very far in achieving our goals without a plan. Definitely take the time to write down the actions that you need to take. And then comes the magic... use your IMAGINATION to picture yourself taking action on those plans. Imagine what you will SEE and HEAR and FEEL as you do. If your plan is to hit the gym regularly, imagine seeing yourself at the gym working out, see what you’re doing, what you’re wearing, your body looking leaner. Imagine hearing the sound of your breath or the sounds of your favourite workout playlist, feel your body in motion, your heart pumping, your muscles contracting and releasing, becoming stronger... Make it as vivid as you can, as if you’re doing it right now. This mental rehearsal acts as a POWERFUL primer for your nervous system to move forward.
4- Overwhelmed? Make it smaller.
If getting started feels overwhelming, that’s a clue to break your plan down into even smaller steps. Choose one small thing you can do toward your goal and just do that before moving on to the next thing. Losing twenty-five pounds can feel like an enormous undertaking. Working out for an hour today, probably feels more manageable. But you may need to make the steps even smaller. Standing up if you’re sitting on the couch. Putting on your running shoes. Start with fifteen minutes of exercise today, next time twenty minutes might feel doable. Taking one small step at a time will get you there. The alternative of remaining stuck in overwhelm beating yourself up for letting your goals slip away gets you nowhere.
5- Embrace the journey.
If you have ever bought a house, you know the feeling of excitement of dreaming of the perfect home for you, saving up for a down payment, going to open houses and imagining yourself living in them. You might imagine how amazing it will be to have more closet space or a yard with a swimming pool. Eventually you buy a house, but the kitchen is tight, you quickly fill up those closets and even though you enjoy the pool it takes a lot more work and money to operate than you anticipated. Along with the thrill of accomplishment, some level of disillusionment is to be expected when we get what we’ve been working toward. That’s why it’s worth it to make a point of enjoying the chase. Enjoy experiencing new things, dreaming of possibilities, learning from the failures and celebrating all the small successes along the way - after all, this is where life really happens! Choose to enjoy the journey and have fun with it.