This time of year, goal setting, intentionality, self-improvement (especially around weight and health) are literally everywhere. It can be energizing and exciting to start a year fresh but at the same time, it can be overwhelming and discouraging. Many of us, me included, have started out the year with carefully crafted SMART goals only to have enthusiasm wane and life events take over such that the goal(s) never happen. Sound familiar?
Want to know the secret to having life changes stick? Wish this year you could really make a difference with goal setting?
Before you even sit down to craft your goal, take time to consider what 1 thing would make the biggest difference in your happiness and life. You heard me: 1 and only 1 thing. Scrrrreecch…what the? You may be asking ‘Just 1 thing?” and thinking ‘I’ve got 10 things!’ To which I’ll rebut:
Over the years of making resolutions and setting goals, how many of those years have you been successful at achieving them? I’m talking about really creating positive growth, change and habits…How many years has this happened for you? Often? Any?
Ouch. Yeah, thought so…that was the realization I came to last year. Professionally, I’d been helping corporations and people make strategic plans and actionable goals for years. So, I’ve got some serious skills around it yet when I looked at my own success rate in annual goals, it was so-so.
Since so-so isn’t good enough, I took a step back from my usual process of looking at my key life areas: health, marriage, work, hobbies/leisure and family/relationships and setting a key SMART goal in each area. I was doing exactly what experts recommended yet I would only hit the mark on around 1/3 to 2/3’s of my annual goals. So last year, after doing quite a lot of work on goals, I adjusted my approach and something about that shift made a huge difference: I achieved my goal and the results were better than I’d hoped! I also made significant progress or flat out nailed nearly every supporting step or sub-goal. How you’re asking?
What’s the secret sauce so I can do this?!? What was the difference last year? I simplified things! This is what I did and what I’d suggest you try:
- Choose a Song of the Year (or Word/Theme). Many people are doing this or a variation of this like Word of the Year or Theme of the Year. Why does this help? Themes are easy to remember and in a moment you can check to see if you are aligned with your goal. It’s a constant reminder to do things to help get you to your goal and say no to things that don’t. I thought it was a bit goofy frankly but gave it a shot and it really did become and ingrained mantra that energized me. The song was awesome too and I loved starting each day by listening to it. After my coffee but before I opened a single electronic device, I’d put on my headphones, close my eyes and feel the energy filling my brain. For me, it was a powerful, focusing meditation of sorts.
- Narrow Down to the Single Most Important Goal – not one in each area of your life, not the top 4 or 5. Just. 1! Keep in mind that 99% of the time that single goal’s action steps will encompass other goal areas. If your single goal doesn’t, it’s likely that the goal isn’t big enough to make significant impact on your life. For instance, in order for me to keep energy up in order to launch No Qualms Mom I needed to improve my health and stamina so a sub-goal of NQM was getting stronger and eating such that I had better energy. And in order to keep up a marathon mentality, I needed to take breaks and totally check out of work which forced me to intentionally shift full energy to my family and friends.
- Take Time to Explore and Plan. Don’t rush the process. While January 1 is an easy starting point, it’s not required to hit the ground running the moment the clock strikes midnight. Maybe start thinking and crafting on January 1st? Explore options and consider your life pace along with assessing what’s feasible. Maybe in Week 1 you decide on your Word of the Year and create a Vision Board and make one small change that aligns with it. During Week 2 spend time breaking down what the SMART goal parameters are (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time Bound) are and the following week lay out a timeline for meeting the goal plus do another second step. Then in Week 3 get full momentum behind your plan and begin on a bigger shift or task, and each in successive week continue working on your action plan. I know it’s tempting to run out and join the Yoga Studio that’s offering the special, low annual price offer until January 7, but trust me when I tell you that putting the fix before analyzing the problem will likely waste your money and time.
- Be Steadfast in your Resolve yet Give Yourself Grace. In fact, include grace time in your plan. My Song of the Year was “Whatever it Takes” by Imagine Dragons and my primary goal was to launch No Qualms Mom. I’d been working on it since October 2017 so I decided that a launch of Spring 2018 was more than reasonable. Pretty quickly on, my business model shifted significantly in a very positive way, yet it was obvious Spring wasn’t going to happen so then I set my sights on late Summer. Then, in August, my father died…I came up for air just before Halloween and it took weeks to realign my launch plan, adjust my social media feed to support it and execute. Was a December launch the best timing? Hell no! Yet I didn’t beat myself up because there was literally nothing I could do about it and stressing only muddled up the progress. So, I did something I grew up hearing my father say over and over: do the best you can with the tools you’ve got. Things happen so when you’re planning, build in padding and grace time.
- Shift from ‘Optimism & Faith Wins’ View to a Pragmatic Positivity Mindset. ‘Huh?’ you may be thinking…we’ve all heard it over and over again, positive thinking people are more successful and happier, they reach the goals more, they’re more creative. And while there are definitely merit points to the theory (I’ll list some reference articles at the end of this post in case you’re like me and geek out on it), recent research points out that there are some data holes in it. The short story is that yes, if you keep centered in positivity instead of getting mired in the problems that will invariably come your way, you can keep energy up which can increase productivity and therefore your ability to reach your goal. However, long term studies have found that those folks who are constantly positive and happy are not necessarily effective in reaching their goals. It’s more about tenacity and perseverance. There is growing research that says that realistic, contingency planning and problem-solving often are better if you take off your constant happy hat and get gritty and pragmatic. And—hold onto your hats—that stress can be good! A blend of the two are what really moves people toward positive change and meeting goals. Tomorrow’s post digs deeply into the notion of Pragmatic Positivity and how it’s the perfect blend of well managed stress/planning for problems with gratitude/optimism so check back for a full explanation.
- Celebrate the Victories—Big and Small! Remember that Marathon I mentioned above? Well it takes significant brain power and emotional control to finish it. Humans are wired to need positive feedback and down time so it’s crucial to stop and get the mental reinforcement you’ll need to finish the marathon at each mile marker. What did that look like for me? Celebrating finishing a course, marking the arrival of an intern with a special dinner welcoming her, taking a 3-day trip once our editorial calendar was complete, popping open a bottle of champagne when my Instagram following grew to 1,000 after months of work, having a dance party (including a disco ball) with my family the week we launched the website, sharing with my family a note I received from a reader about how much she loved our mission and the content on the website. For you, these might look like 30 days of getting enough sleep, making an important doctor’s appointment, or organizing your closet. No matter what your goal is, stop along the way and enjoy each point of success knowing that baby steps get you there.
- Strive for Good (Not Perfection) then Build to Great Over Time. No big explanation needed here—go for it as best as you can but know when good is enough. Was No Qualms Mom perfect or even close to what I considered to be my absolutely best? No. Yet it launched really, really well and it gets better each day. Growing is part of goals after all!
To really nail 2019 remember: Theme, Focus, Take Time, Resolve, Pragmatic Positivity, Celebrate. Try these steps to get better traction on the things that matter to you and therefore end up happier at the end of 2019.
All Photos by Nicole Vaughn
*This contains links which are purely information – listed only to help you; No Qualms Mom has no affiliate relationship with them.
For a little motivation, check out my Song of the Year 2018 – Whatever it Takes and stay tuned for my 2019 song (I’m taking my own advice and not rushing it!):
For a great reminder on SMART goals and goal setting in general: The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting by Michael Hyatt. Michael is one of my favorite life coaches btw!
Great Reference Articles: