A new decade is upon us and there seems to be something special in the air. A collective “fizz” that I can’t seem to put my finger on, but it’s there and everyone in my circle seems to be feeding off it.
It might have something to do with the fact that it’s the start of a whole new decade. Perhaps subconsciously, we’re all viewing this point as the beginning of a whole new era of personal growth? Honestly, for me personally, that’s what it is. How about you?
The new year always brings a sense of change; new year’s resolutions and all that. Let’s be honest though, when was the last time that ACTUALLY worked for you? If I asked you, “hey, what was your new year’s resolution last year and did you achieve it?” could you answer wholeheartedly with; “My new year’s resolution was ‘X’ and YES I DID IT!”. For some, I know they did and kudos to them! Most of us, on the other hand, cannot give said response.
Why not though? We set SMART goals, we had the intention, some of us may have even invested in achieving the goal, yet something happened between the setting of the goal and the turning of the new decade that saw last years resolutions fade away into the sea of disappointment that so many of us refer to as “my life”.
It doesn’t have to be like that though — YOU ARE NOW LIVING IN YOUR FUTURE. Everything that you have done in your life has led you to where you are now; your career, state of health, relationships, financial situation etc are the sum result of everything you’ve done in your past. Once you really understand this powerful thought, you will realise that you have the power to change and create the life you really want to live!
What I’m proposing here is a paradigm shift. It’s something that I’ve personally worked on for myself and have found really helpful for my mental and emotional states.
Let’s start with goals. When we set goals, there’s an overwhelming sense of excitement as we open our creative minds to our unlimited potential. Then as time goes by, the excitement fades as we realise that “life” somehow managed to get in the way of the goals we set. Then we start to feel like a failure. We judge ourselves on what we did NOT do, rather than what we have done. This then adds to the negative self talk that most of us have lived with since childhood (mental programming from our parents and “friends” that we have downloaded as children — more on this in the future), so we feel even lower than we did before setting the goal!
Let me tell you now that people don’t fail. Everyone is on their own journey, so we either achieve the goal, or we learn a lesson. We need to learn to separate the goal from the person because it’s possible for the GOAL to fail while the person continues to be a SUCCESS!
In my experience, the main reasons goals fail are because;
- The goal was not dream-orientated
- The SMART goal was too big
- The timing was not right
- The focus of the intention was wrong
- The goal was incongruent with the individual’s personal values and/or beliefs
Now, just quickly run a little review in your head. From your own personal history, can you see how these lessons could be the reason you didn’t achieve last year’s resolutions? Can you understand how YOU did not fail, that in fact it was THE GOAL that failed?
I mean, the fact that you are here to read this blog is a sign that you did not fail — YOU’RE STILL ALIVE AND HAVE THE POWER TO SHAPE YOUR FUTURE!
Here are some tips on learning from these lessons, so you can continue to set goals.
1. Set goals that are in line with your dream
As a health coach, I work with my clients to first get clear on their dream. This is the big picture stuff that we can then work back from. As Stephen Covey teaches in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Start with the end in mind”. That way you have a destination and framework from which to set your incremental SMART goals.
In the wise words of Lewis Carol; if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
For many people, defining their dream can be a daunting task. Many of us have pre-programmed beliefs that we will never amount to anything, so we almost instantly quell the dream before our conscious minds have the time to understand what it could be!
For others, (and this was me…) they may have so many dreams that they have no idea which one to focus on.
I offer two possible tools that may help guide you through both of these situations;
a) What is your nightmare?
What is the worst imaginable life for you? What lifestyle situation would bring you the most amount of pain?
All living cells have a fundamental tendency to move away from pain and towards pleasure. These are the two drivers of all action. If you don’t currently have a dream to focus on, I suggest you define what you DON’T want in this life; ill health, no friends, no family, unable to work etc. This exercise can help set a boundary to avoid.
If you’re already in this nightmare space, that’s awesome! Know you have experience from which to steer the ship.
Remember that your current situation is the sum of all the choices you’ve made. So if you’re living your nightmare, start by making choices that are the OPPOSITE of what you did to get there… 1% change every day adds up.
b) Focus on how you want to feel.
At the end of the day, we don’t set goals because we actually want to achieve something, we set goals because we want to feel something.
Think about it; why do you want to run a half marathon? “Because it will give me a sense of accomplishment & I’ll feel proud of myself”
Why do you want to change your eating habits?
“Because right now I don’t feel great and I’ve been told that how I’m feeling myself has a direct causation to my emotional & mental wellbeing.”
So, without any idea of your dream, or your nightmare, how do you want to feel? Happy?
… Any other emotion that you can think of?!
Write a list of how you want to feel on a daily basis, then, under each emotion, write down the acts that you know help you feel that way. Here are some examples from my experience:
|Playing with my niece & nephew||Talking with my mum||Booking a holiday||Playing with my niece & nephew|
|Meditating||Being intimate with my partner||Cooking my favourite meal||Being intimate with my partner|
|Singing in the shower||Volunteering my time for others||Writing a new song||Performing with my band|
|Dancing naked in my bedroom to my favourite songs||Dancing naked in my bedroom to my favourite songs!||Dancing naked in my bedroom to my favourite songs!!||Dancing naked in my bedroom to my favourite songs!!!|
As you can see there are some acts that are repeated across the table, so those are the ones that bring me the highest possible feelings.
What would yours be?
2. Be realistic
There are many goal setting resources available that can help you get clarity on your goal. The most well known one is the SMART system (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timeframe) I suggest this blog from the team at Your Virtual Assistant if you need some clarity around setting SMART goals.
When working with clients, I coach them to keep their next goal to no more than 50% of what was previously achieved in the allocated time frame. For example, if their goal is to lose 20Kg, and they managed to shed a healthy 2-4Kg in one month, we would aim for no more than 4-6Kg loss in the following month (that is, if we try to increase the loss rate at all!).
This is an important aspect of the ATTAINABILITY piece in the SMART system. In business, it’s referred to as one’s ability to under-promise and over-deliver — we’re just personalising this to the goal setting process.
For those of you who, like me, are not mathematically inclined, this is a massive exponential growth curve! A 50% increase during each goal period is seriously huge. As mentioned above, even 1% adds up…
It’s also important to be aware of how full your bucket already is. Are you honestly in a position to take on MORE? That is, do you have room in your bucket to add more, or is your bucket already full? Maybe, a more realistic goal would be to take things out of your bucket, to “lighten the load” so to speak. This could help reduce your stress levels and may be the key step that helps you get better at the things you’re already doing and ultimately hit that dream!
3. Be aware of your environment
Setting a realistic timeframe for your SMART goal is important, but I want to expand on that further. We are mammals interacting in a four-dimensional environment so when I say “environment” I’m talking about time and space.
Thanks to our social conditioning, we want things “NOW” and thanks to technology, there’s also good evidence that we should expect it; “I’m hungry. I will order dinner from my phone and it will arrive in 10mins”. This new age sense of immediacy is affecting our understanding of the flow of time, which in turn, is affecting our ability to judge how long things take.
The inescapable truth is that things will always take longer than expected and as Bill Gates said; “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
My experience has taught me that everything happens as and when it should. I no longer try to bend time to my will, because attempting to do so only leaves me wanting. I also moved away from “time management” practices when I understood that time cannot be managed, only activities can. So rather than getting anxious over how long things take, or trying to achieve something in the fastest time possible, let’s look at where we’re at mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually (that bucket I mentioned), then look at setting incremental goals that lead up to the dream.
For example, you may have goals of being a movie star based in Hollywood, and right now you’re currently working in a small town supermarket. So, what actions can you take now that will move you closer to your dream? Remember that the little things done over time add up.
4. Where focus goes, energy flows
These words were first brought to my attention from the great Tony Robbins. When it comes to setting goals, what are you focusing on?
To go back to an earlier example, if your dream is to lose 20Kg, yet your mental focus is on a “goal” you set to hit the gym 5 days a week, then you’re going to get disappointed in yourself if you only make it to the gym once that week.
What’s that going to do to your mindset? Do you think you’ll be more or less motivated to continue to work towards your dream if you only made 1 session out of 5 – Search your personal history and answer that for yourself. Honestly.
By focusing on the dream, you’ll find it doesn’t matter how many times you go to the gym because there are a myriad of ways you can lose 20Kg (eg breathe deeper, drink more water, sleep more, eat better, be more physically active in general).
I’m not saying DON’T use a gym. I’m just saying that the gym is one tool of many in your tool belt to achieve your DREAM.
Focus on the big stuff. The little things will sort themselves out.
5. Get clear on your personal values
This one is the big one.
For a lot of people, they only set goals because everyone else around them is doing it. Some don’t have their own inspiration so they just follow the crowd. In my experience, most people’s goals are not even their own! This in part explains why there are social and cultural cycles to things e.g. diets, clothing, exercise, music, etc. For example, someone might want to try to run a half marathon, so their friend “tags along”. Someone might want to change their diet so their partner follows suit etc…
In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek gets to the core of decision making; the WHY. Why do we do the things we do? He has a TED talk you can watch that takes you through his “Why/How/What” process.
Understanding our why is one thing;
“I want to lose weight so I’m trying a vegan diet”
“I want to be a millionaire so I’m buying a lotto ticket”
“I want to get fit so I signed up to a gym”
But what happens when the how is incongruent with our fundamental values and beliefs?
“I have been told that a vegan diet is a great way to lose weight, but I feel like crap when I don’t have any meat after a month”
“I bought a lotto ticket, but my money would be better invested elsewhere”
“I signed up to a gym, but I really love the outdoors”
In these examples, the action taken to achieve the why has gone against a fundamental value of the individual which then causes an internal mental and emotional war;
I feel better when I consume some organic meats in my diet
I don’t leave my life to chance
I want to spend more time in nature
You can see how this internal conflict can quickly start to demotivate an individual and prevent them from achieving their goal. If this pattern is repeated, it can then feel pretty silly trying to set goals in the first place, so why bother?
As I mentioned earlier, setting goals is not so much about the achievement of the goal, it’s about how we think we’ll feel once we’ve achieved the goal. If we set a goal that conflicts with our personal values, then we’re not going to feel great are we?
Once you’re clear on what your 4-6 core personal values are, following your dream will be SO MUCH easier because, ultimately, your personal values and your dreams are intertwined. A good way to check this is to ask yourself two questions;
A) “what is it that I really want from this dream and WHY?”
B) “Does this dream affirm my personal values and will I feel good about it long term?”
Putting it all together
I know I’ve given you A LOT to take in here but If the way that you’ve done things in the past hasn’t worked for you, why would it work for you now? Because it’s a new decade?? Nah. Face it, the old ways don’t work! Let’s shift our paradigm when it comes to goal setting and focus on the big things;
- What is your dream (or your nightmare)?
- How do you want to consistently feel?
- What are your 4-6 core values and are they congruent with your dream, and how you want to feel?
Nail these basics and the SMART goals will follow 😉
If any of this resonates with you, I’d love to hear about it!
Much love to you all.