I’m not one who usually goes for a new year’s resolution. To be quite honest, I never make them because I am a firm believer in setting goals when you’re ready and willing. There’s no time like the present.
But I think after the year we’ve all had, and the anticipation that has been surrounding 2021, we’d do well to set intentions for making some changes.
Goals can be scary and intimidating, and that’s especially true the farther away we are from them. They seem so distant that we shouldn’t even bother. You don’t have the time or the resources to put up with it.
What if I told you that 2 steps could change that? There’s a not-so-easy but oh-so-worth-it way to accomplish the goals that have been running through your mind non-stop for the last year (or 2, or hey, maybe even 5!) These two steps have helped me set goals for myself and I want to share them with you – because the dreams in your heart are valid and deserve attention.
1. Narrow down what you want
It’s normal to have 800 different ideas floating around in your mind. Having multiple wants, aspirations, and eventually goals, are a beautiful thing. It helps us to keep going and pushes us to be our best selves. But it’s often not efficient enough to have any follow-through.
Even the most focused of humans get distracted – how can you not when you have so much going on? The best to way attack your goals and go after what you want is to be specific. Narrow it down. Pick one thing.
If you’re indecisive, I know that’s quite a challenge in itself (looking directly at myself here!) But let me reiterate to you, you won’t get anything done if your time and energy are divided up between too many places. You can accomplish those other goals later in the year – make it a priority to finish one thing first.
But even knowing where to start is tough. You find that all of your goals are equally important. So how do you know what to choose?
- Make a pros and cons list: going back to square one here, but it truly is one of the most efficient ways to narrow down what you want.
- Prioritize your list: even if everything seems to be of equal importance, getting them all into one place and actively trying to order them according to importance will provide perspective. It’s not always about deeming one goal less important than the other, just understanding what is relevant and will make the most positive change. For you right now, is getting in shape more important than showing up on-time more often? Ask yourself the tough questions and be honest.
- Layout the time commitment for each: are you in a season of life right now to commit to a goal that’s going to take you hours a week or are you only able to commit a few hours a month (no wrong answers here!) It’s important to be especially realistic with this one. If you feel overwhelmed already, adding a resolution to your plate that’s going to ask for all your weekday nights is not realistic.
On the same note, know that taking baby steps is still effective! Going back to the getting in shape example…you may not be able to work out for an hour every single day, but 30 minutes 3 times a week is still better than nothing and will be a step in the right direction.
2. Be specific
I can’t stress this one enough!
Now that you know the general direction of your goal and how much it will probably require of you, you’re ready to narrow it down even more.
Setting vague goals won’t help you achieve them. Saying “I want to be a better painter” is a great concept, but that’s all it is. It isn’t enough for a follow-through. In fact, it keeps contributing to the narrative that our goals are too far away because it’s too broad. How are you going to be a better painter? What is it about painting you want to be better at?
You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T goals before. This is a popular acronym many teachers and managers use to help their students set attainable goals. S.M.A.R.T stands for:
- Specific: What do you want to accomplish? Are you the only person involved, or do you need someone else’s help to accomplish this goal? What resources do you need to make it happen?
- Measurable: How are you going to measure success for this goal? Is it in time or money? What’s the indicator that you’ve completed this goal?
- Achievable: How EXACTLY are you going to accomplish this goal? Think of a step-by-step plan.
- Relevant: You have to assess on your terms if this goal is worthwhile to you and those involved. Is getting up 30 minutes earlier going to help you spend more time with your kids? Is having a cleaner home going to make you feel less stressed daily? The answer is different for everyone. We all have different families, priorities, jobs, and responsibilities. You have to find that answer within yourself.
- Time-bound: When do you want to complete this goal? Set milestones for yourself. If you want to be done with it by the end of the year, set 3, 6, and 9-month milestones. What can you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to help you achieve your goal?
Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal:
I want to get better at hand lettering. It’s important to me because it is a hobby I enjoy. When I get better at it, it fills me with happiness. I am the only one involved other than my lettering community and Jennifer’s lettering classes, where I learn most of my skills. I will know that I have accomplished this goal when I make fewer than 5 “mistakes”, or things I feel need improvement, each time I letter a new design. I will achieve this goal by signing up and being present at Jennifer’s new online lettering class and practicing at least one hour every week outside of class.
This goal is relevant to me because I enjoy the hobby and love the happiness it brings me – I feel that having my own thing to do makes me a happier person in general. I want to accomplish this goal by December 2021. My 3, 6, and 9-month goals will be to have fewer than 12 corrections, 10 corrections, and 7 corrections.
Of course, this is just an example. Each goal will be different for each person.
If you know you want to accomplish something but can’t figure out why it’s relevant to you or narrow in the why don’t be intimidated. Set the goal anyway – but I will tell you that understanding your intentions will help you figure out if it’s something you need to be doing, and if not, it will make room for a goal that will actually be worth your time.
There are no wrong answers for setting a goal unless your goal isn’t helping you or it’s hurting the people around you. Find it within yourself. I can’t tell you what’s most important to you, but I can tell you that sticking to your goal and following through even when it’s hard or when you don’t feel like it (those days will come, and they will be many!) is one of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves.
Think about the last time you stuck it out. How did you feel and how did it change your life?
Now hold on to that feeling and carry it with you for this next year to come.
I’m always here rooting for your success!