Did you make your list on January 1st? I did! You may be one of those individuals, like myself, who makes or revises his or her list every month or quarter. What list am I talking about? That list of resolutions, goals, or good intentions that we hope to follow throughout our lives. Things about ourselves or our lives that we want to change. Many of us dutifully compile those lists, but most of us also almost immediately file them away in a place where we will not be forced to examine and measure our actions against them for some time.
Any therapist, coach, or motivational expert will sing the praises of goal charts, resolutions, life plans, or anything else that helps you stay on track to meet your goals. However, that list can be dangerous. It can even be hazardous to your health! How is that possible? If you make that list, place it in a drawer, and look at it months or even a year after you compose it, it can lead to high levels of stress, as well as feelings of disappointment and even despair. Consider how you would feel if you did not examine your well thought out list until one year later. The plans that you made would probably be unfulfilled. The goals that you set for yourself are unmet. You might have traveled far off the road toward your dreams. It is even possible that you may have forgotten to do something critical for your health and well-being (e.g., that physical you’ve already put off for several years).
Goals, and the lists on which you detail them, are only helpful if you remember what they are. It is essential that you review your list weekly. Better yet, post it somewhere that you will constantly see and be reminded of it. It is easy to veer off the road toward your Personal Pinnacle of Success* if you cannot remember the directions that you carefully mapped out to guide you toward success! It is also easy to become sidetracked when obstacles tumble into your path.
As with a goal, a resolution to do something will only remain meaningful if you remember why it was so important to you in the first place. For example, you may have resolved to work for yourself so that you can have more time with your family. It will be essential for you to keep that in mind during the times that you are struggling to establish yourself as an entrepreneur. Why? Because clearly it is easier to work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule and let someone else deal with all the headaches of running a business.
Goals and resolutions also need to be specific. For example, the goal of losing 5 pounds in a 30 day period is much more likely to be met than an amorphous goal stating, “I will be skinny by the end of the year.” Many people find themselves being able to meet small goals because they are specific and time-limited. However, they encounter difficulties when they set larger goals that have a greater impact on their lives. Why? Because the goals are not divided into small segments that say what you intend to achieve and have a definite end date for meeting the goal. You are much more likely to meet the goals for your professional and private life if they are broken down into manageable and obtainable segments.
Many people are able to meet goals in their professional lives, but fall short of obtaining them in their personal lives. The problem is similar to the desire to “become skinny” rather than lose 5 pounds each month. In business, it is routine to set sales quotas and an end date for completing projects. However, personal goals are often much more non-descript or amorphous. Goals that will improve the self, or one’s level of happiness, are often difficult to define. For many people, the list of things to improve in their personal lives may include becoming a better person, spouse, or parent. Unlike an objective sales quota that may be objectively defined by the volume of sales, becoming a better anything requires a careful consideration and description of what constitutes the positive characteristics of that certain something. For example, you can only begin to work on a concept such as character development after you have established a detailed list of what constitutes a good or strong character. More specifically, rather than having a resolution “to become a better person” during the next six months, I would encourage you to make a list of qualities that you aspire to obtain. That is, if you value the quality of compassion for others, then try to consistently look at the world through the eyes of those around you for one week. When you have achieved that goal, then set a new goal of behaving in that manner for a month. Another example might be instead of resolving to “be a better parent,” try to have more patience with your child in the coming week. As you internalize the new behavior, then extend the timeline for engaging in the behavior. It is important to remember that personal goals designed to change your behavior, and ultimately your character, take time to internalize and become second nature. Until they are, they must be consciously and conscientiously worked on.
Today is the day to pull your list out of the drawer. Then, display it in some prominent place where you will look at it daily. That list will help you stay focused, meet or exceed your goals, and ultimately help you to be happier in life!
* Please refer to my article: The Personal Pinnacle of Success: Defining and Climbing the Mountain on Your Own Terms” at http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com/personal1.htm.
Celebrate Life today and everyday!
Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.
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