Now’s the time of year when things get serious. Sadly, party time’s over.
If you’re like me, you’re in the throws of a holiday hangover. As if that isn’t bad enough, all we hear about this time of year is resolutions making us immediately feel behind.
We feel pressure to set big, serious goals, and then feel discouraged the moment we (inevitably) get distracted and lose focus. Just thinking about it can bring on the anxious feelings- the tight stomach, the fidgets…ugh. Who could possibly look forward to that?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about goal or resolution setting. You have enough of that already coming your way. I want to talk about a smart way to reach your aspirations; what you need to do first in order to set and successfully achieve your goals.
I’m a competitive person so I like goals- to check things off a list, to get to the end, to be first or best or done.
Let me put it to you this way: when I was 7 I was on a neighborhood swim team. For every meet I’d jump on my Peaches n’ Cream banana seat bike in my swimsuit and flip flops with my towel around my neck and the money my mom gave me in my sweaty little hand.
In order to get an edge on my competition, I’d buy $2 worth of Fun Dip and Pixie Stix (which was a lot at the time) and I’d chug ’em down like a lunatic. Head back, Fun Dip up. There was no polite rationing with the spoon. That went down the hatch in about 3 seconds as well.
In my attempt to “energize” before the meet, I’d end up feeling like a mis-wired Energizer bunny- fidgety and totally spastic. Good thing my family hadn’t bought our VHS recorder yet or else I’m pretty sure I’d be haunted by my “super fast” butterfly that likely looked like a flailing, drowning cat.
Now this may lead you to wonder if I went on to live a life of drugs and crime, dating my hometown’s version of Jesse from Breaking Bad but don’t worry, it didn’t. The truth is, I didn’t like it. Yes the contraband helped me swim my fastest but I felt like a nut job while doing so. I was by no means a rational child but I did know the post-meet stomach aches weren’t worth it.
Fast forward to adulthood and while striving for my goals I often feel drained, anxious and unengaged. Read: unlike myself, just like my swim days.
The reasons usually are: it’s a goal I think I should set, it’s the next logical step, or it’s the successful path of someone who’s achieved the end result I’m hoping for.
Whatever the reason, my goals didn’t always feel like mine. They were cheap imitations. Knock-offs. No wonder going for them made me feel uneasy.
Regardless of if you’re a resolutions, goals or intentions person, there is one thing you need to get clear on before deciding where to put your energy and focus for the year. This is the foundation, what you need to put on first before considering any goals.
The best thing you can do to ensure you hit your goals is to get clear on your personal priorities first. And by personal priorities I mean values.
Goals, whether you reach them or not, should never make you feel discouraged, ashamed or like a failure.
Instead of looking down the road- once you get that promotion, get pregnant, make enough money- this contemporary approach is about getting clear on what’s important to you today and committing to protect those things.
These are concepts, not tangibles.
They’re what fuel us on a deeper level. This is about necessity.
Recognizing, admitting to and committing to these important factors can change the way you find success and feel along the way.
Before you start committing yourself to getting, being, or attaining, do a self check-up on what’s truly important to you. Trust me, this will help eliminate any feelings of resentment down the road.
And achieving won’t lead to sacrificing in other areas and we can avoid that side of paralyzing guilt.
If the act of achieving your goal doesn’t reciprocate the feeling you get once you’ve reached it, is it worth it?
As my lady crush Danielle Laporte says “It’s not about the goal, it’s about how you feel once you get there.” Mapping out your values will help you keep those feelings you’re hoping for while going after your goals. She says, “you’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re chasing the feeling that attaining the goal will get you.” Yes!
Values support goals
I don’t believe we fail at our goals because we aren’t ambitious or focused enough. I think it often happens out of a conflict between what we need (value) and what it takes to reach the goal.
Success (or failure) will be determined when you decide to make room for your values. Seems to me it’s just smart to do it now.
Going for your goals is work but shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice or a conflict.
You may be thinking, great idea. How do I do this without adding more to my plate? Easy. You already have the answers.
For starters, rather than thinking about what you want to accomplish, list out: What’s important to you? What needs to be a constant in your life in order for you to be happy AND to be in a mindset to reach your goals?
What do I need in order for me to feel content?
What do I need to protect and make time for in order to be true to myself?
What won’t I compromise?
Answer this: “If I’ve done it right, 6 months or a year from now will look like ____(doing what, feeling like, etc)?”
Tip: Check in on your values every 6 months. Life can change quite a bit in that time, so it’s only fair to rearrange or adjust.
Get clear with yourself. And know there’s no wrong answer when you’re being honest.
Don’t over think it.
The only person that truly cares if you hit your goals is you. The only one who knows if you’re stepping on one of your values is you.
Many successful people prioritize regularly in their jobs; you likely do the same. This practice of noting your values is a form of prioritizing and using a skill you already possess.
For example, arbitrarily setting a goal like growing revenue by 30%, is useless without thinking about what needs to be in place for that to happen. This is about managing your life like you would a business.
Because your values aren’t cross-off-able doesn’t mean they aren’t worth committing to.
For years I struggled with how I felt while achieving success. While I reached many of my goals, made great money and found myself in a position many in my company aspired to, I was avoiding something just under the surface. In being a tunnel-visioned achiever I wasn’t the partner, friend, sister and daughter I wanted to be. I had to wonder, was it worth it? And for me, the answer was no.
But, I wasn’t able to change being the competitive, ambitious person I’ve always been (even though I’m off the Fun Dip). There had to be a better way.
Getting clear on my values before setting goals was it. It helped me articulate to myself what it is I truly wanted. It allowed me to go for my goals, to achieve what would make me feel successful without making me feel guilty.
I want for you what I want for myself. Success on your terms taking your values and plans into account. My values are to take care of myself, to spend more time with those that make my life worth living, and to stay true to myself. I’ll layer my actionable goals on top of these.
My hope is for you (and I):
To show yourself compassion
To trust your gut and listen to your intuition
To listen to others but only for a minute
To be inspired by others but to carve our own path
To push the envelope
To create options
To go for it
To change course without guilt
To surprise yourself
To take the unpopular, scary, never-been-done-before route because it’ll be yours.
Simply put, don’t let gunning for your goals keep you from who you want to be.
This approach takes focus and honesty and guts. But it can be done. And trust me, it’ll make reaching the end goals far more delicious. Like sugar high without the calories, cavities and stomach ache kind of delicious.
I hope you have a year unlike any other. That you surprise yourself and that in striving for success you sacrifice less.
On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What is your best advice for hitting your goals?