I have always had trouble with goal setting. I do all the things you’re supposed to do; I set my goal, I tell someone or write it down to make myself accountable… and then I fail. Every time. Throughout most of the year I don’t even bother with goals because it’s too depressing when I’m forced to admit that yet again, I’ve not done what I should have. Commence downward spiral.
However, I still recognize the importance of goals and that I should be making and completing them. I am reminded of a lesson I learned in my motorcycle class many, many years ago. You’re going to go where you’re looking so keep your eyes up and look at where you want to be, not at where you are. It’s a valuable life lesson as well. So, even though I know what’s going to happen, I still set that goal just in case. I guess my problem comes a month later when I stop looking at where I want to go. I’m going to have to figure out how to keep my eyes forward, focused on the end game, rather than all the ways that I’m failing right now.
They say meeting goals is a lot easier if you break them up into smaller bits that are more easily achieved. The idea is that with each success, confidence and momentum are built up, making it easier to keep your eyes on the prize and not lose hope when, inevitably, there is a setback or failure. Plus, let’s face it, saying, “I’m going to lose weight,” is about as helpful as, “I’m going to rob a bank.” There has to be a plan, otherwise it won’t work. Last year one of my goals was to get rid of as much stuff as I could and to move closer to a minimalist way of living. Predictably, I failed, and my home is still a giant ball of cluttered stress that’s impossible to keep clean. I’m guessing that, among other reasons, it’s because that’s all my goal was. Get rid of stuff. Not, get rid of it + a plan. This year, I’m going to make a plan with smaller, specific steps.
Also, I’m only going to share some of my goals with you. I know that we’re always told that telling someone your goals makes you more accountable, increasing fear of failure and therefore increasing your chances of success. That’s not necessarily right, though. I was listening to TED Radio hour on MPR that focused on a talk by Derek Sivers called Keep Your Goals to Yourself. Scientists have found that when you tell someone your goals, your brain tricks you into feeling like you’ve already completed the goal, and because you’re feeling the satisfaction, you’re less likely to actually do what you set out to do. He talked about a 2009 study that had a group of participants write down their goals. Half the group shared, and half did not. Everyone was then given 45 minutes to work on tasks that directly related to reaching their goals, but they were allowed to stop before the 45 minutes was up. The half that shared stopped working after just half an hour and said that they felt much closer to reaching their goals. The group that did not share worked the entire time and said they didn’t feel much closer to meeting their goals. The takeaway: keep your mouths shut when you want to accomplish something.
I, however, think that’s too simplistic and a more moderate approach would probably work better. For example, I was far more successful at getting my butt to the gym when Husband and I went together. When his schedule changed and that wasn’t happening anymore, we stopped going. Turns out, combined willpower is a very helpful thing. To get him to go to the gym with me I’d need to share with him my goal of going and how often I wanted to go, but I wouldn’t necessarily need to share my specific weight loss goal.
So this year will be a personal experiment. I’ll share some of my goals, but keep some to myself and see how far I get. I’ll also break each general goal down into smaller bits, and I’m going to try to keep my eyes on where I want to go, not on where I already am.
2016 Goals (some of them)
- Read 25 books in 2016
- Hard to break this into smaller chunks, but 25 books in 12 months means one book finished every (approximately) 14 days. So I think what I’ll do is count the number of chapters, divide that by 14 days, and read at least that number of chapters (rounded up) every day. This may need to change depending on the book; some will take longer than others but the aim will be at least 2 books every month.
- Minimize clutter
- Every Sunday pick a room and throw out or give away stuff I haven’t used in the last year. When I’ve gone through all the rooms, do it again. I’ve got nine rooms/areas so each one should be gone through five times. The basement counts as 2 areas.
- If it’s stuff Husband has a claim to, put it in a box, give him a week to look it over, then throw out or give away what he hasn’t decided to keep. If he hasn’t gone through the stuff in a week, get rid of it all. You snooze, you lose.
- Every Monday drop stuff off at Goodwill/Savers