For years, I have heard the word “goals” being spewn person to person, overhearing in conversation or through countless Instagram photos from those who are supposed to be people who influence us. Each time I heard this word, I cringed, and I wasn’t sure why until recently.
As the new year approaches, two things are likely happening: you’re beating yourself up for what you didn’t get done and the goals you did not accomplish this year and you’re planning on what you will do in 2019 because you have a “fresh start”. Take a moment to reflect on which mindset you are currently falling into.
The end of December often makes us feel guilty after reflecting on last year. Where did the time go? Why am I still fat? Why do I not go to the gym still? Why am I still in my dead-end job? Why am I still single? Why am I unhappy? The list continues. For many, the goals we had set did not come to fruition and you’re left beating yourself up or feeling guilty for the lack of progress you made in your life for the last 365 days.
When looking at a new year as an opportunity to start fresh, this can bring a lot of hope for many of us. We look at what we want to accomplish or achieve or what we want to do better at and we make goals accordingly. For many of my clients, these goals look something like this:
These are great aspirations, of course. However, these “goals” are concerning to me. My first question is “Why these things?” and my second question is “Why haven’t you already done these things?”
These goals listed above have no plan behind them. They are things that sound good, that bring a small amount of hope, but have no weight or bones to them.
Instead of making goals for yourself for an entire year, I encourage you and the people I work with to set intentions instead. According What are you wanting to be intentional about? Why are these intentions important to you? Are these intentions helping you create the lifestyle that is going to lead you to be fulfilled and happy with your choices, behaviors, relationship and thoughts? What steps do you need in order to be intentional in these specific areas?
We attach ourselves so much to the goals we set that we are just trying to cross them off our checklist in hopes that they will make us feel better about our lives or where we are at. Instead, creating intentions are helping you facilitate, create, and maintain behaviors that are allowing you to makes
steps to a fulfilling and meaningful life and lifestyle.
Here are some examples of what intentions could be instead of the goals listed above:
Set the intention of choosing healthier foods because it will make you better at work, in your relationships, and have more energy. “I will incorporate more vegetables into my meals because I know that I will feel better and feel fuller longer. I will feel happy with my decision to eat vegetables instead of guilty for eating processed food, chips, candy, sweets, etc. I will do this by grocery shopping weekly and meal planning so that I can prepare for the day and set myself up for success instead of being hungry and settling for fast food.”
...find my passion.
If you’re in a place where you don’t see yourself staying long-term, look at this step as a stepping stone or means to an end to take the pressure off yourself first. Next, how do you plan on “finding your passion”, really? Did you plan to meet with a coach? Seek business counseling? Maybe for this year, you can set your intention for trying things you wouldn’t normally try, stopping doing the things you don’t enjoy, and identify what you like about past careers to narrow down your search.
I would bet that this isn’t really your goal. I would imagine you don’t want to date just anyone. You probably want to go out with people who have some characteristics of someone who you think could be compatible with you. Instead of saying your goal is to start dating, try being intentional with the type of people you are going out with and where you are meeting them. Are you hoping to meet someone at church but never go? Maybe your intention could be to simply start going a few times a month. Are you more likely to meet someone online but have been dragging your feet to create a dating profile? Maybe your intention could be to sign up and actually use a 6 month membership to a dating site.
What intentions will you set?
It’s not enough to simply set goals. When we work so hard toward action steps to reach them and then come up short, we dismiss all the effort and healthy behaviors just because it didn’t add up to the overarching goal. Instead, look at your goal and identify what behaviors you need to do to get there. A goal would be to go yoga 5-7 times per week in the morning. Barriers to this goal could include staying up later than anticipated, starting bedtime routine late with the kids, and not getting things ready for the next day the night before. These are important to note. An intention, then, is to go to bed earlier and start the kids’ bedtime routine on time each night so you can get enough sleep to get up and do yoga, meditate, and get ready for your work day without being rushed. Here, we identified 3 barriers to reaching the goal and work backwards. You can do the same. Start 2019 feeling positive, keeping your thoughts in alignment with truth, and setting yourself up for success.
Robin Helget, LSCSW, CPT