This is a guest post by Lisa Gates.
Stop making them.
It’s so curious how we spend the last weeks of the year in a sugar-plum-induced family frenzy of parties and holiday sweaters, and expect to walk into our lives on January 1 ready to drill down and get things done.
To get our minds focused back on what the year holds in store for us we make these shoulds-posing-as-resolutions and order all kinds of shiny productivity tools and smile at the future coming toward us. Then February rolls around and we glance sideways at our list and hope nobody’s looking over our shoulders.
Straight out, resolutions are dangerous little dragons because we humans need meaning. We need a resonant, compelling, context for any goal, wish, or dream to have a shot at making into our everyday schedule. We also need serious, expressed accountability (as in be specific and tell people), and a little experimenting with putting the cart before the horse.
Goal Setting from the Inside Out in 2009
Truth? No matter how much we want to get things done, what we really want is a life that matters. We want the chain of endless doings to add up to something meaningful at the end of the day. To find this sweet spot, here’s a little exercise:
Take a look back at your calendar in any given week for 2008 and ask yourself two questions: “What was I committed to?” and “What values did I honor?” The information you gather by doing the exercise will help you percolate what’s next. Declarations.
Create Context and Meaning with Declarations
To give your goals heart and soul, take a look at what you most deeply value in each of the four life areas: Life’s Work, Relationships, Personal Wellbeing and Financial Development. Next to each area, you’ll have words like joy, integrity, leadership, and service, and you’ll use these words to craft your declarations.
Declarations are timeless statements of purpose in the present tense designed to create ongoing quality of life shifts. Much like a mission statement, declarations stem from who you are and what you value, and point to your vision. They may sound bold and completely outrageous, perhaps even a little wild—but not impossible. Here are a few examples created by people in our Craving Balance workshops to get you started:
- Life’s Work: I am committed to inspired, green leadership in service of a peaceful planet.
- Relationships: I am boundless joy and generosity in all relationships.
- Financial Development: I am wildly wealthy through acts of impeccable personal responsibility, creativity and invention.
- Personal Well being: I am squeaky clean, vibrant vitality in my body, mind and spirit.
You’ll know you’re on track if your declarations make you want to cry or scream or jump up and down. (Go ahead, we’ll wait.) Declarations also act as your truing mechanism when you forget who you are and what you’re up to. Or when your busyness has no connection to what you value. Or when you’ve been saying yes way too much.
Practically speaking, declarations inform your goals, not the other way around. So, once you’ve finished your declarations, listing your top goals in each area should come easily and organically. (Go ahead, we’ll wait.)
Give Your Goals Specificity and Accountability
Alex recently told everyone here on his blog, and all his bazillion subscribers about his intention to lose weight, among other things. Besides taking “massive action” his video had 4 really important, very specific elements:
- Why: He told us what was important to him about losing weight.
- How: He told us what he would eat and how he’d exercise to accomplish his weight loss goal.
- By When: He told us his time frame.
- Close the Loop: He told us what he achieved.
#1 aligned Alex’s goal with his vision. #2 made his actions specific and repeatable. #3 put his actions on the calendar. And #4 gave Alex’s goal integrity and completion. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Put the Cart Before the Horse
What more do you really need to know, do, or get before you begin? Nothing. You could say that the accomplishment of any goal is nothing more than a series of choices, one foot in front of the other. So put the cart before the horse, and tell everyone you know. If you fall off the cart, get back on. Bruises (and even embarrassment) are nature’s way of telling you you’re alive.
And, if you want to jump into the comment box and experiment with a declaration, I’m game. You might just launch a revolution in your resolutions by never making them again.
Lisa Gates is a life balance coach and writer at Craving Balance. Committed to helping smart working women achieve the everyday extraordinary and the extraordinary every day, Craving Balance offers Goal Setting from the Inside Out teleclasses and workshops for individuals and businesses, as well as fabulously sensible and affordable private coaching.