So, how can we make goal-setting a more productive part of our lives? How can we take our dreams and turn them into actions? Taking a few cues from some people who have found success in setting goals may help. But ultimately, it’s all about our individual motivation and desire that will make the difference.
Going Cold Turkey
One approach to keeping New Year’s resolutions is going cold turkey – whether in an effort to begin a new project, or to get rid of some annoying habit. That brings up one of the biggest make-it-and-break-it resolutions for most people: exercising. While getting out of my post-pregnancy fat pants was indeed a great accomplishment one year, I found, like so many of you, that achieving that one goal wasn’t enough to put me on a regular exercising schedule.
My “aha” moment to this dilemma came one day when I realized that I had been waiting for that sense of exhilaration I’ve heard other exercise enthusiasts talk about. I then had this startling and revealing thought: I may never get to that point, and that’s okay. If being fit was important to my physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being, I might as well stop whining about it and, well, just do it. I didn’t need a gym membership, or a new pair of running shoes – I just needed a new attitude.
From that day forward, exercising (whether walking, running, or working out with an exercise video at home) has come much more easily. Oh, there are plenty of days when I don’t make it out there, and don’t particularly enjoy it, but I always feel better afterwards. And the reaction of my doctor when he saw my lowered cholesterol score due to my more active lifestyle has been the best motivation to keep me going.
It’s the Little Things That Count
In the middle of this resolution roller coaster is the idea that while we may not be ready for organized charts, or don’t have the courage to go cold turkey, any step forward is a step in the right direction. Jenica McKenzie of West Valley City, Utah, confesses that she is “perfectly inconsistent” in keeping any resolution she has made. Yet even in her own way, she is able to set a course and see progress in her life.
“I personally write a list of to-do's everyday,” she says. “I love to check things off! I include on my list things that I should be doing everyday, to help remind me of how important they are. Then I get the satisfaction of checking off things that I wouldn't normally check off, like: scripture study, taking the kids to school, doing the dishes, folding laundry, making such-and-such for dinner, etc.”
Loa Simons of Orem, Utah, on the other hand, has learned that sticker charts are not just for kids anymore. “I enjoy putting stickers on my calendar for different goals,” explains Loa. “To keep track of my temple attendance, I put stars on my chart. For exercise, I use ones that say things like ‘Cool!’ or “First Rate!’ The more I see those stickers, the more I know I’m getting in shape.” Being able to look over her past successes increases her confidence. And telling herself, “If I can just make it though, I get to put a sticker on” is frequently enough to keep her going when she wonders if she has enough motivation to complete her workout.
The important thing is to do something, anything, although we may need to lower our expectations at first. After all, the pounds won’t magically melt off in a few days or weeks if we haven’t been physically active. We need to allow our growth to come at its own pace, and celebrate the good we are doing. One way to do this is to record those successes is in a notebook or journal.
Make a Note of That
My notebook of accomplishments came about quite by accident. I had been given a small book at a Relief Society to use for goal setting, an overwhelming task for me at the time. But I felt I ought to do something with this gift, and began to record various accomplishments I had achieved. That first year, I wrote down titles of the books that I read, the fact that I finished a cross-stitch pattern, and had served as the Ward Music Chairman. It was a relatively short list, but gave me satisfaction to see that I had done something besides change diapers and clean house that year.
The next year I expanded my entries to include family milestones, seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. for the first time, and that defining day when I got out of those fat pants. Over a period of eight years, I eventually saw that I wasn’t the total failure I had thought I was. That was when I ventured into the world of setting goals.
Out of the six goals I set that year, I accomplished only three of them. But the fact that I had achieved any of them was a huge success and gave me the impetus to try again. In the years since, I have set goals to play through every hymn in the hymnbook, learn how to watercolor, and to self-publish my first book. The notebook, which has become a treasured journal, showed me that I could accomplish many things, and had no reason to be afraid of trying.
Do I now sit at home every night and dream up more goals to set? Far from it. I still struggle to achieve some objectives, but am much more confident than ever before. So, why not give one of these ideas a try. Don’t be afraid of falling short: just get back up on the horse or exercise bike and try again.
And while January 1st may continue to be the traditional goal setting time of year, there’s no reason to limit yourself. If an opportunity arises to participate in a 5K Walk/Run this summer, or to take a continuing education class in the fall – go for it. Setting and accomplishing goals in our lives will never go out of season.