A friend and I were recently discussing New Year’s Resolutions and writing our goals down for the upcoming year. This is a guy who is smart, well-educated and seems to have everything together. But he expressed his frustration at setting his goals and then losing sight of them when life gets in the way.
Life definitely can get in the way. But as I started thinking about it more, not achieving our goals can often be more than just life getting in the way. Beyond just daily obstacles, I think that self-limiting thoughts can also sabotage our plans for the future.
I give a personal finance presentation for my organization, and in it, I discuss how pre-conceived ideas about money define how we handle money. (I’ve read some authors who even go so far as to say that these same self-limiting ideas can actually impede how much money we believe we can earn and we, therefore, get paid less.) But let’s stay a little less philosophical about things and just look at our finances. Ever since I can remember, my mom has said, “I’ll have to work until the day I die.” She never believed she could save for retirement and never has. Her self-limiting thoughts prevented her from educating herself about retirement or budgeting; view her situation in a different light; or allow her to problem solve creatively. Simply said: she was stuck by her own thought processes.
I never want to diminish the struggles others are going through, and there are many people – I was once there myself – who live paycheck to paycheck with very little wiggle room. However, there are times when a little creativity and self-discipline can go a long way, especially when it’s something you really want to achieve. In other words, if you really want to achieve something you won’t let anything hold you back.
This concept applies to other aspects of life too: healthy eating, losing weight, saving for a car, taking a vacation, paying down debt, starting a business, or going back to school. And the new year is a great time to start. So how can we set and achieve the intentions we want for our lives?
1. Be specific. As I enter the final semester of my MBA program, my goal at this point is to stay sane during the chaos of finishing my classes, completing my practicum and preparing for comprehensive exams. But what exactly does that look like? My goal might be to take three hours out of my schedule every week to relax and to do things that recharge or relax me. Once you become very clear about what your goals are, I fully believe that opportunities to help you achieve your intentions will show themselves.
2. Write down obstacles. What could be some of the obstacles that will get in the way of you achieving your goals? These could be things like busyness, money, or time. Then go a step further: What are your self-limiting thoughts and behaviors that are going to stand in the way? Be really honest with yourself here and examine your past for things that have held you back. Being aware of things that could get in the way of your success will help you overcome them and find creative solutions.
3. Create steps to achieve your goals: If you’re starting a business, you may want to map out tangible steps to launching. For example, you may give yourself a few weeks to write a business plan but setting a due date for its completion. Small steps will help you stay on a long journey to success.
4. Get an accountability partner. I used to be a personal trainer, and I truly believe that 25% of my job was to put people through a workout. The other 75% of my job was an accountability partner. You may want to hire someone as an accountability partner such as a personal trainer (for health and wellness goals), a life coach (for general goals), and a counselor (for mental health goals). But you can also enlist a friend to help. Let them know your goals and have them check in often to hold you accountable or, better yet, find someone with the same or similar goals and work together.
5. Create positive triggers. Negative triggers are the self-limiting thoughts or behavior patterns you’ve created in the past. Positive triggers can help you create new patterns. Maybe you create a “dream board” with pictures of the goals you’d like to achieve, or you put a piggy bank in a prominent part of your house that you can drop change into but also remind you about your saving’s goals. I have a map of Europe in my house to remind me to save for a trip I’m taking this summer. It’s a lot easier to say “no” to that $5 latte when I know what I’m saving for.
6. Set reminders for follow ups. Life does get busy, so it’s important to schedule follow-ups with yourself. Use a reminder on your phone to keep yourself accountable and to stay focused. It’s interesting how we get the end of the year, and we wonder where the time went, but at the beginning of that same year, it seems like a long time, and it’s easy to lose focus during that time.
Now is the time to reach for the stars in your life. Craft the life you want and never settle for less.