In the United States we are a goal driven society. We often set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals for ourselves. We strive to obtain these goals and then we beat ourselves up when we don’t. Do we ever stop to ask ourselves: is there a better way?
The interesting thing about life is that it is most interesting when we trust our intuition and end up somewhere that we didn’t expect. Listening to our intuition about what to do next is obscured by goal-setting. Intuition is often in direct conflict with goals.
Yes, goals are good to have to achieve something in the traditional sense but they often weigh us down and drive us forward into courses of action that we find no fulfillment in. Ask all those achievers who are secretly and sometimes not so secretly depressed. You can get somewhere and still be nowhere.
Money and status are the barometers of success in the developed world yet I often have observed that those with much less in other parts of the world often seem happier and have a much better sense of community. Let’s face it, success can be isolating; it can create jealousy and discord among one’s peers. I’ve found that the happiest successful people do their best to minimize the perception of their success. In a word, they are humble.
So, how do you get somewhere you want to go? Yes, make a plan but be open to the subtle ways that life can take you in a slightly different direction on a whim. The happiest people got somewhere not by clawing their way to the top but by putting one foot in front of the other and staying open to where the joy of what they were doing took them. It really is the journey not the destination.
And, when and if you get there, remember don’t be too full of yourself. After all, if you’ve had some fun on the way you really can’t take yourself too seriously.
You’ve had time to think about what is important to you to change. You’ve implemented a strategy to change. Now it’s time to look at how your overall goal matches your needs and how your strategy is working.
It is easy to assume that making a resolution is the heavy lifting and that everything will fall into place as the year goes on. However many great resolutions go by the wayside because we are not willing to re-evaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it. I will give you an example.
Often people want to stop a certain behavior, be it abuse of drugs or alcohol, overeating or smoking. Let’s stick with the example of smoking cessation for now. You’ve made a resolution to stop and now it is the end of January. You may have quit for a few days but now you are right back to smoking the same number of cigarettes that you had been before the New Year.
There are two questions to ask yourself at this point:
1.) Is this the right goal (stopping smoking) for me?
2.) Am I going about it in a realistic way?
For certain behaviors, of course, there is no question that stopping will be beneficial. Smoking is one of those behaviors. So the answer is yes to the first question. It’s the second question that can make or break the achievement of your goal and if you are not open to re-evaluating things then your resolution will be very difficult if not impossible to achieve.
Say your strategy was to quit cold turkey. Many people are successful with this strategy. Many are not. The research shows that the more strategies you use to stop smoking the more likely you are to be successful. So you do some research on your own and find out that your preparation to achieve your goal was limited since it only provided you with one strategy. Your willingness to rethink things allows you to TRY AGAIN with a number of other strategies.
One of my mantras is: THINK, PREPARE, DO, REFINE. And then do it again…and again… This persistence is how change happens.
Allow the month of February to be your time to refine the implementation of your goals. No one does anything the way anyone else does. We can learn from the research and other people’s experiences but each of us has to fine tune how we get to where we want to be.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not in any way be considered a substitute for professional help. If you feel that you need immediate assistance please call your local psychiatric emergency services.