Monday, January 01, 2007

A Challenge for the New Year

Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again. The time when we wake up with a long (or maybe not so long) list of New Years resolutions, things we're going to do differently, things we're going to get right this year. Whether our goal in prior years has been to lose weight, to get out of debt, to get a raise, to find a new job, to find Mr. Right or lose Mr. Wrong, I bet it's safe to say that they share a similar pattern. Most of us are making the same or similar resolutions year after year - and that's because we're unable to fulfill them. In fact, studies show that most of us have given up on our ambitious goals and fallen back into old habits by March.

Are we bad people? No. Are we lazy and undisciplined? Perhaps, I know I can be. But probably not as much as we've led ourselves to believe. I think the truth beneath our inability to hold firm to our New Years resolutions lies in our approach to the process. Simply put, the process by which we set our goals often sabatoges our ability to successfully meet them.

That's the bad news. But because it's the goal-setting process that stumps us, and because they are OUR goals and WE set them, we have the power to transform the process and thereby increase the likelihood of our success.

I'm sure you've heard the old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As Susan Powter would say, let's "stop the insanity" and try something new this year.

This is my year of KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart), so in that spirit, I'm implementing a simple 4-point plan for meeting my goals this year:

  1. Put first things first. It sounds simple, but it's not. First of all, I'm constantly amazed at how many people don't have specific goals or clearly articulated core values that govern their lives. When you're not clear on where you're headed, how do you know how to get there? How do you know when you've arrived? What's really important to you? If you're not sure, please do yourself a huge favor and take the time now to figure that out. Once you do, I promise, life becomes so much simpler. Once you've clearly identified your core values and priorities, and made a commitment to living in accordance with them, decisions like how you'll spend your time, your energy, and even your money become second-nature. When faced with choices, you'll start to choose those that are consistent with your values. And the more values-consistent choices you make, the more closely aligned and balanced you'll find your life to be. If you've ever had your "colors done", you know how much easier shopping for clothes and accessories became almost instantaneously once you knew which color palette was yours, because you no longer wasted time trying on (or even looking at) clothes in colors that don't suit you. It's the same principle.
  2. Identify and maximize synergies. I spent a lot of time clarifying my goals and values in 2006 and was pleasantly surprised to realize that there were lots of areas of overlap. In fact, because my overriding mission is to live my life for God, I discovered that my 4 main areas of focus - spiritual, mental, physical and social - were all interrelated. Take Soulful Knitting Ministries, for example. It was a no-brainer for me to find a way to turn what had once been a hobby that I loved, into something much more. Through this ministry we are reaching others in need through our knitting and our encouragement, both with the finished items and the prayerful process of creating them. And even when I knit for myself, I often pray, meditate or spend quality time with other knitters. It's the ultimate two-fer, several times over!
  3. Take small steps. One of the biggest sure-fire ways of sabotaging our success is to set huge goals. Don't misunderstand, big dreams are very important, but in order to be realized, they need to be tackled in manageable steps. When we decide that we're going to change our lives overnight - lose 50 lbs, stop drinking coffee cold-turkey, de-clutter and reorganize the entire house in a weekend - the task often seems so big, so overwhelming, that we either scare or exhaust ourselves out of it before we even get started! Remember the saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? It's true. Rather than focusing on the HUGE end goal, try focusing on the first step instead. If you want to drink more water, which sounds easier: "Starting today, I'm going to drink 64 oz. of water every day" or "Starting today, I'm going to drink one small glass of water every day". Once you start drinking the one small glass each day, I bet you'll find it wasn't so bad after all. In a few days or weeks, you'll probably be ready to go for a bigger glass, and then maybe two glasses. The same theory applies to exercise, giving up coffee or cigarettes, and Bible study. Which do you think is more benefecial, small goals and small successes or big goals and no success?
  4. Create a rewards system. I did some seasonal retail work this Christmas and was surprised to see how many people used credit cards for all sorts of purchases. Even people I know personally, who I knew didn't need to use credit were using their plastic. Why? Because of the rewards programs offered by the credit card companies. I am not at all a proponent of credit card debt, but I do understand now why people who can and do pay off their credit card balances every month are charging practically everything in order to benefit from the various reward programs. If it works for Visa and MasterCard, I'm betting that we can create our own rewards systems that work equally well for us. As you set your small goals, try setting up small rewards for yourself when you meet them. This doesn't have to be (and probably shouldn't be) anything fancy, but it should be something enjoyable that you can look forward to in celebration of a job well-done... some extra knitting time, a few extra minutes over a cup of hot tea in the morning, a long hot bubble bath, a glass of wine. Only you know what motivates you. Make it fun. And of course, be sure to plan for some bigger rewards when you ultimately reach the end goal.

So, there's no better time than today to get started. With some focus, some planning, some commitment and of course, with prayer, you're on your way to having your best year yet! I know I am.

Please feel free to share your goals/plans for the new year here. If you decide to try any of the suggestions I'd offered, I'd love to know if you find them helpful. And as always, if you have other suggestions, please share.

My prayer is that each one of us will receive all of the love, joy, peace and abudance that our hearts can hold in 2007.

1 comment:

MLO said...

Actually, many people use plastic even when it is not truly credit due to the dangers of carrying large amounts of cash and the hassles of check writing.