I can’t even tell you how long it has been since I made a proper New Year’s resolution. The reason I generally don’t make resolutions is, because I have failed miserably at keeping them for so many years that I have all but given up on even considering making one.
Most years I try to stay away from even simple goal-setting exercises throughout the year as well, both personally and professionally. I tend to overshoot with my goals and aspirations and lack the inner strength to even begin them, knowing that I won’t achieve them anyway. You are always told to aim high, maybe even put goals out there that you know are unattainable, but of course when you are told that, they don’t tell you about how bad you will feel when you don’t hit those unattainable goals – they can be soul crushers. I am sure I am not alone in this. So, I have for too long just given up before I even start.
Where I Have Gone Wrong
I focus on past failures. I literally kill any chance of gaining momentum before I even get started. I know I will fail before I get to the starting line so I take myself out of the race completely. How do I know this? Because I have failed at the same goal 5 years in a row. We beat ourselves up a lot over past mistakes.
I don’t really believe in myself and my ability to reach my goals. I forget that I am in control and do have the ability to do seriously just about anything I set my mind to. I have enough self-doubt that I really don’t believe in my own abilities, even though everyone around me sees my potential – I don’t. I tell myself that those that are cheering me on, like my wife or close friends are only doing that, because they have to tell me that they believe in me.
I set goals based on what other people think are important or what I think would make someone else happy. Don’t set goals that your friends have – they have to be your goals. I want to lose weight, why – because everyone else is doing it. I want to run a 1/2 marathon, why – because everyone else is preparing for one. I want to <fill in the blank with one of your friend’s goals>… and then wait a week and realize you were never interested in that goal to begin with.
I set goals for things that I get behind in, too quickly and it feels like an insurmountable task to get caught up. I need incremental wins. I have gotten so hung up in the results that when I start to falter I go ahead and make sure to crash and burn. I am going to walk a 5K every single day on the treadmill and if I miss a day – I will make it up. You miss two days in a row and you know what you will do? Give up completely. I want to read the Bible through in a year – awesome goal – I wonder how low the actual percentage is of people that complete this one – why? Once you get behind a week’s worth of reading – now you have to read the entire book of Leviticus in a day – no thank you.
This Year’s Going to Be Different
This past year I have personally taken some steps toward improving in the area of goal-setting. I absolutely do believe we should set goals. I think we should have expectations of ourselves and others. I believe in the old adage that if you don’t have a target, something to aim for – you won’t hit anything – you won’t accomplish anything – by accident.
I know you have probably heard it a million times (totally not exaggerating) – you need to write your goals down. When you put it on paper it comes alive. It also helps to start verbally expressing your goals to others. You need someone to help keep you accountable. Even if they don’t bring it up – you will hold yourself more accountable, because you have told others that you are going to accomplish your goal – whatever that goal might be. I have taken both of these steps this past year – I can guarantee that it works.
I believe that resolutions or goals need to be a life change – not something temporary – like a diet. Resolutions need to be something that you personally believe in. They need to be something that you can see the long-term benefit in. Diets tend not to work, because even in our minds they are temporary solutions – we shed five or ten pounds eating no sugar or carbs for a month and then when it is over with we put the weight right back on. I need to make a life change, but it needs to be something that I believe in and can see the long-term benefit in doing.
I also am taking smaller more incremental steps in reaching my goals. We try to go too big too fast. We want to go from consuming 4,000 calories a day and drinking a 2-liter of soda per day to a day of salads and water – you are probably going to die that day – I would!
The biggest win for me personally in goal-setting is the “Start Today” mentality. I have always been a big fan of starting something SOON. You know when soon is? It’s in the future. I like soon, because it never has to get here. I never have to start if I don’t have a deadline or if I think I will do something in the future. If you are going to make a change – do it today. Don’t wait for the first of the week, the first of the month, the first of the year. Tomorrow is not promised to us, we have today – start now. Start today.
Every Day is a Do-Over
I believe that we can start every day with a blank slate – a fresh start – a do-over. That doesn’t mean there are no consequences for past decisions and actions, but we need to know that we can always start over every day towards our new lives. Every day is a do-over – thank goodness. Each morning I begin with a fresh start. Put the past behind you and start over today – it’s a clean slate.
Today can be your new life. Today can be the first day you start something big in your life. Today can be the first incremental win in your next project or life change.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
New Year’s Guidelines
With this New Year I am setting some high-level objectives or guidelines – these can help shape individual goals you might set. These are changes I would like to see in my life this year and suggest you implement as well…
- Be a part of a solution – not a complainer. We are great at pointing out problems that people have, things that frustrate us, problems in our church – do something about it. Stop your whining and make a change.
- Pray more – worry less. This is one we think about all the time and mention, but we need to put it into practice. We need to remember that there is Someone much greater than us that is in control of it all. I recently saw this and liked it a lot… Be a Warrior, not a Worrier.
- Read more. It doesn’t matter what you like to read – fiction, non-fiction, biographies, whatever – just read and watch less TV. Reading opens our minds, expands our imaginations, and allows us to challenge our way of thinking. Mark Twin said, “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
- Challenge ourselves more – challenge our preconceived notions, things we have always believed and taught. We don’t need to be afraid to question and challenge things that we have always held dear. I personally believe things that I was taught as a child and still have not taken the time to determine whether or not they are truly my beliefs or just things I do. I want to understand why I do what I do.
- Appreciate, celebrate, and thank your real friends – connect on a more personal intimate level. We don’t have many real friends – we need to celebrate them and let them know that we love them and truly appreciate them for choosing us to be their friends. Click here for another article on this train of thought.
- Put your phone down. We all know our phones are probably one of our greatest addictions – let’s put them down a little more often and live in the moment with those around us. I don’t want to sit across the table from my children or my wife while we each stare at a small glowing screen in front of us.
- Enjoy good food. Maybe even learn to cook some good food. I know, the whole world is obese – I get it. Don’t be afraid to eat and enjoy good food especially with friends. Don’t kill yourself with food, but enjoy some good healthy food and occasionally the really unhealthy kind, too.
- Be realistic about your life and this year specifically. Some of this year is going to be fantastic. You are going to have some very wonderful moments, but keep it all in perspective, because some of this year is going to suck. Set your expectations appropriately. Know there will be ups and downs. Enjoy the highs and learn from the lows.
- Be purposeful – live intentionally. You are in control of your life. Spend time on what’s important. Our lives are the result of decisions that we make.
- Believe in yourself. You really can do pretty much anything you want to do, but you have to start with believing that yourself. I believe in you. You believe in you!
- Don’t let your past determine your future. This is a tough one – I think it is important to reflect on past mistakes and to learn from them, but don’t dwell on them and allow them to determine your future. Learn and grow.
- Enjoy life – slow down. We live our lives at such a break-neck pace. We have a hard time enjoying life as it flies past us. The end goal is important, but so is the journey. Enjoy the path you are taking and live today.
- Spend purposeful time with the people that matter most – your family of choice – your spouse, your children, your spiritual family. I am starting to realize more and more each day that the time I have with my children is not infinite – they will be grown and gone before I know it – spend time with your people!
- The year of no! Cancel some of your unnecessary activities and be willing to say, “No,” even to activities that are even good, in and of themselves. We overcrowd our lives with so much to do that we don’t get to enjoy any one thing fully. I will write more on this at some other time, but spend the year saying no to more. Quality over quantity. Clarity over confusion.
- Do something for the first time. When’s the last time you did something new for the first time. It’s exciting to try something new – get that feeling back.
- Influence others – be willing to stand up and stand out. This world needs a lot more real leaders and we need to be willing to make ourselves uncomfortable for the sake of teaching others.
- Enjoy what you do for a living – life is short. We spend a large portion of our time working – make it something fulfilling. Whatever you decide to do for a living – work hard at it – be committed to it!
- Dream big! Allow yourself to dream again. Remember when you were younger and used to dream – before real life beat you down? Dream again and dream big. When you realize that dream – come up with another dream.
- Buy less stuff. I spend a lot of time watching shows about and reading articles and blogs about minimalist living and tiny homes. We get caught up in the lie that more stuff, bigger stuff makes us happier. Less can be so much more. Read More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger.
- Grow closer to God. This should really be at the top of our list, but do what you need to do to grow closer to God. Involvement in small group Bible studies works for me, daily emails, etc. – decide what you need and do it!
- Stop trying to keep up with your neighbors and friends – stop comparing yourself to your friend’s Facebook highlight reel. Click here for an article I wrote about this.
- Be kind. This is a tough one, because there are a lot of people that make it easy for you to want to be unkind. Be nice to people – be kind always.
- Focus on your goals – what makes you happy, not what your friends are doing – you are unique – your mission is unique. Don’t try to please someone else through your goals – do what you want to do.
- Show gratitude – we have so much to be thankful for. Again, here is another article dealing with thankfulness – eucharisteo. Take time to be thankful and show your gratitude to God and to others.
- Pick your passion and plan for it! Figure out what you are passionate about and work towards a goal related to that passion. I have been checking out the Passion Planner lately – it has some pretty good ideas or at least a couple of thought provoking exercises once you figure out what your passion is.
- Don’t ever give up! You can succeed. This goes back to the whole “believe in yourself part” from earlier, but once you believe in yourself, don’t give up – keep fighting. You really can do it!
- Write cards – write letters. Use a pen if you still have one around the house. I still love to get handwritten notes in the mail. I like to know that someone purposefully bought stationary, sat down to write me a letter, and then even mailed it.
- Take 15 minutes every single day and focus on making someone else’s life better. You will benefit more than those that receive your focus – I promise. You can brighten someone’s day every single day and you should.
- Make memories. This life is not about the stuff, it’s not about the shows we watch, it’s about making memories by yourself even, with family, with friends. Make some life-long memories this year.
- Laugh a lot! Laughter is important in our home. Laughing at ourselves – not taking ourselves, too seriously, and making sure that we are making memories through laughter. Life will present us enough of the serious times. Spend time laughing. Play games with friends and laugh so hard that your cheeks hurt when you go home and you aren’t 100% sure, but you might have peed a little during the last game.
- Live healthy. This points back some to the enjoy food part, but be healthier, move around more – I know my life is very sedentary. I need to be healthier, exercise some, eat better, cut back on some things. I want to live a full life if possible and have more time to influence my children, love my spouse, and enjoy my friends as I help them get to Heaven.
- Breathe deep! Go outside and literally take a deep breath. Be more conscious of your breathing. Know that each breath is a gift from God and could be your last.
- Figure out your purpose! Not just what you are passionate about, but figure out and write down what your purpose in life is. See my About page for some of my purpose.
- Serve God. All that really matters in this life is pleasing God – that is the most important. Please Him, serve Him – maybe through some of the suggestions in this list.
- Show compassion. This world is severely broken and there are a lot of people in this world that are living very broken lives – some by consequence of their own poor decisions, some by consequence of birth – be compassionate people. Live like Christ!
Start today, start this year, start this day as a do-over.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson