Every December, I take out my shiny new calendar (this is my fave) and plan my goals for the coming year. I enjoy reviewing my goals from last year – and the results – to see if they can give me a small insight into who I was or who I have become in the past year. Sometimes I see a significant transformation! I then take the information and use it for mindful goal setting for the coming year.
Mindful Goal Setting vs. Resolutions
Many people use the term “New Year’s Resolutions” instead of “Goal Setting.” But when I hear “Resolution” it brings up images of painfully trying (and ultimately failing!) to stick to a promise. I think of general statements made: “I will eat no carbs in the coming year” or “I will get more done.” In comparison, mindful goal setting is a systematic process that holds promise and yields results.
So how do you translate your hopes and dreams for the New Year into actual goals? These are the steps that I use:
The 5 Steps:
Step 1: Reflection
It’s crucial to spend a bit of time thinking about your past year before planning the coming year. Here are some reflection questions I use:
Did I achieve last year’s goals? Why or why not?
Are the same things important to me this year as last year?
Were there any important events or transitions in my life in the past year? Did that change my outlook or way of thinking?
Did I learn anything about myself from my achievements and my setbacks?
The more systematic you have been about writing the previous year’s goals, the easier this process will be. For example, if I did not achieve one of my goals from last year, I can evaluate why. Perhaps I didn’t schedule time to work on it or maybe this goal was never really that important to me. Even if you haven’t written down your goals last year, you can still think about how you allocated your time and if that served you well.
Step 2: Choose a Theme (Optional)
While choosing a theme for goal setting is not a must, I find it extremely helpful. Here’s why. A theme can:
Bring your reflection of the past year into the present by using a word to represent what made you happy or fulfilled
Keep you focused and on track
Make it easy to apply goals to all areas of your life that are important to you. (See the next step about “Priorities”)
Help you figure out what goals to set for your year and what goals to leave out (you can’t pursue them all!)
For example, one of my past themes was “Maximize” and my goals centered around expanding on processes already in place. Having trouble finding a “Word of the Year?” Look here for inspiration.
Step 3: Set Priorities
You are almost ready to write your goals, but first you need to set your priorities. These are areas of your life that give you purpose and happiness. Most people have 3-5 priorities that are most important to them.
Warning: this might be a little difficult. Priorities are the most important areas in your life. That means that you can’t include everything; you must choose which areas trump all other parts of your life. The categories will be different for everyone. Here are some examples of priorities:
Self care (physical/mental health)
Some priorities can encompass other priorities which is a cool trick to use when you are trying to choose only a few. For example, “Travel” could be its own priority but you can also stick it under “Self Improvement/Growth”. If you are having trouble figuring out your priorities, just make a list of where you spend your time and your priorities will emerge. For example, if you are spending a huge amount of time picking up your kids from carpool or caring for an aging parent, you might want to add “Family” to that list of priorities. In the past, I have used HEART Goals to help me uncover my priorities.
Step 4: Write your goals
Finally, you are ready to write your goals. Here are some rules of thumb for this step:
Make sure your goals are SMART (smart, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound)
If you are having trouble writing specific goals, start with something general (“I would like to be a good friend”) and then think of smaller goals that allow you to achieve the general one (“I would like to send a thoughtful card every month to a different friend”)
Write at least 3 goals per priority area in your life
Step 5: Meeting your goals
You thought you were done because you wrote down all your goals. Not a chance – you are just getting started! In order to meet your goals for the new year you will need to:
Write a deadline for each goal (if applicable)
For example, creating a photobook might take a month. If you plan to start working on the photobook in March (see next), then set yourself a deadline to finish by the end of March.
Schedule, schedule, schedule
If you want to be successful with your goal, you will need to schedule specific times to work on those goals. That may mean deciding what month to work on a project (see above), or setting aside time to exercise 3 days a week.
Break down your goals into actionable steps
For example, if you would like to create a “Year in Review” photobook in February, dividing the project into bite-size tasks will make achieving this goal more manageable. At the beginning of February, you can schedule time to put photos into a folder. In the middle of February you might organize the photos into groups or themes. Then, at the end of February, you can create the photobook by concentrating on 2 or 3 pages a day until it is complete.
So there you have it. My five steps to goal setting for the New Year: reflection, choosing a theme, setting your priorities, writing down your goals, and meeting those goals. Inevitably you will end up concentrating on some goals and forsaking others but let’s leave that information to use as reflection for our first step of goal setting for the following year.
Wishing you a year of possibilities!
Do you have a process or steps that you use to set your goals for the year? I would love to hear about it. Please share in the comments.