Friday, December 31, 2010

Setting Your Goals for the New Year

Okay, now that I've blathered about my own goals for the New Year, you probably got bored and thought about something more interesting: your goals for the New Year. As a compulsive list-maker and goal setter, let me offer you some suggestions.

I do strongly suggest that you think in terms of goals rather than resolutions. So many resolutions involve "don't" behavior. Every time you think "Don't do ___," you're thinking about ___. In fact, you're starting to obsess about it. How can you stop without doing ___?

Phrasing can be very important in the case of goals that do involve stopping certain kinds of behavior, such as overeating. Losing weight is especially challenging, because you have to keep eating, while trying 'not' to eat too much. Try thinking in terms of eating 'enough' rather than 'not overeating'. It might help.

When you set your goals, be realistic. Be realistic in terms of what you think you can accomplish, not what you've heard other people can or did do. Sure, the fat people on those TV weight loss shows did lose a remarkable amount of weight in a relatively short time. They also had coaches and cooks helping them out. We're also learning that sometimes more time passes between episodes than a real-life week. Measuring yourself by those standards will make you feel like a failure every week you lose less than five pounds.

Speaking of realistic, be sure your goals are about you. Getting your husband to stop smoking isn't under your control, it's under his control. You may have an obedient child who wants to please, but if she's not a 'morning person', this is unlikely to change. Some goals, by definition, do involve other people. If you're trying to get better performance ratings at work, or peddle your book to a publisher, a good portion of the outcome is in other people's hands. In this case, being realistic means you must accept that you might fail despite your best actions. Sometimes your boss just has it in for you.

Be specific. What is the most important thing you're trying to accomplish? "Reduce debt" sounds good, but is sort of vague. You might consider paying the minimums on your credit cards 'reducing debt' (FYI: no, it's not). "Retire my VISA card" or "Close my Dillard's account for good" are clearer goals.

Prepare to stick with it. Weight Watchers has a successful program. So does SparkPeople. Frankly, there are a lot of diet systems that really can help you lose weight - if you stick to them. Ask yourself how serious you are about your goal before ponying up time and money for a gym membership, new running shoes, etc. Paying off that MasterCard? You're probably going to have to do without some indulgences to make those higher payments... every single month.

Look for tools to help. Educate yourself. I mentioned there are a lot of diet systems that can help you - there are also a number of financial advice sites that can steer you towards better credit or reduced debt, if that's your goal (look for advice columns, not people who want you to pay them money to 'repair your credit'). MSN Money's Personal Finance isn't a bad place to start. Trying to stop smok- uh, live tobacco-free? Look at the American Lung Association pages. Educate yourself, then work from there.


Don't make your list too long. Cut yourself a little slack, will you? You need downtime. You're starting the New Year with plenty of energy and zeal (or bloated regret), but both will wear off by the time January is over. Set a few really important goals and pursue them. If you accomplish some other stuff, great, but don't schedule every minute of every day for working on yourself. The brightest guy I know, a mathematician, takes time off to watch the Simpsons. If his brilliant brain needs time off from weighty issues, so does yours.


1 comment:

Marian Allen said...

Lots of good advice, here! Thanks for making the joke of New Year's Resolutions back into a chance to take charge of pieces of our lives that bother us.

I have a bad habit of biting the inside of my cheeks, and one of my goals this year is to stop myself when I catch myself doing it. I'd like to resolve to STOP it entirely, but the smaller goal is more possible. Thanks. :)

Marian Allen