I am not a fan of tips to stay motivated for the year that start with “set realistic goals for yourself”. It makes me think the people writing them are picturing us all writing down new year’s resolution lists with things like “learn to fly like a bird” or “win the lottery”… clearly not the case.
The problem is not setting “unrealistic” goals. The issue, according to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, is not with the goals but with the systems we put in place to tackle them. Most of us, given the right structure could reach most, or all of the goals we set ourselves. Some difficulty lies in changing repetitive counterproductive habits, but mostly with the timeframes and amount of effort we allocate to see the difference. We want it all and we want it now and if we haven’t gotten there by Feb 1st, forget about it, we never will… or could we?
Starting the year with a laundry list of goals is a recipe for disaster, however “realistic” you make them. We all know this, the research confirms it. We put pressure on ourselves to achieve, get, grow, succeed and get frustrated when we “fail”, don’t get there as planned, make progress but want perfection.
So what is going to set you up for success?
What if instead of your overzealous self, hitting the ground running, you pace yourself? What if you think of the bigger picture and give yourself the actual full year to make progress? What if you set only one intention, a theme, in alignment with your purpose, with your why? You could then chunk down its progress into bite size goals you can accomplish, things that will make you feel successful and motivated along the way.
Taking things slowly, with deliberate breaks to recover is definitely a more sustainable and healthy way forward. Potentially going against the grain as you may feel like you can do it all today, but trust me, it’s going to be better for the long run. Being mindful of what to focus on and when, is more helpful than ticking things off the list at a frantic pace to start with.
- Take time to reconnect to yourself and your purpose. If you start by setting up an intention, rather than goals you’ll have a better focus. Knowing what it is that brings you joy, fulfils you and energises you is essential. Align your yearly goals to your sense of purpose and use your strengths to support your progress.
- Pay attention to health, life and the people that count. Make sure you revisit your diary with a healthy dose of self-preservation. Your time and energy are valuable resources and should be used wisely. It is important to show up and have presence and impact but be mindful of where and when. Hit the right meetings focussing your energy on important things and you’ll see better results.
- Have an accountability partner or even better a partner in crime. There’s nothing more fun than achieving goals in a team, sharing the work, the effort but also the gratification of success… and celebrating with a multitude! This is also an opportunity to reconnect with your network and find the right partner, mentor, sponsor for when you need expert feedback and support.
- Stay positive (mindset is key) and at the same time stay authentic and vulnerable. If things are not going the way you wished them to, it is ok to ask for help, it is ok to acknowledge all of your emotions and it is absolutely ok to grieve loss. What is not ok is to obsess over arbitrary goals and deadlines we are bound to miss.
Finally, and in this case borrowing from James Clear, the guru of habits that help you succeed, I like this one:
- “Just start. Start slow if you have to. Start small if you have to. Start privately if you have to. Just start.”
If you have not found your theme, your intent is unclear or starting on your own is not appealing, connect with us. We can be your accountability partner, your coach, your expert help when you need it.