I use to be all about setting New Years resolutions. Resolutions provide the possibility of turning over a new leaf and achieving major change in ones life, which is a wonderful idea in theory. The problem that I personally found with New Year’s resolutions was that the resolution I would set myself was something huge. That when it came time to take action towards the resolution I would easily lose focus or interest as the task just seemed too overwhelming and too difficult to tackle. Or the resolution was too open ended or vague, making it difficult to know how to approach my resolutions and achieve them.

Last year, instead of resolutions we sat down and compiled a list of goals we’d like to achieve during the year. The list included personal and work goals, as well as a set of goals we would like to accomplish together as a couple/tribe. Most of the goals were quite specific: complete PhD confirmation, pay off outstanding debts, go to Vanuatu for our honeymoon. Others were still a little vague: Do more yoga for self, finish jobs around the house. As the year has ticked by we came to realise that achieving our goals relied on 3 things:

1) being as specific as possible with each goal;

2) breaking each goal down into the steps required to achieve it; and

3) setting a time frame to complete each goal.

Specificity with goal setting is incredibly important. Even if later on in the year you find your original goal has changed or grown, which can happen as you create steps and work through them to accomplish your goal, start off as specific as possible. Say you want to set a personal goal relating to your health.

A resolution might sound something like… “I want to get healthy” or “I want to lose weight.”

A goal would sound more like… “My goal is to lose 5kg” or “My goal is to eat 5-9 serves of fruit and veggies everyday.”

The difference between a resolution as opposed to a goal is in the details and your word choices. An important factor in achieving our goals is to do with our mindset and the vocabulary we use when talking about our goals. Instead of talking about our goals and the steps needed using vocabulary such as “I want…” or “I have to…” try changing your vocabulary to “I wonder how…” By using this vocabulary, our mindset shifts to begin to break down goals into steps or individual problems to solve that all work towards achieving the big picture goal. For instance…

I wonder how I can lose 5kg?

– Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables everyday

– Plan my meals and have nutritious snacks ready for each day

– Choose one day a week for food prep and buy, make and prepare meals on this day

– Exercise 3-5 times a week

– Seek support and guidance from health and nutrition professionals or online

By asking “I wonder how…?” it is easy to begin to break down your goals into more manageable steps. The goals themselves are then no longer so overwhelming or scary. Smaller steps are easier to deal with and allow you to begin to make small changes immediately, working your way up to completing your whole goal.

Adding timeframes to each step and your overall goal will help keep you accountable to the goals you’ve set. Especially when you have multiple steps and you can introduce the smaller changes over time. For instance…

I will accomplish by:

– Eat 3-5 serves of fresh fruit and vegetables everyday  (30 April)

– Plan my meals and have nutritious snacks ready for each day (28 February)

– Choose one day a week for food prep and buy, make and prepare meals on this day (31 March)

– Exercise 4-5 times a week (30 June)

– Seek support and guidance from health and nutrition professionals or online (31 January)

Goal setting, used in the right way, helps to establish new routines and bring about positive change in our lives. And while setting timeframes and steps to accomplishing your goals is important, remaining flexible to what life throws at you will stop added stress and anxiety from creeping into your life and derailing you and the actions you implement to achieve your goals. There were several goals that we had to reevaluate this year, or change our timeframes for accomplishing them, as we weren’t expecting that I would need surgery or that the recovery time would be as long as it was after the surgery. The most important thing I could do during this period of time was to care for myself and heal. And stress does not assist in the healing process, so all goals and timeframes were put on hold or postponed until a time I was recovered and could once again pick up where I’d left off before the surgery. Like anything in life, goal setting requires balance – balance to create meaningful change while not over planning life and missing out on the spontaneous opportunities the universe presents.

As 2017 approaches, start to think of how you would your new year to look. What goals would you like to achieve, personally and professionally, and begin to wonder just how you will create the life you desire.

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