December is my second favorite month of the year. July wins out because that is my birthday month, so it is full of celebration. But December is close on its heels. I love December for many reasons: there’s the holiday celebrations, the holiday food, the holiday music, and the gracious attitude that people seem to adopt as they count the days to Christmas. But my favorite part of the month is its representation of the end of the year. Over the last few years it has become a time for me to reflect on the past year and think about the next. It gives me a chance to look at all of the challenges that I went through and to congratulate myself for the successes. And it is a time for me to prepare for my New Year’s Goals.
How many New Year’s Goals have you successfully made and kept throughout the year? For the majority of the population most goals are dropped by February and completely forgotten about by March. Health clubs go through a ginormous spike in memberships during December and January. And more than half of those people stop showing up a few months later. Why is this? People are usually VERY motivated at first. They get the membership. They buy the outfits. They research the diets. They get the nicotine patch. They bite the bullet and look at their finances. They stop buying things they don’t need. They buy the Spanish Rosetta Stone. They spend more time with family and friends. But soon enough the motivation goes out the door.
I believe that we do not spend the time we should on figuring out WHY we want to reach the goals we choose. We pick lofty goals that sound great, but when our desired outcome is superficial, or we’re trying to please someone else, we tend to lose motivation. Want to lose weight? Why? Want to get out of debt? Why? Want to stop smoking? Why?
If you can’t answer the question, you are likely to be one of the millions of people who drop their New Year’s Goals. And if you answered that you just want to stop smoking because other people tell you it’s a good idea, your chances of following through are pretty slim. But if you desire to stop smoking because you have a new baby in the house and you want to feel energetic enough to play with her, or you want to protect him by keeping second hand smoke away, now those are more likely to push you through the year.
So what if you can’t answer the why or you’ve just figured out you have no motivation past pleasing your spouse? Journaling is my first recommendation for most problems. The process of writing helps you get clear on what you perceive the problem to be, and helps slow down your thinking when it comes to solutions. You can also go back and look at your writing if you lose motivation or need to remember something you’ve forgotten. For those who don’t like writing, drawing a picture, cutting out pictures, or recording voice memos can be helpful as well. Here’s some journal exercises that I have done over the years to get really focused on my goals and helped me follow through.
- Write down what you think your goals should be. Then ask yourself the question, “Why?” and write the answer. Continue to ask yourself a few times until you feel like you’ve really gotten to the answer. An example- “I want to stop drinking.” Why? “Because I have gained weight and been less motivated to do work.” Why? “Because I feel unhealthy.” Why? “My wife is unhappy with me.” Why? “Because I feel unhealthy and I’m not taking care of myself.” Why? “I want to feel healthy and take care of myself.” Why? “Because I want to be healthy enough to take care of myself and take care of my wife.”- Now there’s motivation to stop drinking.
- Write down previous goals that you have made in the past. Free write about any challenges or successes you had while meeting those goals.
- Write out your fantasy life. Write how everything would be different if you met your goal. All of the things you would be able to do, places you’d be able to go, or things you’d be able to have. Get precise and specific.
Now that you’ve gone a little deeper with your goals, it’s time to evaluate if they need to be rewritten. Continuing with the example above, wanting to stop smoking because of the new baby in the house, maybe you realize that it’s not just about cigarettes. You want to feel energetic enough to play with your baby and keep both of you healthy. Quitting smoking might only be a part of this goal. Writing your goal in a more positive frame will help keep you on the right track, even when things get hard. Your new goal might be “By February I will be able to have the energy to spend at least 8 hours with the baby.” Framing your goal in this way might help you make decisions not just about smoking, but about exercise and healthy eating as well. And if you give in and have a cigarette, you have not “failed your goal.” You don’t have to give up. You have the motivation of spending time with your baby to keep trying.
What goals do you have for the New Year? What is the motivation behind it? How will you keep the motivation to make it all the way through to December 2014? Comment below!