Ditch Resolutions, Let’s Set Goals

So, what am I planning for 2017? What am I hoping and wishing for – what’s getting me excited and motivated for the coming year? I alluded to some of the things I care about in my post on how to approach resolutions.

I’m not a big fan of the term “resolutions” as I think its assumes a lack of control and chaos within a person and implies an absence of appreciation for what we already possess and are. I much prefer the expression “setting goals”. I’ll share my goals at the end of this post but first, some reflection on how we can set our goals!

Let’s make the distinction between values, goals, priorities, and resolutions. To set and then achieve your goals, you need a clear understanding of what your values and priorities are.

Step 0: Values.

What are your Values? What are the 2 to 3 values that you have deep respect for and want to guide your decisions? In the court of your own conscience, how are you truly assessing whether you’re happy with the way you behave in a situation or with someone? If something sucks in the present, do you still grit your teeth and persevere because it aligns with one of your values? We can do this without realizing it. Our values are private and not something we need to voice to others.

For me, I know my core values are fairness and experimentation. Everything else is built on top of those two. For example, courage is also an important value to me but its there to support fairness. For me to adhere to a self-defined sense of fairness, I need courage- courage to speak my mind and go against the grain and at times, to keep my head down and be passive at times. Learning is also very important to me, but that’s a result of the reflection I do after experimenting.

A conversation with yourself on your values is not hippie speech. It is a dialogue that humans have been engaging in for at least as long as we’ve had written language. And the centrality of values to a content life has been a persistent truth in every society. Aristotle wrote about it, the Abrahamic faiths, polytheistic religions (Hinduism and Native Americans), Buddhism, Humanism. Yes, some of the major thinkers across these groups have been influenced by one another but they vary on the values they prescribe, not on the necessity of values. Without values you cannot guide yourself or anyone else. Values are the structure to your existence.

Step 1: Vision of Some Long-Term Future State

If you are satisfied with your life right now then firstly : congratulations and secondly: all you have to do is sustain your current habits. For most of us, we want something to be a bit different in our lives. Come up with a rich visual of what you want. Where are you, what do you look like, who are you with? Be specific. This visual will drive you and give you motivation to sustain your new behaviors before they become habit. This future state will be your goal or a grouping of several goals.

Step 2: Define Your Terms
Values vs. Priorities vs. Goals vs. Resolutions / Behaviors

Values: The principles that you want to live by and assess your goals against. Are your goals in line with your values?

Goals: An end-state that you want to achieve, and one against which you can assess your current state. There has to be some ability to measure yourself against this future state, not necessarily quantitatively. Feeling happy with your ability to have a conversation with your manager is as good a goal as having $20K in the bank. What are your goals and are they the best ones to live in accordance with your values?

Priorities: Pick 2 or 3 goals which will become your priorities so that you can focus on achieving them. What are your priorities?

Resolutions / Behaviors: Resolution is a rather militant word for behaviors that you want to adopt that will help you achieve your goals. You might need a combination of one-time actions and recurring behaviors. Give this some thought.

Step 3: Figuring Out and Fitting in the Behaviors For Your Priorities.
I think I can best illustrate the process by which you can identify the behaviors you need via an example.

Example goal: Feeling comfortable talking to your boss about the ideas you have for work.

You’ll know when you’ve achieved this, you will literally feel it.

Actions and Behaviors to get you there:
– Write down a list of the ideas that you have
– Pick one of those ideas and mention them in casual conversation or during your one-on-one  with her/him
– Re-iterate that same idea and get her/his reaction
– Play that / those interaction(s) again in your mind and assess whether you liked how they went. What more could/less you have said? Do you want to continue talking about it? What have you learned about your manager’s thoughts on your idea?
– Repeat the above with the other ideas that you have.

After some time, raising your ideas with your manager will feel fine.

Step 4: Announce Your Goals After Setting Them

If you can muster an itty bitty bit of courage to write out or verbalize your goals to someone else, you’re much more likely to achieve them. Yes, friends and family can be a good reinforcement mechanism but other than that, taking temperature of how you feel when you articulate your goals gives you feedback on whether they’re right and rightly sized for you. You pave the path that you will have to walk with your goals, so make sure you look like the way it looks.

On the heels of preaching Step 4, these are some of my goals for the upcoming year:

– Financial: On average, don’t spend more than 20% of what I earn per day. Averages and rules of thumb really work for me when it comes to my finances
– Writing and personal expression: At minimum, an entry a week on here.
– Cooking: Keep my breakfast habit at home habit – especially on the weekends.
– Exercise: Keep my daily exercise habit. When on the road or out of town, workout with a friend or co-worker to keep it fun and fit it in.
– Friendship: Spend a quality 1 on 1 few days with my closest friends. When one of my closest girlfriends visits me, I’ll be sure to fit in a hike or two in our time together with just us.

I might’ve deleted and re-written a few of the above lines. (Subtle preaching of Step 4.)

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