Ready, Set, Goal: Matching Your Actions to Your Intentions

January 1, 2013 was just a few days ago and millions of people have been tweeting, Facebooking, sharing and journaling about their resolutions. Although I am going to take advantage of the mad rush to talk about setting goals, let’s remember that a goal can be set or modified anytime of year. 

Now that the New Year celebrations have passed and we have finished going around the table sharing our “resolutions” with everyone else, let’s explore our goals a bit. How many of us set complicated or lofty goals that we either forget about, get too busy to tend to or simply fail at? How many of us feel guilty when we don’t follow through with what we set for ourselves?

Well, if change were easy, we would all do it.

January 1 does not necessarily mean a new year a new you. January 1 is more of an opportunity for you to evaluate, assess and adjust. “Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.” Eric Zorn

Take the wisdom, strength & struggles of 2012 and let them inform the choices you make in 2013.

A useful goal-setting tool and something we do in therapy is to break down and explore words that we use everyday. For example, one of my clients said, “2013 is about relationships.” When we expanded what that meant, she specified that she wanted to increase intimacy with her husband, be more grateful for him as a partner and to confide more in her friends. You can imagine how specific a goal about relationships can become when you continue to break it down. This method gives you a clearer picture of choices to make so that you have a better shot at matching your actions to your intentions.

Here are 5 more tips on how to set realistic, attainable and meaningful goals for 2012!

  1. Reflect on 2012

Are you in the same place as last year, did you do a 180? Was 2012 a “good” or “bad” year for you? What made it good or bad?  What are you grateful for from 2012? What events, circumstances or people did you manage to survive this past year and how did you do it? Reflect on your relationships, career, love-life, health etc.

  1. What would you like to be different in 2012?

Try to avoid listing things you don’t want to do or things you want to do less of. Rather, list what you want to do instead. For example, I want to be less judgmental of myself. We give ourselves a much clearer path as to how we are gong to achieve the goal by stating what we will do. For example, “I want to accept myself by laughing at my mistakes.” Focus on what you’re going to do rather than what you aren’t.

  1. Pick a theme or word

Using a theme or word can help you brainstorm on what kinds of goals to set, and also can set the tone for the year. A few words my clients have chosen are relationships, simplify, gratitude, ambition and compassion.

  1. Be honest

These goals are for you and no one else. Be honest with yourself about what is realistic and attainable. Check in with yourself and even a close friend if you are unsure.

  1. Hold yourself accountable

There have been mixed messages in research regarding writing down goals and sharing goals with others to increase accountability. My tip is to go with whichever way or ways have worked for you in the past. Some examples are: writing a list, writing your word or theme on your calendar each month, journaling on what you did that day or week to contribute to your goal, or sharing your list with a friend.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. – T.S. Eliot

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