I would like to lose weight.
I am thinking about going back to school.
I wish I could spend more time with my kids.
I want to start going to the gym.
How many times have you had these or similar thoughts, perhaps with every intention of following through? You may have even made a New Year’s Resolution that you will absolutely make it happen this year, only to find your good intentions fall by the wayside as the demands of your life – the way it is currently – erode away those good intentions.
When this happens, we often beat ourselves up with harsh judgments that we would never heap upon someone else, thinking things like, “You are such a failure!” or “You always screw things up!” I suggest to you that rather than having some innate character flaw, the error is instead one of approach – you were wanting or wishing for change when what you needed, instead, was to create a goal.
Wanting or wishing for change causes our approach to be unstructured and to rely upon willpower. Creating a change in our world takes energy – often physical, mental and emotional energy. Is it any wonder we do not succeed when we place this additional expectation on top of our already full life? Expecting us to be able to accomplish this by relying on willpower alone, which varies depending on the time of day, how much sleep we got, or how full our day has been, is unrealistic. Are we really going to make it to the gym at 5:00 am when we did not get to bed until midnight the night before?
A goal, on the other hand, is structured and helps us to create a framework that allows us to rely less on willpower. I particularly like this definition of a goal from www.businessdictionary.com: “An observable and measurable end-result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed time frame.” Here is an example. My goal for going to the gym: I will go to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (measurable/time frame) on my way home from work at 4:30 (time frame). I will do this every week for a month (time frame). I will keep a chart of my progress on the refrigerator and review at the end of the month (measurable/time frame).
The last point is important – reviewing your progress. This is an opportunity to review whether things are going according to plan. When reviewing your progress, rather than looking at it with a judgmental eye, which we often do, instead look at it with the eye of a detective…what is working well? What needs adjusting or tweaking? This is a time to strategize and determine what will make you even more likely to succeed. Perhaps Mondays are not a good day after all, but Saturday is wide open. Make the adjustments and keep going! If you were not as successful as you had hoped at first, that is okay. Keep refining and move forward. As Albert Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.”
I have the following quote framed and sitting in my living room to remind me that I have the power to make my dreams a reality…
“A dream written down with a date
Becomes a goal
A goal broken down into steps
Becomes a plan
A plan backed by action
Makes your dreams a reality”
– Author unknown
If there is a change you want to make in your life – something important to you – do not just wish for the change, make it a goal, and make it happen!