Just three days. Three days until we ring in the New Year. Three days until one calendar will come down to be replaced by another. New. Clean. Squares on a page, blank except for numbers to count the days, waiting for ink to consume the empty space. A blank page upon which we will write our story. And that’s the amazing thing. We have the incredible privilege of writing our own stories!
It’s a truth we often want to ignore, deny and avoid. It’s uncomfortable. It means that our reality, our circumstances, our lives are in some way, at some level our own responsibility. Like a sword, it severs excuses. Like a flame it burns away blame we too often place onto others. It calls us to responsibility. We squirm. We try to avoid it, but it’s there, this truth. If we can summon our courage, raise our eyes and look it in the face, if we can set aside fear for just a minute, if we can come to embrace it, we will find freedom.
We don’t have to be stuck. We don’t have to settle. We don’t have to give up on dreams!
As I’ve thought about the coming year and considered goals, and what I will write in those blank, little squares, I’m increasingly mindful of this truth. My story will be written. Will I write it or will I let others write it for me? Will it be written by my intention or by the tyranny of the urgent? At the end of 2018, will I be able to say I lived the life I wanted to live, did the things I wanted to do, accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, grew in the ways I wanted to grow, and developed the character traits I desired. I hope so. With intention, with discipline, with faith.
It seems everyone has strategies and advice on goal setting. I’ve read the books, watched the Ted Talks, and listened to the podcasts. This year I’ve compiled those things into 6 strategies I want to implement in 2018.
1. Define the “why”.
I recently heard best-selling author Jeff Goins speaking about Michael Hyatt’s goal setting program. Jeff said a couple of things that were really eye-opening for me. He spoke of the need to define the “why”. Why do I want to accomplish a certain thing? Jeff said that the “why” has to be real, not some politically correct version of a “why”, or a “why” I think I should have. It needs to be a real, deep down in my heart reason for wanting to have or do this thing. He gave the example of losing weight and getting in better shape. The politically correct “why” is to be healthier and to have energy to play with the kids. The real “why” might simply be to look great and have greater confidence as result. We might be able to fool others, but we can’t trick ourselves. Define your “why”. Make it compelling. Make it urgent and be honest with yourself. I can’t explain it, but for some reason, that’s the hard part for me, being honest with myself. It’s scary. It feels vulnerable. But it’s powerful.
2. Focus on the smaller goals first
Jeff Goins said something else that really struck a cord. He said that sometimes it’s better to attack the smaller goals and then the big goals will take care of themselves.
In his book, This Life I Live, Rory Feek shares his journey to becoming a successful songwriter and realizing his lifelong dream. For a year he wrote at least one song a day. Day after day he wrote and he just kept writing. It didn’t matter that none of them became hits. He wrote. It didn’t matter that weeks and months passed without success. He wrote. After nearly a year, and over 300 songs, one song became a hit. And then another and another.
The goal could have been to write a hit song. In fact, that was part of his ultimate goal, but the goal to get there was measurable and attainable. Write at least one song a day. Staying faithful to the smaller goal allowed the larger goal to take care of itself.
3. Be Consistent.
One of the hardest parts of setting and achieving goals is practicing discipline. You’ve heard the saying, “Pay the price of discipline or pay the cost of regret”. The reality is that few things are accomplished or achieved without practicing discipline. Discipline means doing the thing you need to do even when you don’t feel like it. It’s foregoing the good in pursuit of the best. It’s being consistent and tenacious, when you’re tired, when you’ve had a long day, when it feels like the world is resting on your shoulders, when your heart is aching. You do the thing anyway, because you can see beyond that moment in time, beyond those feelings, beyond the fatigue. The pain of the moment fades in the light of the promise of what is to come and you know that the cost of discipline pales in comparison to the cost of regret and joy comes in the morning.
4. Measure your goals and review your progress
Too often I’ve been known to set a goal and even go so far as to write it down only to stick it in a drawer and forget about it. Then I wonder why my life looks the same a year later. Goals are meant to be measured, reviewed and evaluated. This year I will review my goals each morning. I’ll keep them in forefront of my mind. I’ll evaluate my progress and tweak the goals if needed.
5. Celebrate wins, reward yourself.
I’ve never been very good at this. To me, accomplishing a goal is the reward. I don’t need a celebration. I’m much more comfortable just moving on to the next thing. But perhaps, just maybe, I’m missing the boat. My daughter Anna buys herself a little something every time she finishes a semester of college. She looks forward to this. It’s a little celebration, an acknowledgement that what she’s accomplished took effort and commitment, that she’s making progress toward the ultimate goal. I think it’s helpful. I think it’s good. Maybe I could use a little more celebration. Maybe we can celebrate together?
6. No place for fear.
What keeps us from achieving more? What keeps us stuck, struggling month to month to pay the bills? Or dieting year after year only to find the scale is moving in the wrong direction? What keeps us from pursing that thing we really love? Why don’t we tackle that project we’ve been putting off or get that education we talk about. The paperwork remains undone, the closets cluttered and unorganized. We still can’t get the car in the garage. We long for change so why don’t we create it?
For me, in my life, it’s usually FEAR. Fear is a ruthless slave master. His whispered lies become chains to bind us and we believe them. He cripples us from action. He’s a thief, stealing joy, stealing hope, stealing dreams. He tells us that we aren’t enough, will never be enough, that our best isn’t enough, and if we try we will only fail. He shouts that there’s not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money. He wants us to believe that our dreams are too big, too unrealistic, that people like us don’t accomplish things like that. Fear is a liar made powerful by our own decisions to believe him. Silence him with truth. Dis-empower him with faith. Conquer him with love.
Then let yourself dream. And dream big. Then dream a little bigger. Define your why. Be honest with yourself, even when it’s hard, even when it’s vulnerable. Set goals and tackle the smaller goals first. Let them pave the way to accomplishing the larger goals. Be consistent. Practice discipline. Learn to find joy in the discipline because of the harvest it will reap. Measure your goals, evaluate your progress, change course as needed. Know that challenges are beneficial. And celebrate! Celebrate your wins, celebrate your milestones. Enjoy the journey.
Write your own story! Find your courage, be bold, be playful, laugh, be audacious if you want. Dream the life you want then live the life you dream. If you haven’t started yet, why not start now?