“Looking for Happiness? Then Make a Goal. Not a Wish”
I have to confess that over the years I’ve made all kinds of personal and professional improvement resolutions. I’ve said countless times that “I’m really going to get in better shape,” and that “I’d like to learn another language.” I’ve announced many times that, “this year I’m going to visit my close friend living overseas” or that “I’d like to start a business.” No doubt, in a moment of delusion I’ve even said as part of a new health and fitness goal that “I think I’ll stop drinking altogether.” (Right. JK on that last one. I guess I got a little carried away. But you get the idea, don’t you?)
The thing is each time I made one of these declarations, I honestly believed that I would do what I said, just, not right then.
Now, I know I’m not alone here. We all do this sort of thing at one time or another. We tell ourselves we need to make a change and we’re setting a goal! But then, funny enough, the date to start taking action somehow always seems to elude us.
And you know why? Because, what we’re actually doing isn’t setting a goal, we’re creating a wish list. You see, for a goal to actually become a reality it has to have two things, commitment and purpose. A goal without these two things is really just a fantasy. It’s something we wish would happen.
So then, how do we fix that, and accomplish more?
Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly simple. The day we stop saying I “should” do something and start saying, “that’s it! I ‘must’ make a change,” is the day our wish for change becomes a goal. This subtle shift in mindset makes all the difference! Why? Because, usually when we mentally decide that we “must” fix something, we have a purpose or a reason for doing it. That sense of purpose helps us become committed to achieving the goal. Another thing happens too. Suddenly, achieving this goal becomes part of how we see ourselves or who we are. This is critically important because we become what we imagine, so seeing ourselves accomplish our goal and having a process we can rely on to get us there are the two crucial ingredients we need to make that goal a reality.
I saw a great example of this shift in mindset in a friend of mine who smoked for many, many years. Family and friends constantly encouraged him to stop smoking without success. Intellectually he knew it wasn’t good for him and that he “should” quit. But the timing never seemed to be quite right. Or, he felt too stressed by work and so on. This friend tried several times to go “cold turkey” and just stop, only to have a set back and then start smoking again a few months later. In the end, it wasn’t until he decided for himself that he “must” make a change that he was finally able to quit smoking for good. When asked sometime later what made the difference, he said, “a big part of it was that I didn’t like the idea of being a smoker. I saw myself as a healthy, fit person. Smoking just didn’t coincide with my view of myself.” I thought this was so interesting. Once the goal had become part of how he saw himself, it became achievable.
Do you have something in your life that you’ve been saying you “should” do? Are you ready to make it a “must” change? Need a little help getting started? Thought so. So, I’ve taken the liberty of sharing a couple things you can do today to set you on your way.
First, start by visualizing yourself accomplishing your goal. For instance, if your goal is weight loss, then I want you to visualize your slimmer, sassier self at a cocktail party, wearing a dress you’ve been dying to fit into and receiving compliments on your newly svelte appearance. You need to imagine how great that will feel, how happy you’ll be with yourself and how much more energy you’ll have. See where I’m going with this? Remember we become what we imagine ourselves to be! So you need to see yourself succeeding!
Next, you need to create a routine that you can follow. It’s SO important that you get a routine that you like, that you can commit to and that you trust will give you the results you’re looking for. For instance, using the weight loss scenario, going on a starv-a-thon, or some crazy 30-day, celebrity endorsed fad diet is not going to do it for you. Sorry, it’s just not. So don’t bother. Instead, you’d be better off meeting with a nutritionist who can give you daily dietary guidelines you can follow. Then create a regular exercise routine that you can reasonably do a few times a week. And finally, look at your current habits and behavior. Are there things you do now that have a tendency to sabotage your efforts? For instance, for someone trying to lose weight, going out for a drink after work not only will keep them from going to the gym, it also has a tendency to lead to unhealthy food choices later in the evening all of which will hurt their weight loss progress. So you see, it’s also important to change our current behavior if we’re really committed to getting a different outcome. The bottom line in all this is that having a thoughtful process and the patience to stick with it will give you the confidence you need to really reach your goal.
Now, a word of caution! Here’s the tricky part. Most people find it pretty easy to stick to a regimen as long as they’re seeing progress. i.e. seeing the number on the scale drop toward a new fitness goal. The problem arises when they have a set back. Unfortunately, this is when most people give up.
But you’re NOT most people! You’re a bad ass and you have a process. You’ve planned for the inevitable – temporary, set back. It happens and it’s ok, because you’ve got your routine to fall back on. This, by the way, is what separates successful people (like you) who reach their goals from everyone else. Successful people understand obstacles and setbacks are going to happen. Knowing this keeps them from being thrown for a loop and enables them to bounce back and stay focused on their goal.
But wait, here’s the best part of all! Have you ever noticed that just taking action toward a goal makes you feel better? There’s something about taking a step forward, even a baby step that makes us feel that we’re actively working to improve our life. This sense of progress gives us purpose and makes us happy! So, when you think about it, we NEED goals. Goals make us happy!
So let’s start today by making a goal, not a wish. After all, I believe you’re capable of more and I want to help you get there.
This much I know.