Elizabeth Knox Online

New Years is a time for reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the New Year - you reminisce about the good and bad and make goals for the future.

Goals give us focus and momentum: they help us achieve things we weren't sure we could do.

Setting goals is important, but sometimes goals set at New Years don't really stick... Someone asks if we're making a New Year's Resolution, we haven't given it much thought, but reply "I'm going to put more money in savings this year." Sure, we know we need to save more, so we mean it, but we honestly haven't given it much thought. And we're not likely to be successful.

To make New Years Resolutions more meaningful for myself, and to have a greater shot at achieving them, about eight years ago I made two changes to my annual goal setting routine:

I moved them to September: My birthday is in September, so it's reasonable to consider it my "New Year." It takes me away from the hub-bub of the holidays and I set aside time to really think through the last year and plan for the next year. 
This year I went to the National Arboretum and sat under blustery skies with a thermos of tea. I spent time doing a "year-in-review" and then started putting down on paper all the goals I've had rolling around in my head for the next year.

I make SMART goals: To avoid the mushy "I resolve to be a better friend" type goal, which is kind of intangible, I try to make sure all my goals are "SMART"
       Specific      Measurable      Attainable      Realistic      Timely

So that takes my "stay in shape" goal and turns it into:

  • Specific: I am going to run one 10-mile race and do one sprint triathlon next year.
  • Measurable: This time next year I’ll be able to tell – very clearly – whether I did it or not. 
And I can measure smaller pieces of the goal along the way… training runs, two sport workouts for the tri, etc.
  • Attainable: I’m physically able to do these races, there are no health issues that make these impossible. I will make space in my budget for the race entry fees and for any equipment I need (new shoes, etc).
  • Realistic: I am willing and able to make the lifestyle changes necessary to be in shape for these races. While they are challenging, I’ve done them before and I know I can do them again.
  • Timely: I’ve got one year to get these races done. I’ll probably pick out the specific races in the early spring and register for them. It’ll help keep me honest.

Each year I set goals in a few different areas:

  • Financial – things I want save money for, things I want to spend money on, specific organizations I want to give money to
  • Life – this is like a bucket list. These are things I want to do some day. I may not get to them in the next year, but I want to keep a record of them
  • Physical – running particular races goes in this category, or things I want to do for my health like incorporating more or less of a certain food
  • Professional – where do I want to see my career go in the next year? Are there new skills I need to learn? Who can help me grow? Who can I help grow professionally?
  • Relational – there are relationships I really want to invest in: my husband, my best friends, the gals I mentor, my family - specifically my nieces. How – specifically - will I grow those relationships?
  • Spiritual – I want to grow closer to God. How am I going to do that this year? What books will I read? What spiritual disciplines will I develop?
Setting SMART goals in these areas, gives me new things to reach for each year. Do I reach them all? No. But that's okay. Sometimes I have to change my goals because of life circumstances and sometimes I just miss the mark. But overall they help me progress along the way to some of my larger goals that can not be accomplished in one year.
I share my goals with my accountability partner and best friend so she can help me achieve them, and I try to review them regularly to remind myself what is important.
Is goal setting a part of your life? What are some of the goals you are working towards?

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