Many of us come up with New Year’s resolutions every year. Unfortunately, we often end up frustrated and overly self-critical when things don’t go as well as we hoped, and we don’t reach our goals.
How can we improve this process?
First, as each year ends, it’s good to sit down and evaluate how our lives have changed. What went well over the last year? What have I accomplished? What am I thankful for? What resolutions or goals didn’t I accomplish? Why didn’t I accomplish them?
In answering these questions, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as failure. Everything is part of the learning process. It’s also important to write down our answers to these questions. There’s something very powerful in the journaling process.
By going through this exercise, we become mindful of the progress we’re making in life. We become aware of where we’re moving forward, where we’re stagnating and, most importantly, what we can do to have the type of life we want.
From here, we can more effectively make resolutions and set goals for the new year.
Every self-improvement program tells us to have goals. This makes perfect sense. How can we reach a destination if we don’t know what the destination is?
The most fundamental difference between a goal and a typical resolution is that a goal is written down. There are many free tools on the Internet and in books to guide us in the process. The better ones have several points in common. They tell us to keep things relatively simple and to use positive language. They tell us to be specific. They also tell us to not only write down our goals, but to reread them every day and even to imagine them being accomplished.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all goals are annual goals. We also have short-term goals, five-year plans and even lifetime goals.
In order for our goals to be effective, however, they need to be important to us. Evaluating your past year helps determine what’s significant to you.
Achieving goals is not easy – there are always challenges and setbacks, and we need to be prepared to face them. Friedrich Nietzsche tells us, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” If our “why” is strong enough, we can overcome difficulties.
It’s also important to remember that goal setting is a learning process. As I look at my goals from the previous year, I find some were relatively easy to achieve and some are still in progress. I may need to do things differently in the new year to achieve some goals or I may need to simply keep on keeping on.
The bottom line is that each of us has amazing potential. Each of us has gifts to share to make the world better. Each of us is called to make a difference. Self-evaluation and goal setting are valuable tools in helping us become what we’re meant to be.
We don’t control everything that happens to us in life but we do control how we respond. A whole new year lies before us. How will we embrace it to make life better for ourselves and those around us?
It’s all in the goals you set and how you pursue them.
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.