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Making My New Year’s List

December 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

res·o·lu·tion  (ˌre-zə-ˈlü-shən) n.

  1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
  2. A resolving to do something.
  3. A course of action determined or decided on.

Is it just me, or does the word “resolution” sound a little daunting? Let alone the notion of actually stating one, holding to it, and making life changes or impacting some tiny part of the universe.

When I look at those definitions, though, “resolution” really isn’t such a bad word, but I still tend to avoid it, probably because of the connotations (my baggage) associated with it. In hopes that I’ll engage better with the actual process, I think of it instead as identifying items I want to focus on during the new year — “goals” just seem more do-able.


In recent years it usually goes like so: I sit down on or very near the first of January, reflect on what’s working well in my life and what isn’t, then select three or four of those items I’d like to change and move them to the front burner. I suppose that using the beginning of the calendar year as a prompt for this activity is a somewhat artificial structure, since nothing is actually “new” at the beginning of January: you can count on the weather’s to continue stay cold for weeks and weeks (at least here in the Midwest), we’re only half way through the academic year, and it’s well past my birthday. But despite all that, January 1st still seems to work for me. It must have something to do with the year’s brand new number — 2014, this time around!

Pretty much every time I sit down to the process, there is at least one item (more likely two) that I just didn’t nail during the previous year. I’d have gotten maybe several months into the new year only to discover that my resolve had plum disappeared. Upon examination, I realized that more often than not the particular item was actually more of a wish. I couldn’t really say that I had applied much resolve to the matter at all. I wasn’t ready to put in the effort required to rearrange and reprioritize the components of my life in order to make the thing to happen. I might have had a strong emotional attachment to the way things have always been (there’s always a pay-off of some kind, even in the habits we profess to dislike). Whatever the problem, I figure it’s A-okay to get back on that horse and ride it toward the end of the upcoming year. That is, if it’s still something I’d actually like to accomplish. I figure it’s also okay to decide to ditch a plan when I realize I don’t want to do it, after all.

Recently I got to work for a few months with a life coach who offered me something new to incorporate into my goal setting process. At first glance, the new goal sheet I received from him didn’t seem all that different. But as I got down to really working through it, I realized it contained a new, simple component that could just be the ticket to helping me beyond the barrier with some of my previously resistant goals.

The goal sheet began as expected: 1) identify the goal, 2) identify the reward for achieving it, and 3) identify the consequences for not achieving it. As I read through these steps I was thinking, “Yeah, yeah, been there, done that.” But the next step would prove to be invaluable: 4) identify the obstacle to this goal.

[You might be thinking at this point, “Well, duh, Linda!” However, I assure you, this little trick was completely missing in all my earlier goal setting attempts. I could now see why my goals — primarily those stickier ones that hadn’t been accomplished — were doomed to remain fanciful notions rather than achievements.]

This new step made perfect sense. But I was surprised to see that there wasn’t just one box — there were multiple “obstacle boxes”. They filled the remainder of the page, and spilled onto the reverse side of the goal sheet! Apparently, I could encounter up to seven obstacles while attempting to achieve any given goal.

But this is where it the sheet got even better — after identifying the obstacle(s), the sheet asked for a possible solution(s) to the obstacle(s). And then wanted me to list an action step I would take to apply this solution to the obstacle. Whoa! Now that’s breaking it down into bite-sized components a person could actually manage! I began to see how I could achieve even my more daunting goals. And get this: after identifying each action step, the sheet asks for a date by which you will do it, then directs you to put the action step on your calendar or in your planner. Pretty clever, getting me on the hook like that.

The final steps: list today’s date, the target date for achieving the goal, and finally some affirmations regarding this objective — perhaps about how you’ve been able to accomplish similar feats in the past, or how you know you have the resources to realistically do it.

I’m happy to report that there are now some goal sheets in a paper clip in the back pocket of that binder that I’ve actually accomplished using this strategy — a personal trophy case. There are other sheets that I can’t yet move to the clip because haven’t yet nailed these goals. (But am fairly satisfied to have significant progress on them.) I figure being on the way toward something desirable is better than still being at the starting gate, so I don’t beat myself up, I just re-up. My coach informed me that some obstacles are such big barriers to success on a particular goal they warrant making a new goal sheet just for them. Which might have been the Achilles heel on those goals I didn’t nail. You can bet I’ll be looking into this when I sit down in a couple of days and review my 2013 results.

So if you are the new year’s (non-resolution) goal setter type, like me, here’s wishing you (and me!) much success in achieving your goals for 2014!

P.S. And don’t forget that whole middle step — it’s a winner!