You know what I love about setting goals instead of setting resolutions? Goals evolve.
Miriam Webster defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed.” On the other hand resolve (the verb in resolution) is “to reach a firm decision about.” When you set a goal, you get to work towards it, and that end will evolve as you learn from the effort you are directing it’s way. In contrast, a resolution lives in the moment. “I resolve to do this thing.” It’s static. Life, however, is dynamic. Our circumstances are always changing, and so we need a more dynamic way to set and measure achievement.
For me, the goal’s the thing.
I set some rather bold goals for myself at the beginning of the year. I stand by them. But because life is a wild ride, I think it’s important to revisit them from time to time. I’ve got a slightly different set of realities today than I did in January, so some of my goals may need to evolve.
The first thing I ask myself when I’m reevaluating my goals is, “does this still align with my priorities?” Goals that aren’t serving our current priorities aren’t actually going to get us where we want and need to be. They become a distraction. Let’s imagine you set a goal for yourself to travel more this year. Next, suppose that a loved one fell ill and needs your support. Suddenly the goal of traveling more this year is completely out of line with your priorities. You want to spend time with your loved one. Choosing to shift the goal of travel to another time in your life, and to set a new goal of helping someone you love get well is going to better serve your current priorities.
The next lens I use to review my goals is passion. “Am I still passionate about this goal I set for myself?” Now, some will say you walk a fine line between giving up on yourself and changing your mind with this one, but I think you’re all intuitive enough to know the difference. Sometimes, you do change your mind, and your passions shift. If you’re like me, it may take you a few pivots to truly know your own mind, but you’ll figure it out. I signed up for two marathons that I just stopped training for halfway through before I finally acknowledged that I just don’t feel passionate about 26.2. I LOVE running, but I don’t love running for 3-4 hours. Going after a goal I set for myself, even though it’s making me miserable, isn’t going to make me a better person. It’s going to make me cranky (and probably injured).
The last thing I think about when I’m reassessing my goals, is the big W: why. “Why do I want to accomplish this goal?” If I don’t have an intrinsically motivated why, it’s time to move on to something else. If I don’t have a why at all, I’m in big trouble. As far as I can tell, WHY we do things is at least as important as WHAT we do. When the reason why I want to accomplish a goal isn’t compelling to me, I know I need to rethink things. A few years ago, one of my goals was to keep my apartment clean. At the time I didn’t really entertain in this apartment, so it wasn’t like I needed to keep it clean for company. I’m definitely not a neat freak by nature, so it wasn’t like I needed to keep the place tidy for my own peace of mind. I also wasn’t living in filth, I just felt like I should be keeping my place tidier. About halfway through the year I decided that it truly didn’t matter to me if I accumulated 5-8 piles of stuff around the apartment on a regular basis (mail, magazines, dirty laundry, running gear, etc). I am only a semi-neat person and I am totally ok with that. Any goal to be tidier than what naturally works for me, is motivated by someone else’s idea of what my home should look like. I didn’t have my own “why” for that goal, so I let it go. (P.S. I’ve written about sinister shoulds before – check it out.)
Recently, I ran my goals through this gauntlet, and some of them are going to shift a little bit. In some cases, I’m asking more of myself and “leaning in” to the goals I set out in January. In other cases, I’ll be cutting myself some slack and re-evaluating the timelines based on whether or not that goal is actually a priority for me this year. At the end of the day, your personal goals should be serving you. They are YOUR goals and you get to set them so that where you end up is exactly where you want to be.
What are your goals this year? Have they changed/evolved? Did these approaches help you refine your goals?