“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now. -Alan Lakein
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” -Proverbs 21:5
It’s almost impossible to begin the New Year without at least thinking about making some kind of resolution, new promises to yourself, or setting some newer, more realistic goals. Did you achieve the plans you set last year? Can you even remember what personal goals you made a year ago? It is said that change is inevitable, and that change is the essence of life itself. But most of us don’t want that change to just happen to us without our consent, and quite honestly we want to take some ownership or control and want to have a sense of power over the change in our lives. But for some reason, our personal plans are generally quite difficult for us to achieve. Sometimes even when the place we are, mentally, emotionally, or relationally is not healthy, we still feel more comfortable staying where we are than in making a change; even if the alternative would obviously be better for us. Why do we have so much trouble making our goals happen?
Goal setting is a powerful process for helping you chose where you want to go and what you want to achieve in your life. It motivates you to envision your future and gives you focus for where you need to put your hard work and effort. It also helps you decide what is important and relevant, and to understand and avoid distractions in your life. The process of setting goals also becomes a potent tool in building self confidence and self worth. When plans are accomplished we feel more self assured and secure about our ability to live a healthy and productive life. People who succeed in attaining their goals and making changes have some common characteristics: They are convinced of the change that is needed- they are motivated. They are committed- or willing– to make the habits necessary to reach their goals. They also believe they are able to succeed in their plans- they feel they have the abilities to make their plans come about.
Goal Setting Difficulty
The trouble most of us have with setting goals comes from a variety of issues including poor creation of goals, fear of failure and unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we don’t trust ourselves enough to believe we can accomplish our goals. Or, we feel the outcome does not look as advantageous as the effort it will take; we want there to be more benefit than what it will cost. Other times our patience/persistence quotient is low; time passes without results being seen-we expect immediate gratification. Many times goals are established without good planning or evaluation. A common guide for designing goals is the SMART acrostic. Make your goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. They should be expressed in a positive statement rather than a negative one. Setting precise goals that can be measured, that are within your abilities and control, and are possible to attain in a certain time frame will make the possibility of your achievement of them more certain. It is often quite easy to set unrealistic goals due to not understanding possible obstacles, underestimating skill levels that may be necessary, trying to please others, having too high of expectations or not grasping the time needed to accomplish them.
Write Goals Down!
Goals that are not written down are rarely achieved! After being written down and prioritized, daily or weekly to-do lists should be created to help you work toward accomplishing your goals. Once objectives are written down, understanding your motivation, or the why, of fulfilling them is important. What is it that you want to achieve regarding your career, finances, education, family or other relationships, organization, physical or mental health, leisure and recreation, or volunteering? Expectations toward our goal attainment are critical to their fulfillment. We must be extremely careful what we think about, what we picture in our minds, what we expect to happen. Lanny Bassham, who teaches mental management systems, says if we don’t expect to make our goals happen, we have no chance of them being achieved. He proposes the reinforcement principle: “the more we think about, talk about and write about something happening, we improve the probability of that thing happening.”