We all know someone who gets excited by the prospect of starting a New Year with optimistic resolutions. Roughly eight percent of the approximately 40 percent of people who set resolutions will keep them, research says. By the time that most of us have adjusted to writing the correct year on our checks, many will have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. But are resolutions solely designed to be created in January? Anytime is ideal for setting a resolution. The simplest definition of a resolution is ‘a resolve to do something’. In other words, it is a goal. Most of us set goals every day — to do a load of laundry, make dinner, or finish a project at work. Only focusing on our everyday goals puts us at risk of falling into patterns of drudgery. In the film “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray, he wearily wakes every day to the same exact routine. After just a few days, he is a mindless, uninspired robot. Our minds, bodies, and spirits need new stimulation and ultimately, to experience new accomplishments. Even though January has quickly closed for the year, I challenge you to consider the importance of goal-setting to your well-being. New goals give us purpose, a vision, and hope. Accomplishing goals provides a boost to our self-esteem and enriches our lives. In order to help you better define a potential goal, consider these questions: What one thing did you hope to accomplish last year, but didn’t? When you look at your life, what is one small thing that would make it better? Attempt to identify a goal by determining how your mind, body or spirit could be enhanced. One of my friends decided that she needed more mental stimulation. So she signed up with one of those “brain games” websites (and yes, there’s even an app for that!) that challenges her via daily e-mails to complete a series of games designed to improve areas such as concentration and memory. The games take only a few minutes, and are quite fun, so she is able to incorporate a new goal into her life without it taking up too much of her time. Beyond the common resolutions of losing weight or quitting smoking, we can set smaller goals that are just as meaningful to our lives. There are a few secrets to setting goals that researchers say will help you experience the most success. • Create a specific goal. Rather than saying “I want to be happier,” consider an option such as “I want to spend more time with friends,” which will help you achieve your goal of happiness. • Make goals realistic. You know yourself better than anyone. It’s important to consider your lifestyle, existing commitments, and abilities when setting goals. Rather than setting a goal of reading every day of the week, maybe four out of seven days is more realistic. • Create accountability. One of the best ways to do this is to share your goal with someone else. This can be done by telling someone what your goal is, or by setting a goal with someone else. Both options provide you with encouragement and the sometimes kick-in-the-pants that we need. • Be positively positive. Have confidence in yourself to achieve your goal. Some of my clients will use post-it notes with encouraging statements to help motivate them to work on their goals. Psychologically, we accomplish more when we believe that we can do it. • Finally, consider using the SMART goal approach, which I’ve touched on in this article. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Browse the internet for more information on the SMART goal setting strategy—it works. Today, how will you take one new step to living your best life? What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. –Henry David Thoreau
Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.