Maybe you've been feeling it too. We're at a point in Nature's cycle (Northern Hemisphere) where things are slow, dark, and gestating. You have that feeling...
SOMETHING is coming, but you're not quite sure what it is yet.
Not to worry, it's all part of the process. We're in the phase where things have to die or go dormant so new things can be born. While it isn't particularly comfortable, it IS 100% normal and ultimately serving you in an essential and positive way. Trust me. Trust Her. Trust yourself. <3
Here's my spin on setting and achieving your goals. I share a super practical tool that will significantly increase the likelihood you'll actually stick to your commitments this time. It's a simple way to organize your thoughts as you head into the new year, or any time you're considering a new project.
joy is the goal + the 'how'
It's that time of year again. We're craving fresh perspective; reflection on where we've been and a vision for what’s next. All around us, folks are setting goals, choosing their 'word' for the year, making resolutions, and looking forward to the clean slate a new year brings.
In my last full-time job, I had a staff of 35 young women who were summer camp counsellors. During one of our morning meetings, where I was leading them through a goal setting activity, they let it slip that there was a running joke about me and my love of goal setting. They laughed (along with me) about how I was a cheerleader for it and talked about it every chance I got!
I was a little embarrassed at first, but then realized this was actually a huge part of why I loved this job so much (and what made me so good at it). I saw the opportunity to help them make choices today that would help them move in the direction they wanted to go next. You see, I've always been a coach in one way or another.
As I've deepened my practice as a coach, I've realized WHY I love goal setting so much. And, it may not be what you think...
I love goal setting because it’s an approachable way for us to answer the question, “What do I want?" (What do I want to do, be and have?)
~ Defining our goals helps us uncover our desires.
~ Following our desire is what brings our life into alignment.
~ Alignment brings us to our purpose, which is where we find the good stuff. Joy, satisfaction, and sustainable impact.
~ It helps us be more efficient and focused with our resources (time, energy, money, focus, will-power, etc) and it FEELS GOOD!
Goals = Desires = Alignment = Joy, Satisfaction, Sustainability, Impact
why goals don't work
I don’t buy into the type of goal setting + accomplishment that goes like this - "I've set this goal, so I must accomplish it, no matter what." (or else it means I'm a loser and will never finish anything...)
In fact, if you get started on a goal and realize it ISN'T feeling the way you wanted it to, one of the most badass Jedi warrior skills you can cultivate is knowing when to STOP. Quit. Cut it loose. Redirect your energy and other resources toward another mission; one that IS aligned with your desire (aka how you want to feel).
Goal setting + accomplishment can (and should) feel exciting and expansive. However, all too often I talk to people who tell me their goals, and the path to achieving them, feels like a heavy obligation, or another opportunity to fail.
It doesn't have to be that way.
If that IS the way goal setting has felt for you, you’re probably designing goals based on someone else’s desires, or a heap of "shoulds" that don't actually reflect what you truly want.
It's also really hard to stay motivated to do something that doesn't feel good. That doesn't make you weak, it makes you a human animal. We were created to enjoy the things that are important (eating food to stay alive, having sex to sustain the species, kissing, etc.). Pleasure is our incentive and our trail of breadcrumbs to the things that serve us and the world.
[Order of Operations] - Subtract before you Add
[Order of Operations] - Subtract before you Add
Once you've defined what it is you want (your desires/goals), next you'll be eager to lay out a plan for making them a reality. In other words, you'll create a strategy or action plan.
Throughout my life, I’ve led strategic and action planning conversations with lots of folks, in lots of different settings; in fancy board rooms, in dreamy weekend retreats, around the campfire, and now with my one-on-one coaching clients. And, I do it in a way that is rather unconventional.
Typically, goal setting as an exercise in adding new things. What more do I want to accomplish? What more do I want to create?
However, in the process I'll describe below, that's actually the LAST and least significant part of the process.
When we just keep adding more and more, we unconsciously reinforce the pervasive feeling of “not enough”. If you're trying to manage too much, you're going to fail, or die trying. You'll try to get better at managing your time, your schedule, etc. You'll tell yourself you're not being reliable enough or consistent enough or disciplined enough, but in the end, too much is just too much.
The truth is, you’re probably already doing enough - more than enough. It just may not be enough of the right things; what I call aligned actions. If it's not aligned action, then all the effort you're putting in won't create the results you really want which then leads back to trying to do MORE.
We first have to get really honest about where our energy, time, money, and other resources are going (and why), before we can create effective new ways in which to invest them.
Step 1) STOP
Begin with the question, “In order to achieve this goal, what do I do I want (or need) to stop doing or being?".
Think about it, most goals fail to become a reality because we're trying to add more stuff to our already busy lives. If you begin by examining what you’re already doing that isn’t serving you (or this goal), it allows you to reclaim those resources (time, energy, money, attention) and redirect them at your newly defined priority.
The brilliant thing is, sometimes this is all it takes to get what you want! Just stop doing the things that are getting in the way.
Step 2) LESS
Next, take a look at the things you're already doing and being. What things have been serving you, but as you incorporate this new set of goals, you want to do less of? They may be things that have grown to take up more space out of habit or simply because you haven't checked in with them in awhile.
A good example from a client recently was a leadership board she is apart of. It started off as something that really was aligned with her goals, but overtime has taken up more and more space and isn't really the best place for her to continue to invest her time and energy. She wants to stay connected, but wants to scale back the role she's been playing. Again, this creates more space and reclaims valuable resources.
Step 3) MORE
Now, look again at what you're already doing, and ask yourself "What's already working for me?" I promise, you're already doing some things in service of your new goals. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for this!
If you have a goal of getting in better shape, honor that you've been trying to take the stairs at work more often, or that you've really cut back on the amount of sugar you've been eating. Whatever the goal, remember this is a desire you've had in you for a while. This didn't come out of thin air. Really look honestly at what you're already doing, sincerely congratulate yourself, and then commit to doing more of it.
It is vital to acknowledge yourself for the places you've already been successful before you leap into creating the list of things you're NOT doing (aka - your new actions steps).
Step 4) START
Now that you’ve created space by making a commitment to stop the things that aren't in alignment with your goals/desires, doing less of the things that are taking up too much space, and taking an honest inventory of the things you’re already doing well and doing more of them, now you can begin to think a few simple things to add.
Now pick two or three key actions. Yep, there are going to be WAY more than that on your list, but we're focused on creating a plan that you can actually stick to.
Key actions are things that when repeated consistently over time, result in the achievement of your goal. They're probably smaller actions. They may not be the sexiest things on your list. That's ok. A sexy list does not an accomplished goal make.
The Discipline of Less
I mean it - keep this START list short; at least for the next three months. Truly building new habits or practices takes time. It’s tempting to jump into 20 new things because you’re excited, and because "this time you really mean it“, but we all know how that goes.
Not only is it not helpful, over time it erodes our sense of self-confidence and self respect. We just don’t buy it anymore, so we stop altogether.
It can feel less badass to add one or two simple things. But, I promise you - incremental growth is still growth, especially if those habits stick around and begin to really turn the tide!
Once you’ve made your lists for each step, just pick one or two things at the bottom of the pyramid. The things you want to stop. Maybe you want to stop going through the drive-through on your way home from work. Great, just focus on that one for the next week. Congratulate yourself on small wins. (In a later post, I'll share more about my favorite new tool - The Four Day Win by Martha Beck.)
After you feel successful creating more space in your life by stopping some of the things that are sucking up your resources (time, money, energy, focus, will-power), then begin to work your way up the pyramid.
If something at the top of the pyramid feels really exciting and lights you up, sure, go ahead and do it! But be gentle with yourself as you acknowledge the reality of adding new things while you’re still in the process of clearing out space.
Alright, lovely creatures, that's it for now. Thanks again for tuning in and I'd love to hear how this was helpful to you. I'm sending you big love as we roll into February.
All my love,
- Angie Cole
Writer, Wanderer, Wonderer, Guide