Finding Purpose in Goal Setting

Many of us are starting to waiver on the resolutions we set at the start of a new year. So much so that it's become a cultural norm to reject "New Years Resolutions" as a fruitless effort, or an attempt to make ourselves feel like things will be different while not really doing anything differently.

This can be true, but not because the act of setting goals at the beginning of a year has no value, but because many of us who attempt it either set goals with little to no meaning or give ourselves no clear details on how to actually achieve said goals.

Most of us choose goals that are directed towards being less like we are in this moment. Eating less junk food, drinking less, smoking less or losing weight. Moving past the things in our life we feel don't serve us are good, but they don't serve to inspire us...and inspiration is a great fuel to the fire of change.

How can we stoke that fire? Imagine your ideal self. If you woke up tomorrow and were living as the most aspirational version of yourself, what would the details of that self and life look like?

In addition to the details of your life, what values do you want to embody?  Healthy LivingFamily & Community, Integrity & Self Awareness, Personal Growth, Learning,  Open to New Ideas and Experiences are some I've come back to often for myself. They've served to guide my focus towards the places I want to devote my energy and time.

These values serve to inform me of not just the things I will do to change, but how I want to live out those changes and the man I want to become through them. This injects a simple goal like going to the gym or creating a meal plan for me and my family with much more purpose.

Below is a sample of how I approach setting these "value-based goals".

-Ask yourself what details would define an ideal you tomorrow, next month, next year and 10 years from now and write out as many of these details as you can think of.

-Then I think of the values that lay at the heart of many of these details. 

-Choose 3-5 values that you want to embody in the coming months and over the next year. These many change, but set them as a starting point.

-Look back at all your "ideal you" details you wrote down and see which ones will have the strongest immediate impacts. See if there is synergy between several and think of some actions you can immediately begin to take which will move you towards those details and help you embody your values.

-Choose 1-3 of the actions you can begin to take today and give them tangible details that will help you plan them into your life:

  • When/Where will you fit the action into your day to day? 
  • Do you need help from others?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable?
  • Are there follow up steps required?
  • How will you remind yourself of this goal?

In every moment of your life you are choosing what values you will live by. Every choice is determining the shape of your life. If you can determine the values you wish to live by, then you can see more clearly which choices truly live up to those values and the things you may be choosing instead.

Integrity, Healthy Living and Learning & Growth can often lose out to Comfort. That's okay if you choose Comfort as a value, but it can be self defeating if you want to live by a value that at times will require discomfort. 

The method I outlined above isn't a one off either. It should be repeated, re-evaluated and refined on a regular basis. Come back to the bigger picture details each month and re-evaluate how your action orientated goals are going weekly. Try to make sure the process isn't about beating yourself up, but reflecting on who you want to be and then adjusting your current path to walk the next steps on that journey.

Beginnings are good times to reflect on this: start of a month, start of a week and yes even the start of a new year...but we need more than the desire to change. We need to define for ourself who it is we want to be and then find ways each day to practice being that person.