As the twinkling of the fairy lights on the Christmas tree begins to fade and the last of the turkey finally makes it way into a casserole or the bin, for many of us, thoughts start to turn towards the horizon of the New Year and whether we should be setting any resolutions for change in the 12 months ahead.
Taking time to self-reflect on what is working and what could be better in your life can be a very insightful and wisdom building exercise, providing you can adopt an attitude of constructive critique and building on the positives, rather than using it as a means to ‘beat up on yourself’.
It can be all too easy to ‘get stuck focusing on the gap’ when you compare how your life is in certain areas to how you would ideally like it to be. Or you can perceive that ‘gap’ as almost insurmountable if you have under-appraised how things are at the moment and you are comparing your own achievement to date in an aspect of your life to an almost impossible concept of perfection.
For example, the ‘gap’ for you may be that you are currently single, over-focusing on that one perceived deficit to your happiness and wellbeing can cause you to overlook all the other aspects of your life that are going well and excelling in.
For example, the ‘gap’ may seem so vast that the challenge of addressing it is too huge for anyone if you have rated yourself as morbidly obese (when really you just have a bit of a belly) and your evaluating your physical self against some muscle-bound, super lean, six-packed male ‘god’ in a fitness magazine (who’s image has probably been airbrushed anyway).
If you want to harness the New Year as a springboard to advance your wellbeing in some way, good for you and why not. However when working out what you want to change, do not forget to acknowledge what is already going well for you, be fair and compassionate about yourself and chose reasonable and realistic comparators when trying to work out how you would like things to be for you.
The process of positive advancement can be seen as a 3 step process:
- Working out where you are at now (your self-audit).
- Working out where you would like to be (your advancement goal).
- Coming up with a way to address the ‘gap’ between where you are and where you want to be (your action plan).
In business the term S.M.A.R.T. goals is often used when setting corporate objectives for business success and advancement. This same technique can be very useful when setting personal advancement goals to. Make sure your advancement goal is:
Specific: The more defined and focused your goal is, the better your chances of both success and also knowing you have achieved your goal. So don’t just plan be more happy (to vague) be more specific, for example, I will improve my physical fitness and family relationships.
Measurable: If you do not have a measurable outcome how will you know if you have achieved your goal? If you can quantity your goal, not only will it help focus you efforts more, it will let you map your progress towards achievement. For example, don’t just set a goal to lose weight, set a specific target for yourself in lbs or kilos and then you can map your progress towards that goal.
Attainable: Set a goal for yourself that is genuinely achievable otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. If you set a goal to be the first man on Mars in 2020 and this is something that is truly impossible for you (or anyone) to achieve, not only will you not reach you not reach your desired outcome, you will become dejected and lose motivation. Dream big, but make those dreams realistic.
Relevant: Set a goal that is relevant to your life and will truly bring about positive change for you, You could set a goal to learn how to play the tuba in the 12 months ahead, but even it you achieve it, will that make you genuinely any more happy and fulfilled? If you are going to apply time and effort to change, you cannot take on everything all at once, so focus your energies on the areas that would bring greatest benefit to you.
Time-Based: By setting a timeframe to focus your goal attainment within you can both create a deadline that will keep you focused, and also help set in place ‘progress points’ against which to evaluate the impact of your efforts and amend your plans if need be. Without a timeframe, a goal can be something we will “get around to next month” or something that seems to drift on forever.
OK so now you know what you want to change in your life and have set a S.M.A.R.T. goal for yourself, now it is time to formulate a plan of action to get it achieved.
The Action Plan
This is the stage where it can be useful to call on the wisdom of others to help you become informed, supported and motivated in terms of how you will get to where you want to be.
If you want to lose weight and get fitter, nobody expects you to be starting with an expertise in diet, nutrition and fitness training, so call on the virtual or actual wisdom of others to help educate yourself on how to achieve your goal.
Also, sometimes having a ‘coach’ on board to help encourage, and motivate you to take action, keep going and stay focused can give you the support you need to stay on track. It can be hard to take on a process of change all on your own.
Start by thinking about possible means and methods to fill the ‘gap’ between where you are now and where you want to be (research is useful here to present alternative courses of action to you) then select the path that is right for you and that you know you can and will commit to.
So now you are ready to go, you’ve set your New Years resolution, its S.M.A.R.T. and you are ready to get going on your plan of action, just one more thing to remember, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT!
No doubt there will be many times you will slip up or make mistakes as you try to follow your new advancement path, that is perfectly fine, nobody is perfect all the time, adopt the personal philosophy of doing your best rather than trying to be perfect as you pursue your chosen goal. It is all anyone can ask of you, and it is all you can ask of yourself, do your best and learn from your mistakes. Good luck!