Staying Focused on Goals

Are you staying focused on goals and aspirations for 2017?  Did you have aspirations or make resolutions to change habits, improve yourself, or chase a dream? Perhaps, like me, you started the new year with a review of progress toward a retirement dream and decided this was the year for big accomplishments.

The start of a new year always brings a burst of energy. A new year signals a beginning and an opportunity for a fresh start. Motivation to improve is strong.  We’re ready to do new things and enhance our lives. Resolutions such as weight loss, regular exercise, healthy eating, and learning new skills are common goals. Although I don’t usually favour goal setting per se, I always have aspirations to improve my life and to do things that will make me happy.

Three months into the new year is a good time to assess progress on achieving what’s important. Teachers know that mid-term exams to evaluate student progress help to identify areas of weak performance.  Students, likewise, use mid-term exams to benchmark achievement and evaluate areas where additional help is needed. Taking a tough look at progress on goals and aspirations  after one quarter of the year has passed leaves enough time to self-correct.  Nine months of the year remain for success!

Too often, by the end of March New Year’s resolutions are long-forgotten unless you were among the few who took time to write down your goals an aspirations.

Written goals stay ‘top of min’ – photo courtesy of jeshoots-com

Written goals have staying power and are more likely to be accomplished.  Writing goals also helps to monitor progress. If you didn’t write down your goals and aspirations in January, take a few minutes to do so now. Writing the goals also helps you to remember why you set them. It allows for adjustments especially if some aspirations were grandiose.

A set-back sometimes causes abandonment of the resolution. Most weight loss programs fail when some temptation or perceived failure causes ‘giving up’ a diet.  Did you go on a cruise or to an all-inclusive club for a winter vacation and abandon the diet? Achieving a goals doesn’t need to be all or nothing. You don’t need to give up because there’s been a set-back.  You can start over,  You can modify the goal, decide to achieve only part of what you planned or adjust the time for completion.

Reviewing goals helps to keep them “top of mind”. It’s essential to track success and make adjustments especially when dealing with changes that span a year or longer. Measuring progress helps with staying motivated.

Benefits of an Interim Assessment

An interim assessment will help you decide if you set too many goals or if they were not well-defined. The enthusiasm and energy of a new year and a new start often tempts me into writing a long list of targets and aspirations.  Then, I try to do too much, get overwhelmed, and find that nothing gets done as planned.  The interim assessment can help you get real and focus on one or two key things that will make your life happier.

Goals and aspirations can be adjusted when you do the interim assessment.  In the enthusiasm of January, sensibility and practicality may have been forgotten.  Goals may have been too complicated.  There’s no rule that says you can’t make revisions.

In a re-assessment, it may be obvious that that a huge project needs to be broken into smaller steps.  An unspecified number of tasks related to a big goal can be broken into month by month goals, weekly goals, and daily ‘to do’s’.   Scheduling time each day or each week to work on the project keeps a focus on what is to be achieved.

Last year, down-sizing and moving were key priorities in our household. Many smaller goals were associated with this big goal — preparing a house for the market, de-cluttering, selling a house, finding another house, buying it, hiring a moving company, moving and re-settling into a new place and a new community. Regular readers know about the physical and emotional work involved as I wrote several blog posts in 2016 on topics associated with moving. After the decision to move along with the purchase of another house, there was no turning back.  A project management schedule helped with monitoring.  Real estate agents, lawyers, and movers kept us focused on specific dates.

When goals and aspirations are  more personal, there is a natural tendency to negotiate with the self.  For many years I’ve decided that I’ll play the piano for a certain amount of time each day.  When life interferes, I negotiate with myself and make changes or abandon piano practise for the week. I’m not dieting now, but I do remember similar negotiations when I used to go on weight loss diets.  I would tell myself that a handful of cookies could be overlooked if I ate only lettuce the next day! When the next day arrived, so did other temptations and soon the diet was abandoned! Staying on track with personal goals may be easier if you have external accountability such as a piano lesson every week, or a diet coach or an exercise buddy.

Part of an interim assessment is celebrating progress. Success fuels motivation, boosts confidence, and keeps you going. When monitoring my ‘moving’ goal last year, I often counted the number of boxes of ‘stuff’ that I took to the re-cycling depot or the dump. It was a crude measure but it buoyed my spirits!

Reviewing longer term goals also allows for adjustments as life priorities change. Sometimes life does interfere through illness or loss.  Sometimes what you wanted to accomplish at the New Year no longer holds interest and should be abandoned. Life is too short for beating up yourself! Likewise, identifying areas of deficiency can accelerate progress (kick in the butt!). Working toward life goals such as improving health, emotional resilience, and spirituality can start any time — it doesn’t take a new year.

I’m interested in your comments about how you evaluate life goals.  Do you set annual goals?  Do you usually achieve your goals?

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2 Replies to “Staying Focused on Goals”

  1. We have moved to 1st April for annual goal setting – trouble is we’ve not got round to it yet!

    PS re old habits – shoe laces – they haven’t come undone since I focus on doing the “wrong way” first.

    1. Good luck with the annual goal setting. In retirement you are free to choose any date that makes sense — or ignore the task and focus on finishing those goals from last year!
      Isn’t it great to learn how to tie shoes? At a book club meeting last week, several of us compared techniques. Surprisingly, two women, both British born, had always used the correct technique. How’s that for a UK education!
      Be well,

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