Happy New Year! I hope you all welcomed 2011 in your own special way. B. and I made a fancy dinner (except B. didn't start until I got home from work, so we didn't eat till 10 - I was quite hangry!) and welcomed the new year with two movies - Last Train Home andTwilight Samurai.
I feel bad admitting that I'm actually quite relieved that I don't have to deal with my resolutions calendar anymore. But in setting my goals in 2010 (and ultimately not achieving most of them, really), I've learned a lot about effective goal setting and hopefully will do better with my goals/resolutions for 2011.
A year is long...
Lots of things happen in a year. At the beginning of 2010, I would've never guessed that I would organize a bake sale and become friends with a lot of local food bloggers, participate in my first fight or go from a full-time position to a progressively more part-time position. This is why I hate the word "Resolution" - to me, making a new year's resolution meant "I resolve to do this in the new year," and so despite using the word "goals", I still treated them like resolutions in that even though I got tired of doing pushups, drank more tea than water some days or didn't have to go to bed at 11:15 PM every night after my work schedule changed, I was stubborn and still gave myself the beatdown for not achieving the goals that I'd originally set in the beginning of the year instead of changing them to fit where I was at.
With that in mind, this year when I set my resolutions/goals, I didn't necessarily focus on setting rigid SMART goals for all of them, which is what people are generally taught when it comes to goal setting. It makes more sense to keep your bigger objective in mind, i.e. "Get more sleep", then set more specific, short-term goals that will help you get there. And of course, be flexible enough with your goals (and yourself) so that you can change them or even get rid of them as the year goes on. (More on that later).
...but also short
In the grand scheme of things, a year is only a fraction of your life. Yes, you have a year ahead of you to complete your resolutions, so it's easy to overload yourself with a long list. Even though I had a list of eight wishes/goals last month, I was probably only actively focusing on two - getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. It's so easy to get caught up in all the excitement of resolution making and doing better, but keeping your list short (and then adding more goals later as you can manage) is more likely to contribute to success.
Some goals require more than a year of effort - health-related goals come to mind for me, of course, but I'm sure you can think of other examples. For instance, if you're trying to lose weight, get more sleep, gain more upper body strength, etc., you can't stop after the year has ended and expect to still be as skinny, rested, or strong, you have to keep working at it! Be prepared to have these themes come back year after year (it's not because you're a failure, it's because these are things that you have to work on for more than a year) and when setting your goals, keep things interesting by focusing on different ways of how to get to your objective (i.e. for losing weight it could be decreasing the amount of meals you have out, decreasing your portion sizes, a specific exercise-related goal, etc.).
Focus on why
Why do we set goals? We do this because we want to bring about positive change in ourselves. Even though I didn't achieve my goals, it still brought about positive change in that I did at least make an effort to drink more water and get to bed earlier (otherwise I would've probably gone to bed between 12-1 AM every night... which I guess did happen in November/December, but I digress) and was more aware of how lack of sleep or letting myself get too hungry affected my mood. So even if you're not achieving your goals to the letter, focus on how having the goals are affecting the choices that you make.
We also set goals because we like having a sense of accomplishment. Keeping this in mind would've certainly helped me, because instead of feeling like I've accomplished something, month after month I just went on about how I didn't meet my goals. I was so blind - they're my goals. I should be setting my own expectations, and since I wasn't meeting them, I should've lowered them to start, and then raised them again as I became more successful.
On a related note, I ran into a really neat exercise while I participated in #reverb10 last month. Tara Sophia Mohr focuses on the idea that the reason we set goals is because we want the positive feelings we think we're going to get when we achieve our goals, not necessarily the actual goal itself. (i.e. Do I really want to go to sleep? No, but do I want to be clear-headed and positive the next day? Yes.) So, her exercise is to focus on those feelings that you think you're going to get by achieving this goal, and then ask yourself what you can do now to give yourself these same feelings.
Of course, this is probably why so many people set goals and then don't follow through with them - we set goals because we feel bad about something and want things to change; the act of setting goals itself can bring on a sense of accomplishment and positive feelings. So, since you're not feeling so bad anymore, then you don't have the same motivation to change. Focusing on your feelings are important, but don't forget that actually doing something is important as well!
I hated doing my daily calendar, and towards the end of the year I got worse at keeping track on it, but one thing I could say (that I think many others can't) at the end of the year was that "At least I remembered what my resolutions were!"
Just as I advised my clients with their food records - track your progress in a way that is most convenient and useful for you. It can be private or public; daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly; on paper or electronic. For me, doing a monthly post on my blog made me more likely to do it as I pretended that it was something that people were expecting from me. Just remember that the point of keeping track of your progress is to stay accountable to yourself (and at the very least, help you remember what your goals are!)
With all this in mind, these are some of my goals for 2011 (I guess I'm already not listening to my own advice of keeping the list short already!)
Carry-overs from last year
7.5+ hours of sleep per night. - I expect to be doing a lot of work from home this year, so it should be easier to get enough sleep (and I won't give myself a "yellow" label if I'm not going to bed at 11:15!). I'm setting a secondary challenge of trying to get to bed earlier each night to help me get up earlier despite working from home, or get even more than 7.5 hours of sleep.
Drink as much fluid as necessary to have clear pee. This is for everyone who thought that my mugs of tea and glasses of milk should also count toward my fluid intake - because it does. I think I do need to drink 48 oz of water anyway, but writing my goal this way keeps it in perspective that my ultimate objective is to stay hydrated, not just drink an arbitrary amount of water every day.
Continue increasing number of blog posts per year. I don't know if this should be a goal because I don't think I'm actively trying.
Read at least 12 books this year.
Have something nutrition-related published in/appear in mass media (i.e. nutrition/health/food magazines, newspapers, radio, TV).
Win a kickboxing/Muay Thai fight.
Cook at least one recipe from every cookbook I own. I was just reviewing my blog today and was surprised I didn't post as many recipes as I thought this year. This goal will also help with increasing the total posts per year (though it might not if I'm exchanging meals out for meals in.) I don't own very many cookbooks, but I've stopped myself from even looking at them in bookstores because I know I have two that I haven't even cooked from yet. I'm playing with the idea of focusing on one cookbook per month, but I know I own a few cookbooks that I have no desire to cook from, so we'll see how this goal morphs as the year goes on.
Put my savings/RRSP somewhere where I can make more money. I exceeded my goal of saving ⅓ of my paycheque (and that is ⅓ of my full-time paycheque), but I stashed them both in accounts that don't make as much interest as it should. So I need to do research on investing my savings somehow (and I like how I don't find out my 2011 RRSP contribution limit until April, so it gives me some respite from working on it right away - tehe!)
Create more/Participate in another creative/reflective project this year. As I mentioned earlier, I participated in #reverb10 this month, and it totally ignited a creative/reflective spark in me and I'm craving more. This is probably my vaguest goal as of now as I don't know how I will go about doing it. I loved the structure in having a prompt to go from every day, but I know I can be creative of my own accord too. My friend Kailey pointed me toward the Live a Better Life in 30 Days challenge and I was really gung-ho about doing it with her this month (she said she had started it before and stopped), but as I'm reading through the daily tasks, I'm not sure if I'm up to it - it looks like a lot more work (time commitments are listed with each day, and although I probably did spend 1.5 hours on some of my #reverb10 responses I liked how it at least felt more flexible) and there's more tasks to do each day as opposed to one prompt that was open to interpretation. We'll see.
Set aside one weekend every month with no commitments. I'm treading dangerous territory here as this is a group goal that B. and I set after being inspired by our recent weekend in Canmore. This is going to be easy toward the beginning of the year as we are taking a few trips away where we should have no outside commitments - January: Kelowna, February/March: China, April: Cuba, but if it gets to be too much (too much of nothing! Who would've thunk?) we'll scale back to just a day.
Did you set any new years resolutions? Have these tips helped/changed your goal setting in any way? Were my monthly updates last year annoying or what?