So we are officially into our third month of the year! For me, it seems like it was New Year’s Day just last week. As we close out this 9th week of the year, how are all those New Year’s goals or resolutions coming along?! Are you on track? Are you slipping a bit? Do you even remember what those resolutions were? I personally am not much of one to set New Year’s resolutions since I feel like there is too much hype and so many unrealistic expectations. So much so that most of those resolutions seem to be doomed to fail before they even get out of the metaphorical starting gate. So, what then! If you, like me, think those New Year’s resolutions are mostly just a bunch of garbage, what should we do? Well, the short answer is your goal setting needs to be more deliberate and thought out. Obviously, that’s not too informative though…so here’s the long answer.
First off, why even bother with goals or resolutions? Especially if many of them end up tossed to the wayside just a few weeks or months after thinking of them. Well, as you know, life is not static. Meaning, every day, every second, life is changing and evolving. Right now, something you think that needs to be done might be completely useless in ten minutes. On the flip side, something that makes no sense to do at this very minute may become necessary for life to continue later on today. So if life isn’t static, then we as humans have two choices. One, let those daily shifts control and push our lives how they please, or two…adapt, evolve, and overcome some of those daily changes so you can direct your life better down the metaphorical path of your choice. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have some say in a chunk of those daily shifts! Setting and working towards goals and/or resolutions is exactly how you take back some of that control.
Next, what changes an ordinary goal or a poorly planned resolution into a good (or “SMART”) goal? Is it that you can brag about it with all your friends later? Is it that you’ll feel like a superior god or goddess when you complete the goal? I say it isn’t! Rather, a good goal has four crucial components in my opinion. Each and every goal should:
- Be realistic: Obvious, right! For myself, as a middle class kind of guy, it’s not realistic for me to have a goal of owning a $100,000 sports car and still successfully balance every other aspect of my life. So, a more realistic goal is to find a car for no more than $30k that meets my needs and maybe has a few extra bells or whistles. Point being, don’t set a goal that you won’t ever be able to achieve in a reasonable time frame. That will only discourage you and prevent you from investing as steadily into your goals.
- Be challenging: In contrast to the first point, your goals should be challenging too, otherwise you’re just making a to-do list. A goal or resolution with some challenge will not only mean more to you emotionally when you achieve/complete it, but you will likely have improved how you think about goals and what you are actually capable of too.
- Improve you and/or others around you: Another point that can seem pretty obvious! But, most of us have probably set a goal that wasn’t really improving anything. Such as being able to buy that $100k sports car. Sure, for some people that might be a very realistic and beneficial improvement. But for me, when I only need to get to work, run errands, and go on a few vacations per year…I don’t need and it wouldn’t improve my life to own an expensive sports car. In fact, it may even create additional stressors. Instead, most…if not all…if your goals should improve at least your life, if not the lives of someone or many people around you. In my humble opinion, the goals that do this are the ones you will be most proud of completing.
- Have an assigned time frame: Lastly, a goal should have a clearly marked end date or time. Sure, I can set a goal to save $20k for a downpayment on a house, but a goal to have that money saved before March 2019 is a much more actionable and concrete goal. With just the addition of that time component, I can completely understand how much I need to save per month or even week to reach that goal. Without the time frame assigned, it’s just something that will be worked on when you feel like it. And realistically, that means it could very easily be pushed onto the back-burner.
So now that we have a little bit better of a what constitutes a good goal, what kind of goals should we all have? Well, it will obviously vary on your lifestyle and how you want life to unfold. But, I do think there are a few categories that we should all have some goals in. Why? Like I’ve previously mentioned, there is no singular aspect of life that if controlled properly that will lead to a “complete” and satisfying life. Rather, there is a large assemblage of aspects that interact to form what you see as “your life”. So, focusing on just one category is too narrow of a view. So here are the categories I feel are necessary:
- Finances: At some point, all of us will age to the point that we will need to stop working full-time. Also, for the many and widely varied other goals in our lives, finances are a very central component to most (if not all) of them. This includes everything from paying off student debt, buying a house, raising children, saving for retirement, saving for all your hobbies and interests, going on vacations, etc. Money is a crucial component to much of our ability to create happiness. As such, it should be very carefully analyzed whenever you earn and use it. The key is to be efficient and morally upright with it. The largest financial goal I have now is to achieve FI (financial independence) by the time my wife and I are 50 years old. It seems ambitious, but I’m certain it’s possible if we can stay committed to it.
- Relationships: Some relationships are not ones where you’ll regularly commit a bunch of time or energy into maintaining….and that is okay! But, we all need and can thrive from relationships where it’s more than just talking about the weather or your favorite sports team. For those relationships, you need to challenge yourself and the other person. You should have very clear, realistic, and challenging expectations for each other in those relationships. If you do, those relationships will mean so much to both of you and provide you with a wealth of emotional well-being. So, don’t just skimp on the relationships and put them on auto-pilot. Actively invest your time and energy into the relationships that you find the most meaningful.
- Health: Similar in importance to financial goals, health goals are equally (if not more) important. Without good health, we can rapidly be focused on just surviving rather than thriving. I know all too much about this with my recent health issues. But, I now have countless opportunities to create some very meaningful goals to improve my health back to how I was previously. Similarly for you, no matter how healthy or ill you might be, we can all improve our health in some way. Whether that’s by exercising better, eating healthier, or even just sitting at your desk or workstation better.
- Happiness: Of course, having goals for finances, relationships, and health are very important. But you can have all those and still not be happy. So, give yourself the benefit of a few goals aimed strictly at making you and others around you happy. This could be as simple as taking a few minutes per day to write down something positive from your day, give yourself a half hour to do something personally satisfying each day, or doing a little favor for a neighbor or friend to make them happy. The point is, joy is both overwhelming and contagious. If you can experience a little bit of it, others can tell, and they might even benefit from it too.
So, what goals did I set recently? Well, one was to start and grow this blog this year. It is a fairly vague goal, but I am pursuing it as a source of information to share, a way to create a community, and also exploring the possibility of using it as a way to create an additional source of income. So far, my progress has been steady, but a little slower than I have been hoping for. Regardless, it is also a goal aimed at creating happiness too. I am happy to write these posts and share what I know with all of you readers. As for my relationships, I have set very specific goals with 9 of my closest family members. Each of these goals are slated for “completion” by the end of the year, but are also strong enough to be implemented again for the year after. What about my health? Well, if you’ve read all my previous posts about health, you know it is a pivotal time for improving my health. Meaning, any goal there is going to be helpful. My goals here though have shifted because of everything that has happened recently. So for now, the goal is simply to be well enough to work full-time again by the end of April without suffering a relapse in my symptoms. And finally, for my happiness. It’s been hard for me with the recent health issues to have time and energy available for anything beyond just getting through a day and seeing all the necessary doctors. But honestly, right now, all my other goals…literally all of them…will make me happier as I progress and complete each of them. The only goal aimed solely at happiness right now is that I want to join the local remote control club before summer starts. This will not only mean I’ll have somewhere to fly my remote control plane, but it provides yet another social outlet and has the potential to give me yet another thing to look forward to each week.
What about you? What goals or resolutions are you working on? Which one(s) are going good? Which one(s) aren’t doing so good? Are your goals meeting my suggested criteria, or at least some other known criteria like the “SMART” goals criteria?
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