Self-discipline. Grit. Hustle.
It’s no secret that the ability to show up for our commitments (even when we absolutely don’t feel like it) is a quality that sets top performers apart from the rest.
But when we find ourselves setting goals and NOT meeting them? It can do a number on our self esteem and lead us to believe that we’re lazy or simply lack willpower.
I couldn’t disagree more with this train of thought.
As a leadership coach for women, I don’t believe in laziness as a concept. I think that when we aren’t hitting the goals we set for ourselves, rather than beating ourselves up, making it mean something about our “willpower” or spiraling in shame, it’s far more beneficial to turn inward and reflect about what’s really going on.
So, just in time for 2018 New Year’s resolution season, I’ve compiled 4 questions you can ask yourself if you didn’t reach your goals in 2017 and are hoping to change that in the New Year (so you can stop beating yourself up already!).
1) Were my goals aligned?
The first step in cultivating the discipline necessary to achieve our goals is making sure that what we’re aiming for is actually aligned in the first place. It can be so tempting to set goals that society deems valuable, but that we don’t actually find compelling on a deep level.
This is where learning to tune into our body’s natural wisdom can be powerful. Ask yourself: When thinking about the particular goal do you feel expansive and excited (albeit a tad afraid)? Awesome — those are hallmark sensations of an aligned goal. On the flip side, does your goal make you physically feel constricted, constrained or heavy in your body? Then it’s time to pay attention. Those are all warning bells of a goal that is likely more influenced by outside forces rather than your inner truth. And when we set goals from a place of “should” in this way? We set ourselves up for self-sabotage and failure.
When setting 2018 goals, I invite you to check in with your body and only set goals that feel like a deep “yes” (this alone will dramatically improve your “willpower”).
2) Can I differentiate between the voices of intuition and resistance?
While listening to your body’s inner wisdom is the first step toward setting goals you actually achieve, it doesn’t account for one major goal-saboteur: Resistance. Even with an incredibly aligned goal that checks out with your body, you will likely face some resistance when it comes to actually implementing it. Resistance can look like a lot of things, from repeatedly hitting snooze button on your alarm even though you’ve decided to start a morning meditation practice to not responding to Bumble messages in order to avoid true intimacy (and the potential to get hurt).
When we resist the activities we know will move us toward our aligned goals, the culprit is typically not “laziness”, but fear. When we set a big and personally meaningful goal for ourselves, THAT is when we have the most to lose and resistance is simply a way of protecting ourselves against the pain associated with potential failure.
Knowing that resistance is really fear allows us to be gentler on ourselves when it does flare up and reduces its power over us in the first place (awareness of what’s really going on is like kryptonite to resistance).
3) Were my goals unreasonably big?
In addition to the fear of change, another major “discipline” saboteur is overwhelm and setting goals that are overly ambitious given where we are now. For example, deciding to train for a marathon when we haven’t gone running in years can feel paralyzing, and set us up to fail before we’ve even gotten started.
For this reason it makes sense to break down big long term goals into bite-sized micro goals. This increases our chances of actually taking the actions required to make these goals happen, which helps us develop trust in ourselves and our ability to follow through on what we say we’re going to do. Setting and achieving small goals creates a positive feedback loop, builds positive momentum, and propels us forward toward more achievement.
Bill Gates is famously quoted as saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years” and I couldn’t agree more. So when you’re setting your 2018 goals, take this into account. By all means, create a grand vision for your life, but break down big goals into smaller more manageable chunks — and you’ll radically increase your chances of success.
4) Was I trying to achieve too many goals at once?
The term FOMO (fear of missing out) has grown increasingly popular in recent years — and it’s not surprising. With more options for how to spend our time than ever before (thank you, technology) it’s almost guaranteed that when we prioritize certain goals (and set about on the steps necessary to reach them) we will miss out on something else. Add to that the pressure most women feel to be well rounded and good at everything, and you have a recipe for not hitting goals.
If we want 2018 to be different, we have to be willing to say “no” more often and to do less, which can be a hard and scary thing to do.
The trick is to ask yourself when setting a particular goal: “How important is hitting this goal to me really? And what am I willing to give up to hit this goal?” When you are fully honest with yourself about what it will really take to achieve a goal, and grasp that while we can have it all — we often can’t have it all at ONCE, you will drastically increase your chances of goal setting success in 2018.
There you have it — the 4 questions that will help you set and hit your goals in the New Year far more than any amount of “willpower” ever could. Now off you go to take that yoga class, start your blog, or plan for that adventure trip around South America! You got this.