The start of a new year is traditionally a time for taking inventory and committing to new and better things in the year ahead. Some still call them "New Year's Resolutions," but I'm not a fan of that phrase. It's worn-out and too filled with memories of past failure to inspire much hope for the future. If it works for you, go for it! But for myself, I prefer a more analytical process. Rather than resolutions, I prefer to make plans, design strategies, make clear commitments, and then execute them on a daily basis. It works better for me.
So, what specific plans, strategies and commitments should you make for this brand new year? That, of course, is always the rub. The temptation is to make big, grandiose plans for wealth, achievement and (at long last) the success you've always desired. Those big, impressive plans sound so good! They impress us--and our friends--and that's good. But too often, they also include things beyond our control (like a booming economy or the cooperation of the market-place) and while they sound good, they also fill us with anxiety and undermine our confidence.
My suggestion is to set goals you can absolutely control, and to divide them between internal and external goals.
The first part is easy. Goals should always be under your personal control. It's usually a mistake to set a goal for other people to start doing things they have not done in the past. Goals for "world peace" or for "my spouse to quit drinking" might be examples. We can always encourage others to change their behavior, but in the end, most of us have enough trouble controlling our own behavior without trying to control others.
For 2013, set goals that begin with, "I will..."
A goal that, "I will read 10 books this year," followed by a list of the ten books you've chosen is a great goal! On the other hand, a goal that "This year my teenage daughter will choose more appropriate boyfriends," is more problematic. Don't set yourself up for that! How about changing it to, "This year I will be a better listener and do what I can as a skilled parent to help my daughter make smarter choices"? I think it will work out better.
Second, make sure the majority of your goals are internal goals that are completely under your control. A goal that "This year I will be more patient" or a goal to "Be more thoughtful around the house" is under your control. You can do it and your success is entirely up to you. There are strategies that will help you and which do not depend on other people.
Work harder on changing yourself than on changing others. Become a person of kindness, wisdom and generosity, and other people will respond to you in wonderful ways.
Third, and lastly, also set external goals. These are goals where your actions can have a powerful influence on the outcome, but you accept that the results are not completely under your control. You might set goals to increase your income or to publish the book you've always wanted to write. These are good and important goals! But, they are very different from internal goals.
You can have a goal for a family vacation to Hawaii, but recognize that illness, weather, scheduling and a myriad of other things may disrupt even the best plans. You are not a failure if you've done what you can do, but a typhoon hits the Big Island on the day of your departure!
Most people set too many external goals and too few internal ones. External goals are good! Most of the time, we achieve them and that's wonderful! But even when we do, the results can be transitory and, sometimes disappointing. In contrast, internal goals stay with us forever. They transform our lives and empower us to continue achieving external goals for the rest of our lives.
"Work harder on yourself." I think you'll like the results.
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