The holidays are upon us and it is a time of joy and renewal as we celebrate the season with our family and friends. However, it is also a time of reflection on the year that has passed and planning for the coming year. When the holidays are over, people start setting goals for the coming year in the form of new year’s resolutions. However, studies show that the vast majority of people who set new year’s resolutions have given up by February. All you have to do is visit a local fitness center in the beginning of January and then at the end of February to prove to you that this is true.
It does not matter what the goal is. It could be to eat healthier, lose weight, get in shape, quit smoking, find your soul mate, improve your relationship, save more money, create more free time or start a small business. Most people do not follow through on these goals. So the question is why does this happen and how can we ensure that we will follow through on our goals for the new year? The problem is that most people do not know how to set goals. There are only two ways to set goals and those are based on need and based on your vision. Let’s look at these in more detail.
The first way you should be setting goals is based on need. You need to look at all the major areas of your life and see where the greatest need lies. These include your health, your relationships, your finances, your leisure time, your sense of meaning or spirituality and your contribution to others. For example, you may be doing well financially but you may be 30 pounds overweight. In this case, your goals should be focused around health since this is your greatest need in this moment. You may be relatively healthy and financially stable but your marriage or relationship may be in trouble. In this case your goals should be focused on your relationship whether it involves making the decision to go your separate ways if it cannot be salvaged or exploring what you need to do to rekindle that love and passion for each other that has been lost.
The second way to set goals is based on vision. Too often people do not have a greater vision for their lives and end up chasing after other people’s goals or what they think they should be pursuing based on society’s expectations. These are goals which you will never be achieve because they are not your goals but goals which you think you should be pursuing. So how do we know what goals we should be pursuing based on our greater vision which we are likely to follow through on?
First of all, you need to define your higher values and greater vision. The way you do this is to ask yourself a series of crucial questions. These questions are as follows: What were my childhood dreams and ambitions? What do I enjoy or have enjoyed in the past that keeps me so thoroughly engaged that I lose all track of time? What are my natural talents and abilities that others complement me on? What brings love, joy and peace to my life? Who are the people who I admire for their qualities, pursuits and accomplishments?
And the most important question of all is as follows: If I knew I could not fail, what would I attempt to do? This is the most important question because there is no such thing as failure as we understand it. Failure is simply a course correction on the path of your life’s journey. If you ponder these questions deeply and journal on them, they will lead you to your greater vision for your life and guide you to setting goals in line with this greatest vision. This will increase the likelihood that you will persist with these goals despite any obstacles or challenges that get in your way.
The real key to succeeding in your goals is to tie together your greatest need in the moment with your greatest vision for your life. For example, perhaps you put a high value on losing weight and improving your overall health and one of your highest values is to be of service to others. You can increase your chances of success by helping others do the same, either through an online blog, starting a health coaching practice or speaking to various patient support groups about improving their health to name a few.
Defining the greatest vision for your life, as I have described above, will help you clarify your goals and ensure your success in pursuing these goals.
Nauman Naeem MD FCCP FRCPC