Move over, Resolutions: 4 steps to actually reach your goals with ease
Before you start vision boarding and New Years' resolution-ing...there are 4 key steps most well-meaning folks overlook when setting goals and planning. As a result, they often fall short of actually loving the needle where they want to go.
And this doesn't just apply to the new year (though one quick scroll through social media might have you believe that this is the only time of year to make goals and plans).
I invite you to press pause before you commit to your goals and make sure you're well stocked with my top 4 tools to get you there and keep you there.
These 4 steps are what most people skip, which is what leads them to fall off the wagon by about mid-January on their goals and resolutions.
Do you ever notice that when you set out to reach a goal, you are often so focused on building and creating something new (and all the work and progress that is yet to be done) that you often don’t look back to see the progress you have made?
This may feel overwhelming--to think about all that you have to do.
And because of that, you may notice that you tend to procrastinate, or spend your time doing things that don't really move the needle forward. Or you fall off the wagon and shut down.
Or maybe you regret something you did or something that happened, and it's too hard to look back. Maybe something didn't go quite as planned or left a bad taste in your mouth, so you don't want to reflect.
So you often just press on--feeling as if you are never actually getting anywhere, no matter how badly you want to grow.
Don't worry, you're not alone.
The late physician and researcher, Dr. David Hawkins, described this as follows:
“...this is a common phenomenon among people who are growing in consciousness. We are not aware of all the coal that we have shoveled; we are always looking at the shovelful we are handling right now. We don’t realize how much the pile has gone down. Often our friends and family are the first to notice.” -Dr. David Hawkins MD, PhD; Letting Go
This quote (and the truth behind it) showed up recently in a really timely series of conversations I had with 2 different clients -- each conversation was separate -- yet they were so intricately intertwined with this concept.
On a random Tuesday, I chatted with one client (we’ll call her Mary).
Mary was struggling with getting where she wanted to go in her business and career.
To her, no matter how many countless hours she spent crafting the perfect website, branding herself, growing a business, doing social media, networking, speaking, doing podcasts and doing all the “right” other things, she wasn’t seeing the client and business growth she wanted.
Mary told herself stories that none of the work she was doing to grow her business was good enough, nor would she ever get where she wanted to go.
She had originally wanted to grow her “side hustle” over the course of 6 months so she could quit her “life-sucking full time job” (her words, not mine) and go all-in in her business.
But that didn’t happen in the timeframe she wanted, despite how hard she tried.
So she pressed on and kept adding more things to her plate--thinking thoughts like "if I just did more marketing, or more speaking, or more social media, it will grow."
And do more, she did. She was wearing herself out and losing hope.
Truth be told, Mary was starting to get some clients in her business. But that business was only a side gig to her full time job, and she wasn’t seeing the growth at the pace that she had idealized. Additionally, the truth was that perhaps the pace she idealized was not realistic given her current circumstances, resources, time, and energy.
She knew this deep in her heart, but continued to get caught in the noise of the critical voices in her head that said "if I just do that one thing more perfectly or more quickly, then I'll see the breakthrough I need."
She also got caught comparing herself to other people in the same field who had been in the field for years to decades. She beat herself up because she didn't have the business or following that they did.
Maybe this sounds familiar to you.
Be honest with yourself--how many times have you questioned if what you're doing in your career is actually moving the needle forward where you want to go?
How many times have you gotten frustrated or felt stuck and directionless about how to reach your big goals?
If it resonates with you, please know that like Mary, you are not alone.
But this story doesn't end there. Allow me to introduce you to my next client.
Roughly 24 hours later, I was in a conversation with a different client, we’ll call her Brianne, who was in a different space in life and business, though on a similar career path as Mary.
Brianne had just started on the path to creating a new career -- shifting from one field to a slightly different-though-related field.
And she had been telling herself stories that she would never be good enough and nobody would ever want to pay her.
This is something I hear from clients like Mary and Brianne all the time--and admittedly it’s a story I’ve told myself too many times to count.
Brianne and I chatted through how to strategically create achievable goals, plan, and accountability steps to actually get her where she wanted to go business and career-wise while allowing her to surrender the doubtful voices in her head.
We also schemed a beautiful plan of how to truly create an image of a "job title" that really fit who she was at the core as a person while also integrating the skill sets and knowledge she already had.
Seeing that she'd been spending too much of her career trying to fit herself into boxes that didn't really fit her spirit and soul, it was obvious that she was starting to feel better and more inspired in just a 15 minute conversation.
Then she said something really interesting and insightful.
She asked me if I had heard of Mary -- completely unaware that Mary was, in fact, a client--not to mention one I’d just spoken to!
Brianne couldn't see the twinkle in my eye as I casually said, “Sure, I’ve heard of her.”
Brianne said she’d been following Mary on social media and admired how that Mary “really seemed to have ‘it all together’” and “must be doing really well in her business” based on the persona, brand, and messaging that Mary had portrayed online.
I will remind you that Mary had worked so hard to portray this image -- but of course, had told me how invisible and helpless she felt because it seemed nobody had noticed)
Without revealing the truth, I secretly smiled a bit more. What beautiful feedback and insight.
Do you see the beautiful lessons? If not, allow me to illuminate them for you!
1) As stated earlier--we’re often so focused on the task at hand or the mountain we’re trying to climb right now that we lose sight on what we’ve actually accomplished in the process. In short, one might say we’re too focused on the outcome and not enough on the process. But it’s bigger than that. We’re not only not focused on being in the process, but we’re too focused on doing things and checking boxes to see that we are actually planting seeds. And we get ourselves into an all-or-nothing mentality which basically says “I’m a failure and I suck if I don’t have the goal I want right now.”
Polarizing (good/bad, right/wrong, perfect/imperfect) thoughts and mindsets are a great way to not only keep us from seeing the bigger picture of what is going on around us.
And when we attach our emotional well being to that polarized “perfect or failure” outcome, then chances are--no matter how hard we try, we will never feel like anything we are doing is good enough.
Case in Point: Mary.
2) As author Brene Brown says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
And what was going on for Brianne was the beginning of that slippery slope of comparison. She had an underlying fear that she’d never be as good as the perception she had of Mary.
Comparison is really obvious to pick up on when we do it with other people. But the thing is, we don’t always compare ourselves to others.
In Mary's case--she was comparing her current self to an idealized person of herself. By constantly doing this, it’s akin to comparing a first grader to an 11th grader. Sure, the 11th grader might technically be “smarter,” but the truth is, they’re not even literally in the same class. Both are learners and students--but they’re not even on the same playing field.
Thus, while it’s important to look back and reflect, as mentioned in lesson #1, it’s also important to stay in your lane, and stay present. The present is the only moment that actually exists, and it’s the only place from which growth can occur.
Living in the future and constantly comparing yourself to others or an idealized version of where you want to go, rather than celebrating where you are--is a surefire way to sell yourself out and be blinded toward the path that will actually help you clearly reach your goals.
3) Looks can be--and are--deceiving. Especially on social media. Take them with a grain of salt. You don’t need me to tell you that anyone can create any image of themselves, their lives, or their businesses on social media. There are thousands of articles and conversations in the world illustrating this point, and we all know the truth behind this. Yet somehow, we still allow ourselves to judge the book by its cover. This is--in some ways--human nature. We naturally categorize and judge what’s on the surface. It was once--long long ago--a way for our ancestors to decide if another being was safe or not, if that tree had food in it or not, etc.
And don’t get me wrong--there is a beautiful place for social media in our lives and businesses, and in business, it can be a useful tool.
But it’s just that--one tool. And it’s definitely easy to believe that building a social audience is THE way to improve your life or your business.
But here’s the truth. That person with 100K followers may be making no money, and the person with 256 may be in a multiple 6- or 7- figure business. The person with beautiful filtered photos of her family may be in a terribly abusive relationship, and the person who never posts about her husband may have a strong, committed, and mutually loving partnership.
The story of Mary and Brianne is a beautiful example of the innocence of human nature and how it's so easy to derail yourself both emotionally and literally from reaching your goals.
Fortunately, Mary and Brianne do regular coaching with me, which means when they start to veer off track, we can course correct to keep them rocking and rolling.
And because this is a common problem I see in. so many clients, I invite you to practice the 4 quick course corrections I teach all of my clients to help them actually stay on track to reaching or exceeding their resolutions and goals.
1. Look back and reflect.
Goal setting and achievement is NOT all about only looking forward. Oftentimes, the most secret sauce to success is regular reflection, tracking, and measurement. Why? Because that way you can see what's working, what's not working, where you veered off course inadvertently, and most importantly--change course or. change goals if they are no longer aligned with who you are.
It's common to set a goal, then grow as a human, or change your interests or activities. You are never obligated to keep following any goal you set for yourself. That's the beauty of being 100% responsible for your experience of life: you get to change course whenever you want.
But make no mistake: that doesn't also mean to change course every time something doesn't work out as planned.
That's why consistent reflection is important.
It's also a great time to celebrate what you have accomplished, no matter how seemingly unimportant, trivial, or small it may be.
If you haven't been stopping to consistently check in with yourself, then here's a place to start:
Make a list of 3 things you accomplished in the past year that you once thought were
impossible, unimaginable, or challenging. And I don’t mean accomplishments that earned you trophies and accolades from everyone (though you can certainly include those too, if you’d like).
You can put things like…
Managed to handle the unfathomable grief that came with losing a loved one unexpectedly
Made it through a surgery I was once afraid to even discuss
Got rid of ⅓ of the clothes in my closet
Hired a virtual assistant
Then, write what traits, skills or attributes YOU HAVE or YOU DID (not what someone else did, not what "luck" did) that allowed you to accomplish those things.
Lastly, block of at least 1 day per quarter (or whatever frequency feels achievable to you) over the next year to have a date with yourself, and do the same thing. That way you're not waiting until the end of the year to try and remember what you did in January (plus, it'll feel REALLY good to see all the specific ways you're a rockstar)!
A caveat to reflection: reflection is NOT stopping and beating yourself up. If you find yourself stuck in the pesky voices in you head that trigger anxious feelings, worry, doubt, self-defeat, guilt, or that "never enough" feeling. STOP. Get out a journal and write it all down on paper. Get it out of your head. None of those voices are ever telling the truth.
The truth is that you are ALWAYS doing your best with the tools, skills, resources, time, mindset, and frame of reference you have in any given moment. Thus, if you have the flu on Monday, your "best" on Monday may look different than your "best" 2 weeks later when you feel better. Did that mean Monday was a failure and you slacked off? No. It means you were doing your best.
If you still struggle with this step (looking back, reflecting, or celebrating), that's what I'm here for! Shoot me a note and let's chat about how to make the process easier!
2. Get clear on what’s actually important to you, and why
There is a lot of talk about creating a vision or creating a theme or a word for the year.
Great! Do all of those things.
But pump the breaks for just a moment before you cut inspirational words, sayings and photos out of magazines.
I invite you to first create a very specific mission statement--your mission on the planet, so to speak.
Write the answer to the following question on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you'll see it.
If you removed all of the hats you wear, the roles you play, the titles you have--if your life was not defined by being “mom” or “wife” or “sister” or “boss” or “employee”--and if money, time, work, occupation, and health were no longer issues you’d have to worry about--who would you be, and what would your mission on this planet be?
This should be about one sentence long. Once you have that figured out, then create your vision board, theme or word.
And be sure to email me and let me know what you come up with!
3. Stay in your lane
As you create goals--ask yourself who it is for?
I challenge you to drop the notion that anyone except for you creates your experience of life, and that you are obligated to or owe anything to anyone.