“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” – Louisa May Alcott
Monday morning rolls around, and I am full of great ideas like no coffee this week, just tea! Kale smoothies for dessert! Spin class, dance, yoga and barre! Ride my bike everywhere! Don’t spend any money! No wine! Only thought provoking television!
But somewhere around mid-week I am tired, and a glass of wine sounds delicious. And then I flip through the channels and see a show called “Extreme Cougars.” And Hattie at age 76 is flirting with young boys in a pool and putting her legs behind her head in a lounge chair…and I can’t stop watching. I am not proud of this fact.
As I begin a new career as a life coach, I spend a lot of time thinking about what constitutes an attainable goal and what is the best way to achieve it. How do we set realistic goals that nurture us, inspire us, and propel us in the right direction? How do we stay motivated enough to achieve these goals?
For me the most important part of goal setting is the initial step of creating smart and inspired goals true to my heart.
It is also helpful to decipher whether we want or feel we should accomplish a certain goal. Goals are dreams from the depths of our soul, ideally we feel impassioned by them, not tied to them. The right goals lift us up not weigh us down.
Focus on stating what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, “My new employer will be kind and treat me with respect” rather than “I do not want a jerky boss.”
Making sure our goals are in fact related to our dreams and not those of someone else is also of great importance. Basing our goals on pleasing others leads to dissatisfaction and potential resentment later on.
To keep goals going it helps, first and foremost, to prioritize them, insuring we are working towards the ones that are most important to us.
We keep the momentum flowing when we visualize meeting our goals. For instance, if going back to school is part of a lifelong dream, see yourself with a hard-earned diploma in hand and a smile on your face. See it and believe it. Or if you are more motivated by sound, say your goal out loud as much as possible. And say it like you mean it!
Speak in the affirmative about your goals such as “When I graduate” not “If I graduate.” The more specific, the better.
Another way to achieve our goals is to write them somewhere we can see them. Whether it is your desk, refrigerator or mirror, keep sight of your goal. Similarly, keeping a journal and writing down daily successes and challenges can also keep you on track.
If your goals are about creating a new habit such as daily meditation, be patient and diligent knowing it takes about 21 days for a new habit to take hold.
And know that sometimes adhering to our goals can be a bit like playing a game with our own will power. I’ll never forget talking to a good friend of mine 15 years ago on the eve before he stopped smoking. We discussed feeling the craving instead of using distractions to ward off the thought. Observing the desire fully and then watching it pass.
I asked him if he was going to give in to every craving. If we took every thought that pops into our head seriously, many of us would be living unsavory and unsustainable existences. So when the desire is strong, we can learn to wait, filling up the space with a mindful pause and three deep breaths, instead of giving into whatever desire is calling our name. Pausing and breathing gets us out of our heads and into our bodies while helping us to avoid sabotaging our efforts.
Accountability also keeps us connected to our goals. When we are accountable to a coach or exercise partner it is easier to stay true to our word. It is about being responsible, showing integrity and simply, showing up.
Goals are generated and realized when our hearts are aligned with our heads. Goals are not just created from our thinking minds but are put in motion by an inspired and divine energy moving within us.
While I am not an extreme cougar – though I was called a cougar when I was at my cousin’s wedding five years ago, and I was a little devastated – I am an extreme believer. I am passionate about what goals offer us…most remarkably liberation from the past and creation of the present and future of our wildest, most heartfelt dreams.