Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Taking Action

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. 
Pablo Picasso 

The beginning of the year is a great time to think about our goals and aspirations and to have a fresh start on life. This is the time of year we hear people talk about losing weight, eating healthy, or going to the gym. But I want to point out that our goals can encompass so much more. Our goal could be to save up and buy something we’ve always wanted, doing something extreme that we would never normally do, or going on vacation to see a place where we have never been before.

For example, on Sunday I heard a great story. It was probably the silliest thing I’d ever heard but it was also weirdly inspiring.  At church, one of the talks/messages was about setting goals. B, the kid speaking, told us a story that was admittedly embarrassing for him. B had had this strange dream/goal since he was a little boy. B wanted to be beat up by Jackie Chan. B, wanted to learn how to be stunt man. So did he just talk about doing dangerous tricks and stunts? No. B and a couple of his friends saved up enough money to attend a stunt man school in Washington. B and his friends sacrificed. They lived a room with only one bed and every night they would rotate who slept on the floor, and who got to enjoy the bed. B had the motivation to work and accomplish his goal and make it a reality. I really admire that.

It makes me wonder what I could get done this year if I sat down and made a plan to accomplish some of my goals. Could I save enough money to take that trip to New York. Decrease the time it takes to run a mile? Find more opportunities to play or perform music? 

 I recently read an article that lists 7 ways to help you make goals that result in real change.

1. Dream Big
Most of us only accomplish small things because we don’t dream big. We settle for less. We are content with the status quo. Don’t just imagine yourself a little better than you are now, imagine the way you should be. Who do you want to become? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Answer these questions and then go make it happen. Do the impossible.

2. Be specific.
Dreams give us a vision for the future, but they won’t happen without a plan for today.  In addition in knowing where we want to head, we need to be specific about what to do next. Setting the goal of losing weight won’t work. We have to change our lifestyles. Instead of saying, “I need to exercise more,” your goal could be, “I will go to the YMCA at 6:00am on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays before work and run.” Being specific makes it harder to let yourself off the hook.

3. Be incremental.
In addition to having a bigger goal, determine steps that you can take to get there. If your goal is to run a marathon, but you haven’t run in years, the distance of 26.2 miles seems to great. Gradually build up to the distance by first getting in shape for a 3 mile race. Then build up to 5 miles followed by a half marathon. Then getting ready for a marathon is an easier task. Setting your goals in stages will give you confidence through early success and prepare you to take on the bigger distances. 

4. Use a timeframe.
Goals without  a deadline are a set up for failure. Deadlines keep us on track. They help us to make sure we are making progress. They give us an extra motivator, a sense of urgency. Would you ever have finished a term paper if your teacher hadn’t given you a deadline? Instead of saying that you want to write a book, be sure to develop a timeframe fore each step. Set a goal of writing an outline by the end of the week. Write the first chapter by the end of January. The second chapter in February and so on. Eventually you will have written a book.

5. Constantly revise.
Our resolutions often fail because we are not flexible. We set a goal and then when we do not achieve it, we feel like a failure. Instead of viewing our goals from a  black and white perspective, see it as a process that constantly needs to be refined. The end goal may need to change. The means we use may be different. The timeframe may be off. It is not a failure to change our goals, but it is a failure to not make them.

6. Be accountable.
If you have a close friend you can trust, it is also helpful to tell them about your vision and resolutions so that they can help keep you on track. Accountability only works, though if you make yourself vulnerable. Be honest. Be humble. Be open. Knowing that you will have coffee with a friend next week will help you make better decisions today.

7. Develop a review process.
Establish a system to constantly evaluate your progress. Go over each specific goal and the steps you are taking to get there. Are you keeping up? What can you do to help yourself get there? What needs to change? Do this weekly, quarterly, and of course yearly.

Goals are valuable. They give us clarity and help us to know what direction we want to head.

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