How to Set a Goal for Yourself…and Keep It!

I had never been one to buy into the whole New Year’s Resolution gimmick (or whatever it is). I haven’t had much success with making a promise to myself and keeping it. Believe me, there have been a lot of things in my life that have brought pain and consequences, that I just couldn’t magic away. You’d think I would be more motivated to keep a promise to myself of all people, and yet…

A few years ago, after some introspection, I realized why my resolutions were not successful. I was making a promise or a goal, and then sitting back and waiting for the results. I did no planning for any course of action. There are adages such as “Fake it till you make it”, or “Act your way into right thinking”, that sound bogus and conjure mixed emotions that are opposite from my inner compass that points me in the direction of authenticity and transparency. However, sometimes, I have to put action first, before a new habit becomes a part of me. So, I began setting plans of action to reach certain goals. 

For the New Year, while I do not set “Resolutions”, I do think it is an appropriate time to review and potentially reset. I am looking back on the past year, and I admit, I really like what I see. I have worked hard, and accomplished more than I thought I would. At this time last year, I was trying to convince my soon-to-be spouse to get on-board with some financial goals that I thought would really push our family in a direction of comfort and security and peace. He was generally less than enthusiastic, but I had his buy-in on saving for the down payment for our future home. When we hit our goal, he was amazed at what we could accomplish when we got dedicated, and we began setting broader goals, together.  

Whether its a promise, a resolution, a goal, a dedication, every time I have been successful in changing something, committing to something long term, changing a knee-jerk reaction into a thoughtful response, it has required a plan of action. When we wanted to save up for the down payment it took several steps to work our way toward that accomplishment. We looked at our time line, decided when we wanted to start looking for a home, reviewed what we could comfortably afford (not necessarily what the bank approved us for), and worked backward counting how many months we had between now and the time we wanted to buy and divided the amount of money we needed by the number of months we had to save. We then took that dollar amount and set that as a savings goal for each month. We “paid” our high-yield savings account (where we were getting 1.89 % APR) that calculated amount every month, as if it were a bill, and continued to chug away within our careers, and within our relationship. When the time came, and we were ready to start looking for a house, we had the amount we wanted in our account, ready to pull the trigger the moment we found a place we were in love with. 

This is how I approach anything I want to do in life. I don’t always love to exercise (my motivation ebbs and flows) but I do want the end result: a healthy body that is functional and well-taken care of. So I set goals (work-out 3-5 times a week) and I check them off as I accomplish them. I train myself to do something massive that requires long-term commitment (have a healthy body, save up tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment), and I break it down to something bite-sized that I can work toward every day/week/pay period. Then I go through the motions. I Fake it till I Make It, I Act My Way to Right Thinking and I wait for the motivation, or the euphoria that comes from seeing my progress to come after. Once the thrill of noting progress kicks in, my motivation feeds upon itself and I am able to get the momentum going. It is like kicking off on a bike: at first it’s a slow pedal, but once I begin moving, I start gaining ground and I am able to move my legs with minimal effort because the pedals are already spinning forward from the initial effort I put in. Its a beautiful thing, and the confidence it brings allows for more traction, more progress, and the results follow. I don’t know of a more powerful thing.

So this year, I am not brushing off the opportunity to look within myself, look outward at my life, and review and reset. I am setting a few more goals (some personal, some financial), and looking at actionable steps I can take to break down some of the more lofty changes I want to see in my life, into manageable pieces. Do you have any goals you want to take this “Day One” of the year to speak into motion? Let me know in the comments below what you will do to maximize learning and growing opportunities in this upcoming year. Maybe we can hit it hard together 🙂

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