“How do I know I’m setting the right goals?”
This time of year we’re inundated with a flood of information about goal setting. From magazine articles to tweets we’re urged to set our aim for the year.
However, most of this information misses the secret to truly fulfilling goal setting. It focuses solely on externals – the concrete, measurable outcomes we want. While it’s vitally important that we define the specific results we want, that alone isn’t enough.
Think about it for a moment. Have you ever achieved a huge goal, only to feel hollow, flat, and empty? Most of us have, and it’s a signal that we omitted the key ingredient in powerful goal setting.
We’ve missed the spirit behind our goals. The compelling “why.” The essence. Our heart’s desire.
When you take time to tap into what you really want, and then design goals that paint a picture of fully living this essence, you’ll know for sure your goals will lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Here are three simple steps to help you discover your authentic goal for this year:
1. Brainstorm your desires
We don’t “make up” our vision. Rather, we uncover it. Discovering our vision is about asking powerful questions and listening to our inner knowing. Two simple, yet profound questions that will tap directly into your vision are:
What do I want? What don’t I want?
Start brainstorming by drawing two columns on a page. Label one “One thing I want is…” and the other “One thing I don’t want is…,” and then just start writing down whatever comes to mind, like you’re emptying a cup. You might jot down a few lines or maybe you’ll fill a few pages. Allow your creative spirit to direct the flow!
2. Discover the essence
If we stopped our visioning at this point we’d have a clearer sense of what we want, however we’d risk setting ourselves up for hollow achievements. We need to take it further to find the enduring motivation.
Listen “behind” everything you’ve written. Imagine it’s a year from now. You actually have everything you’ve written about. How would you feel? What would this bring you that you don’t currently have? The answer to these questions gives you a glimpse into your authentic desire for this year.
3. Create your inspiring theme
Claim these possibilities and shape them into a theme – a short, inspiring statement that makes you smile when you hear it, like “Connected and connecting,” “Flowing self-expression,” “The year of living gracefully,” “My time to fly.” Capture the essence of your vision in a memorable way.
These steps had a profound effect for me this year. My “do want” and “don’t want” list spilled quickly onto the page . I’d been thinking about 2011 for a few weeks and my projects and big, audacious goals were really clear. But I felt flat. What I’d written looked more like a daunting “to do” list than the ingredients of a remarkable year. I knew I needed to go deeper.
As I let go of everything I thought I knew about the year, a deep curiosity came over me. What is it I really want this year? What is behind these projects? A whisper said “Joie de vivre.” That’s it! My deepest desire now is to feel joie de vivre each day. Life. Energy. Passion. Lightness. This is my theme for 2011. When I revisited my list of goals, they were transformed. I could see how each one will lead to new joie de vivre (and if it won’t, it came off the list immediately!).
Your theme will anchor your highest vision. It will act as a force to lift you out of chaotic circumstances. It will be a filter for understanding your real priorities. It will give you courage to make daring choices. It will keep you deeply rooted in a vision of yourself that will empower you to act in your best interest, whatever unpredictable challenges come your way.
Take time this January to dream. Stay in the question. Allow yourself to be open and discover who you want to be, and what you want to create this year. You have the power to claim each day, week and month of this year as remarkable.
(first published January 2011)