New Year’s Resolutions: Don’t dream it, be it

Don't wish for a great new yearIt’s a new year, another fresh start, another opportunity to dust off our dreams and desires and try them on again, in the hopes of attaining them. I’ve blogged about New Year’s resolutions before, (here and here) focusing on identifying the subconscious beliefs and behaviors prevent us from achieving our goals. What’s interesting to me is that, in my spiritual counseling practice, my clients, students and I often work with natural rhythms of the earth and the planets to inspire transformation and action. On January 1, 2014, not only are we opening the door to a new year, we’re also celebrating a new moon (symbolic of initiating new projects) in the sign of Capricorn (the zodiac sign known for being tenacious, resourceful, disciplined, wise, ambitious, prudent, constant, focused on practical and attainable long-term goals, and nurturance in a realistic manner). So for this blog post, I thought I would focus on strategy and action. (I also have an eBook on daily activities to help you move forward in your life. Sign up for my Relationship Readiness newsletter to get your copy:  here )

Before we forge ahead, I’d like to reinforce that every aspect of our lives benefits from goal setting and strategic planning: from career success to financial serenity, from physical health to relationship bliss. Too often we allow ourselves to drift along without taking the wheel. Vagueness can be a strong inhibitor to achievement. As Brian Tracy loves to say, Success equals goals; all else is commentary. I include strategic planning in all of my coaching processes; even my Relationship Readiness curriculum and my Attract the Love of Your Life curriculum features sessions designed to help build a strategic plan to help you find (and keep!) the love of your life. It is exceptionally powerful aspect of the process.

HOW TO BAKE AN “EMPOWERED ACTION” CAKE
Action based on awareness makes our new reality possible. Think about what’s possible when you face fear and take concrete steps towards a new way of living and being. What opens when awareness leads to clarity and clarity leads to action?

A strategic plan helps us (as well as organizations) determine where we stand, where we wish to go and how we plan to get there. By focusing on the big picture, long-term planning creates an opportunity for people to design their lives, to become the authors of their lives and create their ideal future. How can you choose actions that are aligned with your values, vision and purpose? How do you prioritize your goals and action plans? How do you allocate your resources? What strategies help you to take command of your life and be the change you wish to see in the world?

A strategic plan includes a map with the final destination and directions on how to get where we’re going. Whole-life strategic planning starts with the values, vision and purpose work explored early in the coaching process, which help us see our destiny. Once we have clarity about what’s compelling, we look at our whole life, assessing our satisfaction with each area. After comparing where we are with where we want to go, we close the gap by designing goals, action plans and support systems to create our ideal lives.

The ironic thing is that we as a society are not overly predisposed to creating goals and action plans. It’s a subject I was never exposed to in school or in my family – the first time I learned of “planning” was when I took a class on Public Relations Planning in college. But even still, most corporations that I worked with after graduation never had a plan that they took out and shared with their employees, so this valuable skill was left to rust. It’s only since becoming a coach that I have become superkeen on creating a plan – both for my business and for my whole life as well as supporting my clients in the creation of theirs.

Are you ready to commit your dreams to paper? If so, take an honest look at the state of each area of your life, and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (10= very true for me; 1= not true for me at all) on the following questions.

Career

  • My work stimulates and fulfills me.
  • My career path makes good use of my talents.
  • I am proud of my contribution at work.

Money

  • I have enough money to meet my basic needs and plan for the future.
  • I regularly contribute to a savings account.
  • I am free of money worries.

Health

  • I exercise and go for check-ups with my doctor regularly.
  • I eat nourishing food.
  • I manage stress well.

Relationships

  • I enjoy my friends and family.
  • My support network nurtures me.
  • I have meaningful connections with people I care about.

Spirituality

  • My spiritual life is rich and fulfilling.
  • I have a spiritual practice that supports me.
  • My inner path and outer connectedness are sources of inspiration.

Personal Growth

  • I continuously deepen my self-awareness.
  • I actively seek personal and professional growth opportunities.
  • I am moving toward living the life of my dreams.

Recreation

  • I regularly enjoy leisure time.
  • I have hobbies/activities that stimulate me.
  • Fun is an integral part of my life.

Community

  • I belong to a community that is based on mutual respect.
  • I fully contribute to and receive support from my community.
  • I have an emotional connection with people who share my values.

If you didn’t score yourself more than 6 in any of these areas, don’t worry. This exercise is not about feeling bad or sorry for yourself, or for reinforcing a belief that you’re a failure because you don’t score all 10s. It’s about spotlighting areas that can benefit from action.

Now, imagine what your life would look like when each area is at a  “10”. This helps identify the “gap” of where you are now and where you want to be after a certain period of time. From this gap, you will identify the steps that are needed to create your ideal future.

Actions may take a while to form; readiness for action steps naturally flows from alignment with values, vision and purpose. When you are clear about what wants to be born and have faced the limitations of your inner or outer critics, you’ll grow excited about bringing forth your vision. What actions arise from the heart and do not involve struggle and suffering? Notice what you are attracted to do, not what you inner critic says you should do.

set and reach goal conceptGET SMART!
Breaking down the goals into smaller objectives and action plans inspires us to act and increases the likelihood of success. By looking at one area of life at a time, and exploring both short-term and long-term actions, it becomes easier to change one part of our life, one step at a time. To be effective, all action steps must be S.M.A.R.T., as defined by my coaching teachers at Leadership That Works:

Specific: The more specific the goal, the easier it is to implement and enlist support from others. The clearer the goal, the more powerful it becomes. Start by asking, “What is the desired outcome?” and refine it until it is concise, simple and clear.

Measurable: Measurable goals establish concrete criteria for determining progress and completion. Not only do you have the data to support staying on track, you can also celebrate the achievement of milestones, building momentum along the way. If your goal is “I want to become a better leader,” ask yourself, “How will you know you have achieved your goal?”

Attainable: Set the bar high, but ensure the goals are doable. Unrealistic goals can de-motivate rather than inspire us.

Relevant: Without a sense of what makes the goal important, people rarely commit to or realize their goals. Ask: What values does this goal honor? What will the goal get you? What meaning does the goal have? How does this goal make a difference for you or others? What impact will it have?

Time-Bound: A useful and motivating goal is grounded within a timeframe and answers the question, “By when?” Without a timeframe or completion date, there is no sense of urgency and no real commitment to the goal. A timeframe sets a clear intention of the desired completion date. A goal of increasing sales by 5 percent is meaningless without a date attached to it.

Example of personal SMART goals:
>> Improve my health by losing 12 pounds in the next 12 weeks. To achieve that goal, I commit to exercising aerobically for 30 minutes each day and to eating three portions of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains each day. I will keep a daily food and exercise log for the 12 weeks.

>> To find an extraordinary relationship that meets my top-6 defined requirements and needs by June. To achieve that goal, I commit to notifying my support community of my goal and requirements, and to attend two Yoga for Singles events per week for the next three months. I will also attend two art and culture events per month for the next four months.

GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT
Want maximum efficiency and focus? The next step is to compose and prioritize up to seven goals. Many people, after evaluating the different areas of their lives, will start to create an avalanche of goals to improve their lives. Let’s hone your focus a bit here; working on more than seven goals at a time disperses your energy. So identify the 5 – 7 most important goals that will make the biggest difference in your life and make sure you commit these to paper, so that you can review them each morning and stay on track.

  1. GOAL: Define your goals, starting each goal with an action verb. Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).
  2. PRIORITY RANKING: Prioritize your goals from 1-7.
  3. VALUES: Ensure your goals are aligned with your values by identifying the values you will honor by achieving each goal.
  4. COMMITMENT LEVEL: Rate your commitment level to each goal: High, Medium or Low
  5. ACTION STEPS: Create an action plan by breaking down each goal into action steps with due dates.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS
To plan for successful implementation of your goals, explore the following questions:

  1. What resources do you need to accomplish each goal?
  2. What predictable resistance or obstacles can you expect?
  3. What accountability structures will inspire you?
  4. What daily actions will serve you?
  5. Who can you enlist to support you in reaching your goals?
  6. How will you celebrate the milestones along the way?

Next up:  STRETCH THOSE GOALS! Calisthenics for success.

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