We’re exactly one week into 2018. Some of us have already started on our 2018 goals. Others are returning from vacation to begin their 2018 work today. Either way, the year is officially kicking into gear and it’s time to dive headfirst into achieving our goals.
Or is it?
I want to encourage you to stop for a moment. Take a look at the goals you’ve created, and ask yourself an important question: are these goals really serving you?
Most people wait until one, three, or six months into the year to re-evaluate their goals, but by then we’ve often already wasted weeks on goals that aren’t helping us. Some of those goals might even actively harm us.
Checking in with ourselves more often, especially at the beginning of the year, helps us avoid wasting time and keeps us on track as we work towards the life we want.
How do you figure out if your goals are serving you? Take a look at your goals list and ask yourself three questions:
1. Do all of your goals lead to your own personalized definition of success?
In other words, are you pursuing your dreams or someone else’s?
If you haven’t already established a solid definition of success, do this first using these journaling exercises. Make your definition as specific as possible.
Once you’ve created your personal definition of success, return to your goal list. Take a look at every item on the list and ask how this will lead to your ideal life. If you can’t come up with an answer, scrap the goal. There’s no reason to pursue anything that doesn’t actively serve you.
2. Are you acting out of passion or obligation?
This is similar to the first one, but not always connected. For example, I can’t stand Instagram. As a young adult author, Instagram is one of the best ways to connect with my target audience, so I felt obligated to create a presence there. I spent half a year actively trying to make it work, even though it massively drained my energy.
But here’s the thing: no social media platform is absolutely essential. If you have the money for consistent advertising campaigns a social media presence isn’t necessarily essential at all. The people who tell us that we absolutely need a specific platform are usually trying to sell something to help you use that platform.
So I have, at least for now, given up on Instagram and returned my energy to marketing efforts I actually enjoy.
Pursuing your goals should light you up. It should make you excited. If it isn’t, those goals need to change. And there’s always an alternative route to your dream life – you just have to find it.
3. Are your goals measurable and achievable?
We often create goals that set ourselves up to fail, especially at the beginning of a New Year. We tend to do this in one of two ways: by creating nebulous goals that can’t be measured, or by creating goals that simply cannot be achieved.
Goals that can’t be measured, like the generic ‘be healthier’ many people commit to on January first, are in many ways also impossible to achieve. If it’s not specific enough to measure, how can you track your progress? How do you know when you’ve accomplished it, or even when you’ve had a small win? These goals will bog you down throughout the year, and when you inevitably ‘fail’, you’ll be discouraged from trying anything similar in the future.
Goals that can’t be achieved are things that are physically impossible based on our existing limits (and yes, we all have them). These end up on our lists because we either a) overestimate our abilities or b) underestimate our other responsibilities. A couple of these manage to get on my list every year because I perpetually overestimate how much I can accomplish in a week. If I continued pursuing these goals each year, I would inevitably fail and become discouraged. My depression would then take that failure as a sign of my complete failure as a human being, creating a terrible feedback loop.
These types of goals often need to be altered rather than scrapped. For example, my goal to edit 70 pages of Moonshadow’s Guardian in the first week of January didn’t leave room for the lovely cold I got to ring in the New Year. So I’ve changed my final editing deadline to January 20th. I’m healthy again now and expect to finish by the fifteenth, but this gives me some wiggle room. I also altered the schedule of several other goals, because I realized I didn’t account for sickness/unexpected issues AT ALL in my timeline.
Checking in with yourself now allows you to make similar course corrections before you feel like a disappointment and a failure.
This check in will set you on the right path for the rest of the year, but it certainly shouldn’t be the last one you do. At least once a month, take some time to reflect on your progress and re-assess your goals. Make sure they’re still serving you, that you’re still on the right path. The occasional course correction will save you many days, maybe even weeks or months, of work.