On Setting Goals for Yourself

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to slow down and reflect.

Nov 19, 2021
In 2010 my New Year’s resolution was to learn to play the accordion. I had totally forgotten until I searched “resolutions” in my Google Drive earlier this week and stumbled on this unfulfilled intention from 12 years ago. 
We are quickly approaching the new year. 
And while you can start something new or quit a bad habit at any time, there is something reflective about the end of the year and the beginning of the next. 
And yet… most of my New Year’s Resolutions have been filled with angst.
I’ve gone into it feeling very unsatisfied with who I am and wanting to transform myself into someone new. 
In 2021, I realize now that I didn’t set specific goals. 
I just had loose intentions.
Last year, I was journaling, which to be transparent, is something I do maybe once or twice a year. 
I wrote:
“I will focus on what I love. Regardless of what other people have done. I will do what brings me joy. I will find ways to inspire people to eat and move well.”
Later in the year, during my second annual journaling session, I wrote: 
“I love when fitness is about strength. The act of building muscle is empowering, more so than losing fat. I want to help myself and other women get stronger.”
I also started making more connections between physical and professional strength. There is something about becoming physically more capable of doing hard things that has made me more confident at work.  
But, it wasn’t all flowers and cupcakes.
I will spare you the journaled verbatims where I spelled out the extreme imposter syndrome dialogue that was rolling through my head. 
Looking back on those notes from late 2020, it was clear that I was confronting challenging personal issues holding me back from doing something as simple as writing this newsletter. 
It turned out to be a pretty meaningful year!
I wanted to learn as much as possible about designing strength training programs and I ended up reading more than 10 books on the topic.
I had high hopes of becoming a Certified Personal Trainer (for my own knowledge), but I chose one of the stricter certifications, and I’m still studying. 
For years, I’ve wanted to be a morning person for myself. 
I could wake up at 5am to start working for someone else, but I couldn’t do it if I was working on something personal. 
This year was the year I finally cracked that code and became a morning workout and writing person. This happened in March. Not on January 1. 
For the record, I don’t think you need to be a morning person to be successful. I just like mornings. 
My “secret”... going to bed earlier, setting out my clothes the night before to reduce decision making in the morning, getting a smart plug for the coffee pot so I can turn it on from bed, and forcing myself out of bed with the promise that if 5 minutes after waking up, I don’t want to be up, I can go back to bed (never happens). 
I also didn’t transition 100% in one day. I’d say that I “win the morning” 4 or 5 days per week. But I still sleep in when I’m feeling tired. 
A couple of weeks ago, as I started reflecting on 2021, I realized I didn’t feel this overwhelming urge to change myself.
It’s not that I don’t want to learn more, get better, or accomplish goals. But for the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t feel like I’m not good enough. 
When I think back on the last year, I realize I crystallized a few personal principles. 
Don’t let the calendar dominate me.
January 1 is not the only day to start something. 
Monday is not the only day to start something. 
The morning isn’t the only time to do something. 
I’ve started my most successful dieting phases on Wednesdays. I saw it as getting a head start. 
I wrote my first newsletter on July 25th. 
I quit smoking on April 20th, 2012.
Don’t let a bad quarter prevent you from winning the game. 
Every day is a chance to be someone new. Every afternoon is a chance to do something you wanted to do in the morning but didn’t make happen yet. 
Affirm who I want to be, then act the part.
I want to be a writer so I write. A writer might get up early and write. So I do that. 
This isn’t a job. I don’t need to achieve a certain level to get the title. The second I sit down to write, I become a writer. 
If you want to be an athlete, train. The second you walk into the gym, you are an athlete. You don’t have to squat 100 pounds or lose 20 pounds to be one. 
Flip the resolution script.
Lastly, life is about exploring. Why the hell else are we here?   I don’t believe setting New Year’s resolutions needs to be a negative process. In fact, it can be empowering and set you up for a year of learning and evolving. 
One of the things I find most depressing is when I see adults glorifying their highschool or college years as the best years of their life. 
That is perhaps only topped by people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, giving up on doing things they love because they aren’t strong enough to enjoy them. 
Nor do New Year’s Resolutions have to be about #hustleculture. 
The reality is that a year flies by so fast. Having a little focus simply amplifies our efforts. 
I’ve been thinking about applying Objectives & Key Results to my personal life. It’s a framework I love using in my professional life. It dawned on me last weekend that I could use it for myself too. 
Deep thoughts… the Thanksgiving side you didn’t know you needed.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. 
It’s my favorite holiday of the year because: 
  • It’s a four day weekend.
  • It’s all about food, friends, family and (for those so inclined) football. 
  • It’s the perfect time to reflect on the year that’s wrapping up and the year that’s about to start, while still having time to get a head start on making 2022 a win. 
Here are a couple of things that I’ve found to be very helpful in the last few years. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was morphing this resolution setting into a very positive experience for myself.  
Test out a resolution in December.
Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to get to the gym more or cook more meals at home. Give yourself a monthly or weekly goal to test it out now.   Last year I did this with reducing alcohol consumption and by the time 2021 rolled around, I felt like I had mastered the goal versus starting the year off with a daunting challenge before me.  
Set monthly challenges to explore new skills, habits, etc.
I love monthly challenges. 
One of my favorites was a no-purchase month (outside of food). 
In June, last year, I cut out TV because it was beautiful and I didn't want to be inside. 
Instead of trying to make sweeping, long-lasting changes, a monthly challenge gives me flexibility to test out habits without committing to change f o r e v e r. 
They also help me bring focus to one area that might need attention, and generally have fun. 
Journal your intentions.
For so long I didn’t know what my passion was. Or I was afraid to call it out. I don’t know which is true.
I was convinced you needed to know what you were passionate about in order to set meaningful and specific resolutions. Looking back on the last year, I realize how helpful it was to simply put out loose intentions. 
You don’t have to have your goals 100% figured out to bring some focus to your year. I was blown away by how loose intentions helped me ease into something that I couldn’t even put a label on last year. 
Wishing you all a Happy, Reflective Thanksgiving
Back in July when I started writing this newsletter, I promised myself I would cover New Year’s Resolutions in November and not in January. 
As you can tell, I think this is the perfect time to slow down, reflect and mull over what’s next. 
One thing is for sure. 
Learning to play the accordion will not be in my 2022 plans.
🤗 Thank you for reading. Every like, comment and reply brings me an intense amount of joy. As does the act of writing this. 
💬 Let me know if you have questions. I love unpacking this stuff. 
🦃 Random, but what’s your favorite Thanksgiving side? I’m a stuffing person and plan to make a batch of Alison Roman’s version.