Setting Goals in the New Year

Posted on January 04,2014 by aliatmspp

Happy New Year!

I look at the year in three phases, that is, three opportunities to refresh, start something new, or make a resolution (or revisit an old one). These three times of the year are: January (in keeping with the traditional calendar year), the nondescript spring-summer transition (sometime in May, typically; it’s a chance to reflect on the first half of the year and chuck the winter parka you may currently be sporting to the side), and the beginning of the traditional school year, late August/early September (probably because I’ve been involved in education on both sides of the teacher’s desk since the age of four). The idea of “resolutions” for the new year is helpful for some; however, I tend to identify areas of “growing edges,” in the MSPP jargon, throughout the year and attempt to make improvements in the moment rather than waiting for January 1st. That being said, these new phases provide a great time to embrace mindfulness and reconsider goals.

When setting goals for myself, I suggest considering the following:

  1. Achievable – what’s the point in making an unrealistic goal? Will I be fit to run a marathon in six weeks after not having hit the pavement for over eight months? Not a chance. If I want to make a goal, I want to be sure that I am not setting myself up for failure. It’s got to be attainable, and it's even better when it's framed positively (aka "Do this" instead of "Don't do that").
  2. Short- and long-term goals – while it’s useful to have long-term goals, sometimes it’s helpful to chunk a long-term goal into short-term steps. For example, a long-term goal of mine was to be a clinical psychologist. Over a year ago, the short-term goals associated with this were to submit applications to programs that would help me get there. I’m keeping the long-term in mind, but I'm checking off the boxes on the short-term goals that are more like steps on the journey to the long-term goals.
  3. Accountability – for some people, being accountable to themselves is enough; for others, external support is more helpful. Exhibit A: one of my goals for the year is to master cooking a whole duck (silly, perhaps). I know that by keeping this to myself, I will have little impetus to tackle this waterfowl culinarily. However, by sharing it with a few friends, they keep me on track by suggesting that we all get together for dinner on the night of the duck challenge.
  4. Flexibility – Sure, having goals is great, but being flexible in approaching them and, at times, restructuring the original goals is equally important.

There are other nuanced aspects of goal setting, but this is the basic template I use when considering goals. Hopefully it’s helpful! What about you? What are some of your goals for this new year? Wishing you a good one!