I love the fresh start of a new year. There's something about the excesses of the holiday season - from Halloween through New Years, that gives me a craving to simplify, cut back, and reset come January.
It's also the time of year when many of us, myself included, visualize and plan the for the coming year. Over the past week as I've been holed up sick with strep throat I've been bombarded with messages on social media about creating resolutions, setting goals, or starting better habits. It's amazing how many ads and videos I've seen for goal planners, day planners, new morning habits, and systems that will "change my life". And, in some ways this can be a good thing; a fresh start and a new focus can help us reset old habits and focus on new, specific things we want to achieve.
That said, after going down the rabbit hole of watching some of these videos, I felt incredulous rather than inspired.
In one example, I saw someone talk about an "all or nothing" diet and exercise plan for January that left zero flexibility for any deviation from the plan. In another, I watched a "30-day morning routine reset" that realistically would take three to four hours to complete every day. Four hours! While that might be feasible for some people in their current season of life, it's beyond comprehension for me in a season with young children and a lot of commitments to other people, and I think that is true for most people. The concept was wonderful (start every day with an hour of reading - glorious!, then exercise and get ready for the day, make a delicious clean breakfast, take a prayer walk for 15 minutes, work on one big goal for an hour, and on it went), but in execution....I don't think it's realistic for most women to aspire to do this every day. And, you don't need this sort of morning routine to "be your best self" or to "become a better person".
Most of us need simple steps and a little discipline.
Many years ago, I was connected with a mentor who shared his approach to goal-setting that changed the way I thought about life as an adult. I was in my mid-twenties and trying to figure out what to do with myself now that I had checked off the steps on path that I'd envisioned for my life. I'd planned out college, getting a job, and even business school, but not much beyond that and was feeling unsettled.
He helped me set specific and measurable goals in different areas of my life. But, more importantly, he encouraged me to start by writing my own personal mission statement.
Many companies have a mission statement or a purpose statement that explains why they exist or what they are here to achieve. Mine is similar, but it's personal to me. It paints a picture of how I want to live and to serve others in the different capacities in which I interact in my family and society. I go back to this "plumb line" when I set goals so I have a consistent view of where I'm going and who I want to be every day.
As my life has gotten busier over the past decade or so with more responsibilities and many more hats to wear, I've found myself simplifying my goals after making the mistake of expanding them a few years ago. I had so many things that I wanted to accomplish in 2020 and my goals reflected this. While I don't have a copy of the goals anymore, I had set at least three to four goals across seven different categories of goals...so somewhere between 21 and 28 goals for the year. I also had a two year old and a two month old going in to 2020, and no idea that we were about to be hit with a pandemic that would shift all of my plans, in hindsight, for the better.
This year, I am challenging myself to focus on a handful of goals. They are goals that will deliver a big impact on my life and in some cases, they do not require much effort on my end. For example - I set up automatic transfers from the checking to the savings account so we'd hit a savings goal at the end of the year. I've already booked a babysitter for monthly date nights. I have a workplan for every product launch this year that I can now follow step-by-step, even if I only have ten minutes to work on something.
For me, I've found that short, simple goals and disciplined energy spent on a goal every day - even if it's just ten minutes - makes a much bigger impact over the long-term. This may feel small or inconsequential at first, but when you have a clear vision for your life and some organization on how you're going to achieve a goal, you can accomplish amazing things in small amounts of focused time and energy.
It's January 5. If you haven't kept up the new exercise/morning/eating/reading plan you set for yourself four days ago, it's okay. You haven't failed. Take a deep breath, make a realistic plan, and build the discipline to move forward, even if an imperfect start for ten minutes a day. Sometimes, you just have to get started and let momentum take over.