There is always talk about New Year’s resolutions around Christmas time, but I think a lot of us view September as the start of a new year. Fall is on its way, students are back at school, the chaos of summer is over and pumpkin-spiced everything is upon us. I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss goal setting for the “new year.” In particular, I want to discuss using a mindful approach to goal setting. Thinking mindfully about a goal means that the purpose of the goal is the process rather than waiting for the single moment of attainment.
The following are 4 ways to assist you in thinking mindfully about your goals:
Be aware of your intentions – It is important to not only think of your goal, but to also think about why you wish to achieve that goal. Being mindfully aware of your intentions can help strengthen your resolve to achieve your goal. For example, if your goal is to save more money, the intentions may be to spend less on things and more on experiences, or increase security for retirement. Intentions act as reminders of motivating factors and create deeper emotional connectedness to your goal.
Celebrate your successes along the way - Break down your goals into smaller achievable tasks and be aware of when you’ve accomplished these tasks. If you have trouble with breaking down goals, a good rule of thumb is to break each goal into 5 smaller goals. Keep yourself motivated by celebrating every step you achieve toward your goal. Celebrations don’t have to involve a bottle of champagne (although, bubbles are always a festive touch), rather they can be as simple as mindfully feeling proud and congratulating yourself on a small task. This strategy can help boost your morale and build your confidence and commitment to your goals.
Be accepting of yourself – A tenant of mindfulness is being in the moment in a non-judgmental, non-critical way. It is important to use these ideals when you think of yourself. Achieving a goal is a difficult task, so adding self-criticism to the mix only feeds ineffective thought patterns that detract from our confidence in our ability to achieve. Think of your thoughts as the discourse you have with yourself that impacts your mood, anxiety levels and belief in yourself. A rule I like to go by is: if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself!
Use language to your advantage – Think of the language you use to describe your goals because words have emotional meanings that impact how we think and feel. For example “I should” or “I have to” can cause stress and pressure whereas “I want to” or “It would be great to” can alleviate those feelings and foster motivation.
Remember, being actively thoughtful and kind to yourself will help strengthen your motivation and keep you on track. The road to your goal is full of opportunities to identify feelings of contentment and pride, so stop and smell the successes!