Friday, January 02, 2009

Goals and Guilt

Last January, I headed for the gym and couldn’t find a parking spot. This was unusual; I never had a problem before. I finally found a place to park down the street and decided to count the trot to the building toward my exercise total for the day.

When I checked in, I asked the guy behind the counter why the parking lot was so packed.

“It’s January,” he said. “Everyone made their resolutions. But by March, they give up, so the parking lot will have more room again.” You know what, he was right. Around March, I didn’t have a problem parking any more.

I’ve thought about that on and off ever since. What strange creatures we are! New Year’s comes around and we get all excited. It’s a chance to start over! This year, we’re really going to do it. We’re going to lose weight, get out of debt, get along with our in-laws, and stop chewing our fingernails. It doesn’t matter that we’ve had the same goals year in and year out—this time we’re going to do it!

Then December 1st comes around and we realize we’ve only got one month to lose fifty pounds, pay off all our credit cards, and apologize to Great-aunt Marge … and we know we can’t do it. But next year! Just you wait!

Why do we put ourselves through that? And why do we set aside a day of the year to feel guilty about everything we haven’t gotten done?

I’d like to propose something a little different.

This year, as we make our goals, instead of saying “I’m going to write a novel” and leaving it at that, let’s break it down. Let’s say, “I want to write a novel. It will be about 80,000 words, so I should be writing 6,600 words a month, give or take. That means 1,500 words a week, or 219 words a day.” Can you write 219 words a day? Sure you can! That’s not even as long as most blog posts. (I’m already up to 346 on this one.) And it’s definitely easier to do than trying to cram all 80,000 words into the month of December!

Goals are really only goals if we make a plan for their accomplishment. Otherwise, they’re just dreams. And while I’m a firm believer in dreams, I recognize that dreams require action to become reality. Action needs a plan.

After we’ve broken our goals down into monthly, weekly and daily increments, we should review them daily to make sure we’re on track. Each week we should look at where we are and make adjustments to our goals as needed. Maybe going to the gym every day just wasn’t realistic with our schedule, but we could tweak it a little and go three times a week. We can still reach our goals, but we’ll approach them a little differently if needed.

The point is, don’t let the year go by without revisiting those resolutions. Visit them every day, and your chances of success will increase dramatically.

So, what are my goals for the new year, you may ask? I actually like to set mine on my birthday. It’s a new year for me, personally, on my birthday. We’ll talk about it in March.

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Josi said...

Great point--and a goal has flexibility, whereas a resolution seems so exact. Great post, Tristi.

Nichole Giles said...

I notice the same thing about the gym in January. And it's frustrating because for two months out of the year I feel like I have to fight for machines I usually walk right up to and use.

But you're right about goals. It's important to set goals you can work on daily and weekly, rather than resolving to just get it done at some point.

After all, most people set goals in order to improve their lives, health, and circumstances, and all those things are progressive rather than instantaneous. Right?

Great post.


Jennifer said...

I think the problem is that we beat ourselves up too much over mistakes. Let's say we made a resolution to read our scriptures every day. Well, January 23 comes around and we forget. So we failed. But maybe next year we can do it. Why not just read them again on January 24. Ya know? You can re-new your resolution any day of the year. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

So very true, Jennifer. I think we set ourselves up for failure when we make goals to do something every single day. We think that if we missed doing it once, it's all over for us.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I wrote about this very thing.

I don't believe in resolutions, but I do believe in goals.

Pink Ink said...

I didn't make any resolutions this year. If I do, that'll just be one more thing on my to-do list to feel guilty about :-).

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