Before you roll your eyes at yet another lesson about New Year’s resolutions, here are some practical suggestions to help you 1) make realistic goals, 2) plan them logically, and 3) keep yourself on track to meet those goals.
First and foremost, take a deep breath and smile! It’s 2014 and it’s all fresh and new, and filled with potential. Whatever unfulfilled dreams you had last year is history. Leave them behind and don’t look back.
It’s time to focus on what you want and need to do going forward. And forget about calling them New Year’s Resolutions. That’s a worn out phrase that’s often linked to failure.
Instead, whatever changes you want to achieve should be called New Life Goals. Each New Year is a golden opportunity to make meaningful changes to create a new life. If you’ve read the bio on my website, you’ll know that I’ve had several opportunities to recreate myself. With each one, I’ve had to achieve specific life-changing goals.
From those experiences, I’ve learned that deciding on the right New Life Goals can be a daunting experience. You may have one BIG change you wish to make or you may have many small adjustments you’d like to incorporate into your life. The principles of change are the same for both: Plan, Execute, Evaluate, Adjust and Repeat.
*The key word here is REPEAT!*
In order for meaningful change to happen, you must make that change a habit. If it’s a physical change you wish to make, you must get your body used to whatever you are doing. I’ll use myself as an example. When I’m not writing, I’m passionate about long distance running. I love the sport so much that I became a certified running coach in mid-2013 and now volunteer my time training others to become better runners.
In training runners, we use training cycles to achieve specific goals, such as running faster or running longer distances. We achieve those goals in progressive cycles—the Microcycle, the Mesocycle and the Macrocycle.
The Microcycle is that initial 5-7 day period when you push yourself to begin that one thing you want to make a part of your life. This is the Planning and Executing part of change.
In running, this is when you actually start training regularly on a track or trail. If you want to lose weight, this is when you start passing up dessert and/or join a health club. If you want to improve your outlook on life, this is where you begin to smile more and attempt to interact better with others. In each of these, you plan what you want to do and then do it.
The next cycle, the Mesocycle, is a longer period, usually a minimum of three weeks and up to ten weeks. This is the cycle where you attempt to make the change a HABIT. In order for something to become a permanent part of our lives, we must make that thing a habit. We have to make it become so much a part of us that we would miss it if it no longer existed in our lives.
This is where you evaluate how the change fits into your life and where you make small adjustments to continue the momentum to achieve that goal. If you want to eat less, stop going out to restaurants and control portions. If you have trouble finding time to go to a health club or scheduling a run, get up earlier or give up evening television. Adjust your life to achieve your goal rather than adjusting your goal. Create a new a habit and repeat that habit as often as you can to make it a part of your life.
The Mesocycle is that part of the process where you begin to embrace the change to achieve your goal. This is where the runner begins to enjoy the run and the dieter begins to dislike unhealthy foods. The longer you consciously think about what you are changing, the more successful you’ll be.
The last cycle is the Macrocycle and it’s the finishing touch that allows you to own your goals permanently. It can extend for months, years or for life. If you’re trying to lose weight and you achieve that goal, this is where you keep the momentum going to maintain that new weight. If you’re trying to improve a relationship with someone, you don’t stop the process when you feel good about each other. You continue to work at the relationship. You continue to repeat whatever you did to achieve a better relationship, or to maintain whatever specific goal you’ve identified.
Meaningful changes in your life happen by identifying goals, incorporating them into your life and making that specific change a habit—and it’s a continual process. Keeping the momentum going in the Macrocycle is as important as that initial step to identify a new goal.
Using myself as an example, I wanted to run a faster time in a half-marathon last fall. So last spring, I started a Microcyle-Mesocycle-Macrocycle process of running faster by incorporating some speed work. I ended up running that race 30 minutes faster than the previous year and I’ve continued the Macrocycle by maintaining that faster pace now as my normal run pace.
If you’ve identified multiple goals for 2014, you’ve created an extra challenge for yourself. You can achieve all of your goals, but you simply have to work on one before starting another. Prioritize each goal and tackle them one at a time. Attempting to achieve multiple goals at once can be overwhelming and it sets you up for failure. Achieving meaningful change takes focus. Don’t dilute your effectiveness by focusing on several changes at once.
The important thing to remember is that this is a New Year. The slate is totally clean and you have all year to achieve the goals you’ve identified for yourself. Tackle the one goal that’s most important to you first. Attack it with gusto, achieve it, own it and then move on to the next most important goal. Make them your bucket list for 2014!
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!