If you have plans to make 2016 a more fabulous year than 2015, now is the time to start considering what you want. You need this time to work out how to choose goals that are both super attractive and attainable: like dating, finding both these qualities in goals is a rare thing indeed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way: unlike with dating, you have the power to bring both sexiness and availability to each of your goals. So grab your plain, boring notions about what you’d like to achieve next year, and let’s give ‘em a makeover.
How to do it
Look out for Robots and Fairies
The first thing to do is to check for two things: Robots and Fairies. Um, what? You want to check that your goal isn’t something that a robot can do better than a human. Humans are prone to errors much more often than robots, so any goal that includes the words ‘Never’ or ‘Always’ or is otherwise an absolute (e.g. No sugar) is pretty much set up to fail from a human perspective. You need to set a goal with an elasticised waist – one that allows for slip-ups. If that’s already sounding unattractive to you, consider the alternative – buying a new goal altogether. The fact is, we’re human, we make mistakes, so don’t set a goal that a robot would be able to beat you at.
Now, the fairies. Have you set a goal that requires the co-operation of others? Other people are notoriously unreliable, even those really trustworthy ones get sick, move away etc. If your goal relies on how someone else behaves, you’re going to need a magic wand to ensure you can reach it – so be on the lookout for a fairy with one! Find a way to reach the goal without needing anyone else’s co-operation. You’ve got a better chance of achieving it, and you can show the fairies the door.
Grab Your Scissors
A sexy goal is a smart goal (or else it’s boring to talk to, right?) The acronym of SMART to describe a goal is a well-known idea that you may or may not have come across. SMART: Specific, Measure, Attainable, Resonates, Time Limited. (Everyone has a different word for the ‘R’, I choose resonate).
Even if you know the theory, do you actually do it? I find I need to review this stuff regularly or I forget to make my goals as sexy as they could be (and who wants to leave all that appeal on the table?).
Grab your scissors and start to trim the fat from your goal. Get really specific. If you wrote your goal down and gave it to someone else, would they be able to tell when you had achieved it? As an example, let’s choose a plain Jane goal of connecting better with your partner (mum, someone you know and struggle with around this Christmas period). How would I know if you’re ‘connecting better’? It needs to be more specific. Something like: ‘Reserve one evening a week for talking to partner and not check my phone more than twice during the evening (note: not never check the phone, watch out for robots!). This isn’t really a fairy goal, even though it involves your partner, because you’re doing the reserving of the evening: they don’t have to show up (but if they know what’s good for them they better!).
Connected to specificity is the idea of making each step towards your goal really specific too. You need to be writing a plan for your lazy, unmotivated self that will move in after a couple of weeks – who’s only going to follow through on the plan if it’s really obvious what to do and when to do it. Write a plan with enough detail in it that someone else could pick it up, read through it and be able to know exactly what they’d need to do to reach your goal. So with your date night, specify which evening.
‘You need to be writing a plan for your lazy, unmotivated self that will move in after a couple of weeks'
Grab Your Tape Measure
M is for measurable. This is connected to specificity. To know when you’ve reached a goal, it needs to be measurable. For example, ‘to feel more connected to my partner’ is not measurable. Feelings are fickle, and both largely unmeasurable and out of our control!
Building on the previous example, our goal is now ‘Reserve one evening a week for talking to partner and not check my phone more than twice during the evening. Spend at least fifteen minutes talking directly to partner over the course of the evening.’
This is a goal that you will know if you’ve reached or not. Another great benefit is that in making the goal measurable, you need to think about exactly what it is that makes you feel connected to your partner. Is it the time? Or would it be participating in a particular activity, no matter how long it’s for? Just knowing the activities it will take, rather than simply knowing you want a feeling of connectedness, makes it more likely you will take action towards your goal.
No punching above your weight
A truly sexy goal needs to feel like it is attainable to you (what’s sexy about rejection and failure?). Your goal must be physically possible, given the amount of time and effort you’re prepared to put in and looking at where you’re starting from. If you have a big goal doesn’t feel achievable yet, you need to choose a short term goal that supports the larger goal, and does feel achievable. If your partner works late at least five days out of every seven, you may not get your one evening a week – once a month might be more attainable for you.
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Think about your goal and see if it resonates with your values. You have a much greater chance of success if your goal is connected to something that matters to you, something that you think is a worthwhile use of your time on this planet (it’s easier for a vegan to date another vegan). Sticking to the ‘connecting to your partner’ example, how important is your relationship to you? If you’ve always prioritised your friends and consider people who compromise with their partners to be ‘whipped’ or weak, doing what needs to be done to increase your connection is going to be more difficult than for someone who loves the idea of connecting more with their partner but has just allowed being busy/tired to interrupt their connection.
Contemplating this step also opens your eyes to other ways to your value if you fail to reach your goal. Perhaps you fail to make time to talk to your partner once a week. But if you know that deep down, connection matters, you might decide that five minutes over breakfast still helps. You might book a holiday for just the two of you every few months and do all your talking then. Knowing the value of the goal also helps to keep you committed when pursuing it gets difficult and motivation drops off (where will you find another vegan who loves AC/DC?).
Set a Date
Having a deadline is motivating. There’s a great saying that sums this up: ‘Work expands to fill the time available to it’. You know you can push yourself to get ready/ cook/ write/ etc. faster when you have to, and you naturally slow down when there’s no reason not to. That’s why making commitments that have an expiry date (i.e. ‘time limited’) helps. It’s also because reaching some goals really slowly won’t be satisfying and isn’t actually what you want. For example, you might be a millionaire eventually just due to inflation devaluing the dollar but that’s not actually being rich!
Some goals, like the ‘connecting to your partner’ goal, won’t necessarily have a deadline because you want it to be ongoing. These need a review date. After spending three months talking for 15 minutes once a week, do you actually feel more connected? You may or may not be satisfied with the results, and having a time limit on this sort of activity lets you see that you didn’t ‘fail’ at connection if the talking together thing didn’t work, it’s just that you need to find a new way to connect. Review, set a new goal, and go again.
So there you have it. Your step-by-step guide to getting a hot new goal all ready to go for next year. If it all sounds a bit too much like hard work, you probably need a match-maker. Someone who can see all your options and help you to choose the best fit. Someone like me. Call 0421 720 635 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your appointment today. Your dream goal, sexy and available, is waiting for you!
For more information about how to best support yourself to reach a goal once you’ve set it, check out my previous posts How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution; Maintaining the Momentum and Overcoming obstacles to your New Year’s Resolution.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.