Remember when you woke up on New Year’s Day and immediately sprang into action on all those realistic goals you set forth the week before? Yeah, neither do I! I recall waking up on New Year’s Day, sipping coffee in my pajamas, scrolling through Netflix, munching on something from Hickory Farms and half-heartedly proclaiming, “I’ll start tomorrow. Tomorrow is the first REAL day of 2019.” I had good intentions, but zero direction on that first day of this fresh new season. Thomas Edison once said, “A vision without execution is hallucination.” I suppose that means I was borderline psychotic for the first several hours of this year, but lucky for me I quickly found my way into remission!
During my first Sunday church service of the year, our beloved Pastor Craig Groeschel reminded us that “our life is the sum total of all the small decisions that we make.” This made me realize that most of us approach our resolutions and personal goals in all the WRONG ways! We’ve been told much of our life to focus on the BIG picture. “Keep your eye on the goal!” “Focus on the prize!” However, with our eyes exclusively on the reward, we overlook the individual steps it takes to get there, and then we wonder why we never made it. In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” So in order to simplify our strategies for bringing our personal goals to life, we must first take a look at our systems. Let’s identify what we tend to do wrong when approaching our personal goals, then let’s visualize the improved version of ourselves and choose one small new system for getting there.
MOVE AWAY FROM BIG, BROAD AND BEST
I believe the problem we often make when approaching our goals is that we focus on BIG, BROAD and BEST. For example, “I’m going to rise to the top this year!” Too big – Too broad! Or perhaps we say, “I’m going to get my life together.” Your LIFE entails no less than 100,000 different things, so how and where exactly does one begin? Too broad! You might even say, “I’m ready to be the BEST version of myself!” Unfortunately, BETTER must come before BEST, so if you only focus on the best, you might miss all the small, meaningful victories along the way and then give up prematurely.
Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” Smart guy, that Voltaire! If we set our personal goals around big, broad or best, we don’t know where to begin, we miss small (but important) achievements and we give up too soon!
START SMALL, SPECIFIC, AND SATISFYING
So if we aren’t supposed to start BIG, BROAD or BEST – then what are we supposed to do? You guessed it! We should start small, specific and satisfying. The Bible says, in Job Chapter 8, “Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous your future will be”. Small beginnings are the key to realistic outcomes! Specific beginnings are the arrows on the map. If I am going to save more money, I need an exact amount per week (or month) to get started. If I am going to lose weight, I need an exact macro count, calorie count or fitness plan to execute each day. If I am going to pray more often, I need to identify the exact number of minutes I’m striving for. Finally, why must it be satisfying? Because let’s face it, we live in a generation of immediate gratification. If I need information, Google answers the call in less than one second. If I want something but don’t have the cash for it, Capitol One Venture Rewards Card! Amazon delivers things to your doorstep faster than you can press “buy now,” and Uber shows up quicker than I can walk to my driveway and engage the ignition of my own car. We must choose small steps that are satisfying because if we don’t get some type of gratification fairly quickly, we are more likely to give up. If I choose “pray 3 minutes each morning after I wake up” as my faith-seeking goal, then it will only take 3 minutes before I feel the satisfaction of completing that goal (and likely, God will reward me with answers!) Satisfying steps keep us moving!
START AND RESTART
Identify a specific area of your life that needs work. If you aren’t sure where to begin, I recommend praying about it and asking God to direct you to the area that needs your attention right now. He says in Psalms 32:8, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” So ask Him! And listen for answers! Another strategy is consulting what ThriveTime Business Coach, Clay Clark calls the “F6 Goals”: Family, Faith, Fitness, Finances, Friendships and Fun! These are the primary 6 areas of our life that contribute to whole-hearted living. Look over these and decide which area you might want to tackle first. Next, visualize what we EMDR therapists call a “future template.” Get comfortable in a quiet place, close your eyes, and run a movie in your mind of you operating exactly as you would if your chosen focus area was “on point.” For example, if I choose faith as the area I’d like to work on: When I’m running my future template of ‘me living with strong faith,’ I might see myself waking up each morning and reading a few scriptures, spending a few minutes in prayer, attending church on Sunday, and possibly engaging in a small group or Bible study. After I finish my mind-movie, I should then ask myself: “What is one thing that I saw myself doing in that visualization that I am NOT doing now?” Choose one that is small, specific and will be satisfying shortly after you do it, commit to that one thing, and begin doing it every single day. Gretchen Rubin said, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” So start your small action, and then restart the next day, and restart again the next day. THAT will be a small, specific, satisfying thing that leads you to your big, broad, best-self goal. Before you know it, it will simply be something you DO, and it will be time to identify the next thing to START! You will be proud of each new healthy habit you create, and each will be a building block in the tower of your personal success. Your tenacity and repetition will pay off. If you get bored or discouraged on your small-stepping journey, remember these words from Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap harvest if we do not give up.”
Shawn Maguire has been trained in EMDR, NLP, and CBT (to name a few) and uses these techniques with an emphasis on Christian Counseling.