I like fresh starts, and I am a fan of setting goals for the New Year. This is ironic because while I am stellar at making goals, I am terrible at keeping them. It doesn’t even matter what kind of goals they are - I’m bad at specific goals and generic goals (“exercise seven minutes every day” vs. “eat healthy”). After many disappointing goal-setting experiences, I have moved toward setting alternative goals that focus on mindset and attitude instead.
I’ve been reading a book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (I’d highly recommend) and the neurologist author explains talks about the importance of enhancing positive thought patterns by changing your inner monologue from guilt words - like “should, must, ought, or have to” to phrases like “I want to do…” “It fits with my goals to do…” “It would be helpful to do…”. Instead of saying things like “I really should exercise more” or “I have to organize my house” you should say “I want to feel stronger by exercising” or “organizing my house will help me feel more relaxed.” As we all know, I’m a huge proponent of positive self-talk, so this example strongly resonated with me. Up until now, most of my goals were motivated by guilt words - I should exercise more, I really need to eat healthy, etc. Changing that narrative for myself was revolutionary, and inspired my new take on goals. Instead of a specific task, I will focus on changing my mindset.
So for 2017 I chose one word: commit. It’s a little meta, but I was drawn to the word commit as an antidote to the willy-nillyness of my 2016. Last year was all about dabbling and brainstorming and planning that never really seemed to come to fruition or settle down into a real-life habit in my life. I play-tested a lot of habits and tried on new perspectives, but I didn’t make a lot of lasting changes (even though I planned for them).
The more I sit with my 2017 word, however, the more I realize that my explorations in 2016 set the scene for what I plan to do in the next 12 months. I shook out a lot of the clutter (both real and mental) and am left with things that I am excited about and determined to integrate into my life more fully. I’m committing to commitment, and am ready to slog through the daily frustrations of starting new habits (practicing languages, reading challenging authors, increasing my physical strength, flourishing relationships) and the hard work of building new ventures (growing this blog, learning more skills, starting a business). I’m choosing to commit to my own life.
In the first couple of weeks in the new year (and my first weeks settling down into my own commitments) I realized that a side effect of committing to my own life was a strong feeling of validation about my values. I realized that having this one word to think about helps focus my thoughts and helps slowly but surely integrate curiosity, hospitality, and simplicity more deeply into my life. It’s exciting! But feel free to check in with me any time about my specific goals of building my Chinese vocabulary or my pull-up challenge or my quest to finally read the whole Bible. After all, I’ve still got 11.5 months to go!!
What’s your take on new year’s goals? Did you choose a word for the year? (It’s not too late!) How do you start new habits or ventures?
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