It's probably safe to assume a large proportion of bloggers will blog about New Year's resolutions this week. Not me. I don't make New Year's resolutions. I tried it a couple of times, but it never seemed to work out. I am pretty good, however, at setting goals and actually achieving them. They just aren't linked to the New Year.
When there's something I want to accomplish I set a goal, doesn't matter the time of year, but I have a few requirements for setting goals. First the goal has to be something I really want to do or achieve. Then there must be specific steps I must take to reach that goal and here's the important part. The steps must be measurable. Suppose I set a goal to follow an exercise program. It does no good to say I'm going to exercise more often. It's necessary to be more specific; I'm going to exercise five days a week by riding my exercise bike for thirty minutes each day at the rate of six miles each half hour or I will run three miles in forty-five minutes, four days a week. Next keep a record. Jot down each days accomplishment on the calendar or in your journal so you can see your progress. This method works for scripture reading, gardening, cleaning house, losing weight, or even writing. Set the goal, break it down into measurable steps, keep a record. For many people reporting to a friend, family member, or your facebook friends helps keep the motivation going. Do it together if you have a friend or family member reaching for the same goal. Also if I mess up one day, it's not the end of my goal, I just continue on the next day.
Everyone should set a few long term goals that require considerable effort. I'm convinced working hard for a long term goal brings inner strength, a sense of personal satisfaction, and builds self esteem. In many cases it also makes us more sensitive to the efforts of others which I consider a character improvement. When I left journalism and set out to write a novel I set some goals: Write a minimum of two hours, six days a week, read something every day, take a class on writing fiction, join a writers' group, research agents, submit a manuscript to an agent within one year. I actually did all of that and in the process I set more goals: get a really first class unabridged dictionary, determine which areas of my writing were open to editorial change and which were standards I wouldn't change even for a contract, and the list goes on. I had a lot to learn about contracts, marketing, editing, book signings, etc. Each was a challenge that called for a goal. With all I've learned about writing fiction, I think some of those first goals are still the most important---write something every day and read something every day.
I've learned I'm better at short term goals than long ones so I keep the long ones to a minimum. I keep a list of at least four or five things I plan to do each day in my head--I used to write these lists down and sometimes I still do if it's a long list. I find I get more done if I have a plan of action for the day though I have a permanent list of priorities in my head, too, and if one of these priorities comes along, I have no qualms about bumping one, two, or even all of my daily goals in order to meet the needs of one of those priorities.
With all of this goal setting, or possibly resolutions, it's important to remember a happy life requires some spontaneity. Some time should be left to see life through the eyes of a child, read a book, watch the birds, and dream a little.
So dear friends, this month let's talk about goals (or resolutions if you like). Let's also talk about hopes and dreams for the new year. They're not the same thing you know. Hopes and dreams can be goals if they're pursued in a realistic way, but as long as they're just in our heads and not a matter of action on our part, they stay in the realm of fantasy, pleasant thoughts, or - well- dreams.