Are you as sick as I am of all the noise at this time of year about New Year’s Resolutions? We all know that most New Year’s Resolutions don’t last much beyond the hangover. This New Year, I’m taking a New Approach and have decided to avoid goal-setting. This year, I’m looking for New Opportunities and I’m going goal-getting!
The problem is that, generally speaking, Optimists have a problem with goal-setting. We’re great at “blue skies dreaming” – at coming up with a fantastic list of things that we would love to do. Then at the other end of whatever time-frame the “goal-setting” was for, we tend to be very disappointed because we haven’t made it.
As an Optimist, then, when we look back over 2011, we need to be careful not to bemoan all the things we didn’t do. Instead, we need to review the year with a focus on what did happen – look for the good things; for the elements that made our lives better and also for the learnings and the lessons. We need to avoid beating ourselves up for what didn’t get done, because, almost certainly, we set out goals extravagantly high!
Personally, I think that’s a good thing! If we aim for the stars and miss, at least we’ll end up perched on a lamp-post, which will give us a better view! Besides, along the way, we almost certainly had some wonderful adventures and different experiences which enriched our lives and those of the people around us. We also, potentially, got further than if we had operated from a purely logical perspective.
Having said that, we also need to remember that the middle part of the Optimism spectrum is to be realistic – to do a reality check, before we set off on our adventures. There are two questions that I highly recommend you ask, as you begin your “goal-getting” activities.
The first question is “do I really want it? (or does someone else?)” Sometimes, we find ourselves working towards a goal that doesn’t really belong to us. It might be something that someone else thinks would be good for us – a loving parent; a well-meaning friend; that old school teacher whose voice still echoes in our head.
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important that any other”. So, check in – am i choosing to do this because I really want to, or because I feel that I “SHOULD”? This year, let’s all stop “shoulding” and start choosing for ourselves!
The second question to ask is “how long will it really take?” Then pause and ask “no, really – how long?”. As Optimists, we tend to under-estimate both the length of time and the effort required to get things done. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it encourages us to start things that might be overwhelming if we really calculated how long and/or hard they will be! A time/energy estimate that is a little more realistic might decrease our disappointment when we don’t meet our unrealistic goals.
Here are my five steps to more “goal-getting” in 2012:
(1) Identify lots of Opportunities
(2) Take an Optimistic view of their potential
(3) Implement with Optimism (and energy & enthusiasm!) – look for the best possible outcome and work towards that! (I’ll be covering more details on this section in my next posts)
(4) Assess & Adjust – what do you need to do more/less/differently?
(5) Repeat as necessary until you run out of Opportunities (never!) or Year!
American columnist and author, Bill Vaughan, had this take on New Year’s Eve: “An optimist stays up to midnight to see in the New Year. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves!”. We’ve seen in the New Year…now, let’s get out and do something sensational with it!