The smart way to set goals for 2018
If you’ve pulled out the new journal and started to make goals and plans for 2018, stop and read this piece first.
I have a confession to make. Since I was a kid, I’ve found the space between Christmas and New Year to be completely anxiety-inducing.
It’s not just the fact that I’ve eaten about 62 times the amount of calories that I normally would in a single day. Or that I sometimes I struggle to ‘do nothing’. No, it’s the self-imposed pressure of weighing up the year that was, compared with the year that I thought might have been, and then regrouping before making a plan for the year to come.
I would wager I’m not the only one on this merry-go-round.
I’ve got another confession to make though.
For the last four years, I’ve managed to slow that fricking overworking brain down a fraction, and find more joy not just in the holidays, but in the process of planning the new year.
Enter Danielle La Porte and White Hot Truth. I first read the book about five years ago, and it blew my mind.
If you’re stuck in the land of ‘shoulds’: (should get up early to go to spin, should eat less chocolate, should spend more time with my kids, should should should….) the book is a wonderful starting point. In short, it calls bullsh*t on the way we try to ‘self-improve’, with plenty of hilarious and very candid stories from the author on her own failures and learnings in life.
Having read White Hot Truth I decided to get my hands on Danielle’s The Desire Map and associated annual planner. Its basic premise is that you spend time working out how you want to feel, instead of what you want to do. From that point, you make decisions based on whether whatever you’re thinking of doing will fit in with those ‘core desired feelings’. Instead of thinking of the next logical step, you think about the step that feels right for you. At first it feels weird. Like you’re somehow cheating the system. Like it’s somehow strange to think about what you might want to feel like in your own life, rather than what you think you should be doing to get to the next level.
It’s a great starting point to get you thinking a bit differently about how to approach whatever it is you’re setting out to achieve in 2018. It pulled me right out of the very stressful zone of trying to plan (yet again) a ‘perfect’ year, and just let go a little bit.
And even if you’re the kind of person who is totally driven by an excel spreadsheet with a list of quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily to-dos that you can garner satisfaction from ticking off, this going through this process might land you with a slightly different, slightly more ‘you’, or dare I say it, heart-driven list of goals.
Goals come in all shapes and forms: think outside the ‘career’ box
The real goal-setting shift came for me when I flipped the ‘what do I want to achieve?’ model on its head. I was good at ‘achieving’ already. And I realised it hadn’t brought me any real happiness. Instead, I started drawing pictures of what I wanted my life to look like. Quietly, in little gaps of time, in a notebook without lines.
If a word came to mind, I wrote it down. Suddenly instead of ‘lose six kilos’, ‘go to the gym four times a week’ and ‘negotiate an x percent payrise’, I imagined more time at the beach, having a dog, working from home. I had written down things that weren’t based on money or jobs or goals I could beat myself up over not reaching, but what I wanted my life to be made up of.
What would happen if you focused on feelings instead of achievements? *gulp*
Say you write down a handful of words. They might look like this: happy, connected, fulfilled, productive, joyful. Mine have changed vastly over the years from things like ‘power’ and ‘strength’ to this year’s words which included ‘respect’ ‘faith’ and ‘love’. The words (and limit then to four or five if you can) become the starting point. All your decisions get filtered on the basis of whether they will make you feel the way you have decided you want to feel. Yah, it’s that simple.
Want to feel joy? Maybe you take a dance class instead of swinging kettlebells (and maybe not!) Want connection? Commit to something that makes you feel that way: volunteering, visiting your parents or grandparents, organising social events at work. It can take a while to get really quiet, and really honest enough to do this properly.
Your key words might change once or twice too. But I have found this process has helped me to radically shift the parameters of how I view success in life and work.
What has it meant to my life to plan this way? More freedom, more truth and honesty, and decision-making that makes me a better and happier person. Even if you don’t adopt the approach wholesale, it’s something that might sit alongside your regular goals list, for a little more balance.
Other tips on goal setting for the new year
- Don’t expect change to happen overnight: give yourself timeframes, rather than ultimatums that will allow you to work towards something without setting yourself up for failure
- Set goals across all areas: not just career but include family, friends, fitness and your outside-work passions in the mix
- Remember not to compare yourself with others: this is your life and only you can decide what’s best for you
- Dream big but plan carefully: especially if you are taking a big risk like starting your own business
- Think about prioritising saying ‘yes’ to things that really, really light your fire
- Stay accountable by sharing your goals with a friend and make a commitment to check in at regular intervals to stay on track
Here’s to our best year yet!
We’d love to know what your big goals for this year are – share them in the comments below and then head over to the Iris Lillian squad on Facebook and let us know. The Iris Lillian team are thinking hard about how to reduce our time on social media in 2018, with thanks to this advice.
(P.S. This is not a sponsored post! I just wanted to share what worked for me).
Setting goals for 2018 is easy with this book