How to set smart goals
We are a month away from the start of the school year; I figure this is an excellent time to talk about goals.
I know you think why the school year, why not the usual start of the new year?
January is a busy time, and new year resolutions fall short most of the time. We grind, we push, and we fail. Then we identify with the failure, and that’s no fun.
I believe for smart goal setting we need space, and we need time to think. August is a time when we relax a bit more and take time off work. There is leisure in the air. By the time mid-September hits, we are back at “working mindset.” Thus, August is the perfect time to sit in the shade and make some notes in your journal.
I like to follow a flow chart when it comes to mindful goal setting.
Here are the questions that I ask myself:
1) Is this a goal that simply must be done? Such as taxes, going to the dentist, and so forth. You know, life stuff. It ain’t fun, it is never gonna be fun, so suck it up, stop procrastinating, and simply make time in the calendar to get it done. So open your schedule and create time, right now.
2) Is this a life goal? A new direction in health, with career, family? If it is this second category, then it needs further examination.
i) Why do you desire this “life goal” and what is the root of the desire? To explain, why do we want a particular car? Because we like how it drives. Is that all there is? Or maybe there is a social prestige along with that purchase. And why do we want social prestige? Does that make us feel successful? You see where I am going? The root of your desire is always a few layers down, and often we do not want to admit, not even to ourselves the source of our desire.
ii) Once you know the root of your desire, then ask; Is this my desire? I know, at first glance, you tell me: “of course, Dora, you are ridiculous; it is my goal, thus my desire.” I say, not so fast. Every idea that we carry in our mind came from somewhere. We learn our culture from the country where we were born and raised; we learn our first wishes from our parents and our friends. So, is your desire yours? For example, if you want to go to medical school, is it because you want to cure people or is it because your parents think it is a great profession? If you want to lose 10 pounds, is it because you will be healthier or is it because society will think you look better? Before you go anywhere with your goal, you must determine the source of your desire. You must understand your desire.
It often happens that once someone clearly understands the desire behind the goal, their desire disappears. To that, I say: well done! Good work. Now you can think and meditate on a goal that is worth your time.
If you made it this far, and you still want to reach your life goal, then it is time to answer some questions on the process.
Life is lived between your goals. You must think of the process that leads to that goal. If you don’t like or trust the process, there is a great chance that you will not reach your goal. But if you like the process, you have already won, even if you never reach your goal. So take some time identifying the process.
To explain, in my 20’s and early 30’s, I worked in scientific research for a while because I liked studying and learning about science. It took me 4 years working to admit that I hated the day to day work. I loved science, but the tediousness of research was not my gig. It never occurred to my young self to think of the day to day.
But process is in everything, not just jobs. If you wish to be in a bigger house, you should recognize that it will cost more money and more upkeep. Will you enjoy the extra work that reaching this goal requires? Because if you do not enjoy your additional responsibilities, then your bigger house will become your prison sooner than you know!
Life is a process. Instead of being a prisoner of your desires year after year, build awareness in your life and be conscious of your actions. Take some time reflecting and journaling this month.
Dora Gyarmati teaches yoga and mindfulness classes. She owns Spira Power Yoga in Issaquah and West Seattle. Her company M3Bmethod also lectures on resilience and stress management to healthcare professionals.