The central point of this series on New Years resolutions has been that we are primarily emotional beings, and that our emotional self is a 2-3 year old. It wants what it wants, and it wants it now. And in the previous four parts of this series, we’ve spent most of our time talking about strategies to work with, rather than against, our emotional selves.
But we also have a rational side, the side reading this, the side making our goals, our New Years resolutions. And that side also has a primary flaw. And that’s to get stuck in analysis and planning, without ever moving on to action.
So far we’ve talked about two strategies for how do we combat this tendency to ‘spin our wheels’ instead of moving forward.
To these we can add:
Choose Less Goals
Many people when they make their list of things they want to accomplish for the coming year end up with a long list of things. And that’s fine for a brainstorming session, or as a master list. But, my recommendation is that if it’s more than about 3 goals that you take your master list, pick 1-3 goals, transfer them to your new starting list and set the master list aside.
By having more then 3 goals we do two things: dissipate our energy and focus, and give our rational side a lot of opportunity to spin it’s wheels.
By paring things down to 1-3 goals, it allows us to focus our energies and more actively direct our rational ‘wheel-spinner’, so we move from planning to action.
Better yet, by having just 1 goal at a time, it allows us to focus all of our energy on it.
Does this mean we can only have 1 goal for the year. NO! It just means we focus on 1 or at most 3 goals at any one time. Accomplish those goals, then move on to your others.
But what if it’s a really big goal?
Make them smaller – Break it down
(Strains of MC Hammer in my head…’Stop, hammer time!’ If you’re too young or too old to get that, sorry…)
Earlier we talked about breaking down goals to get a quick emotional win and that’s still very true. If you have 100lbs to lose, having lost only 2lbs can feel very discouraging. But if you make your goal to lose 5lbs 20 times, than having lost 2lbs means you only have 3lbs to go to accomplish your goal, you’re almost half way there.
Similarly if your goal is really complicated, like making a million dollars, or founding your own charity, it can be really overwhelming to our rational side as well. ‘Well…where to begin, we could do this, or that, or this other thing. We should study…’ It’s an easy way to fall into our ‘wheel-spinning’ state where we get caught in ‘analysis paralysis.’
So, break big goals down into smaller goals. If you want to make $1,000,000 this year, why not first focus on making $10,000. What do you need to do to make that happen? And if you find that you don’t have clear action steps to achieve your goal, then break it down again. $10,000 still feels too overwhelming? Okay how about what you need to do to make $1000 or even $100.
Break things down to a point where it seems doable (emotional) and your next steps seem clear (rational).
The trick is by focusing on less. Having fewer goals that we can really focus on, and shrinking them until they become doable we start to move forward, accomplishing our goals and gathering momentum.
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