Oh, I am no stranger to the New Year’s Resolution, my friend. I know that I made them as a teenager, but the first clear memory I have of making a list was in 1998, in my fourth-floor walk-up in Uji, Japan, where I was serving as a short-term missionary. I was full of energy, passion, and drive. I sat down, made a list of ten goals, and free of a boyfriend, American TV, and other distractions, I lost weight, had daily Bible study time, cooked at home, and generally crushed it.
And then I got back to my real life, and over the course of less than a month, all those resolutions slowly unraveled. Not only did I break each and every resolution, I was actually worse off than when I started.
For years after that, I would make resolutions, only to find myself in February again, feeling guilty about the resolutions I didn’t keep. I think to myself, “Why is it that everyone else can keep their New Year’s resolutions except me?”
It’s taken me dozens of years to realize, maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s the resolutions.
Resolutions are All or Nothing
You don’t get credit unless you’ve done the whole thing. You said you wanted to lose twenty pounds, and only lost seven? In resolution-world, that’s a big old failure. You said you would exercise five times a week, and you only are getting to the gym twice a week. Well, why go at all?
When your goals are all or nothing, 99.9% of the time, they will be nothing.
As humans, we need to see our progress and we need encouragement along the way.
When it Comes to Resolutions, Turns Out That SMART Goals for Life Change Aren’t That SMART
We’ve all heard about SMART goals. That our goals should be:
I use SMART goals all the time in my business, and for short term projects. But for lasting life goals? SMART may not be the way to go.
Peter Bregman, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, argues “When we set goals, we’re taught to make them specific and measurable and time-bound. But it turns out that those characteristics are precisely the reasons goals can backfire. A specific, measurable, time-bound goal drives behavior that’s narrowly focused and often leads to either cheating or myopia. Yes, we often reach the goal, but at what cost?”
So If Resolutions are Not the Answer, What Is?
Bergman says that instead of goals, we should be focused on areas of change. “An area of focus taps into your intrinsic motivation. It offers no stimulus or incentive to cheat or take unnecessary risks, leaves every positive possibility and opportunity open, and encourages collaboration while reducing corrosive competition. All this while moving forward on the things you and your organization value most.”
For over a year, my resolution has been not to make a list of resolutions, but instead, to create a personal manifesto.
A personal manifesto is a statement of your core values and beliefs, what is important to you, and how you plan to live your life. It is written in the present tense, even if not everything you state is one hundred percent true about you today, it is a declaration of what you are working to become.
So instead of a resolution that says, “I will lose twenty pounds this year,” my manifesto states, “I cannot buy good health. I must earn it. Daily.” Instead of short-term goals, I’m looking for lifetime growth.
I sat down and wrote my manifesto in about an hour. (As an author and speaker, I spend a lot of time mulling such things over in my day-to-day life already. So when it came time to put it down on paper, it was pretty easy for me.) But others can get stuck in the creation of such a personal document. That’s why our team has designed this download “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you.
I can think of dozens of reasons to create your own personal manifesto, but let me give you my top three:
There is no “Breaking” a Personal Manifesto
Yes – there are going to be days when you don’t live up to your own hope of the manifesto. That doesn’t mean that you throw the whole thing out. The personal manifesto has built-in grace. There is a recognition intrinsically within your PM that this is who you are becoming. Slow growth is still growth.
Your Get to Dream (and Pray) Bigger With a Personal Manifesto
Resolutions are all about temporary changes. Lose weight, eat healthy, quit a bad habit. But a Personal Manifesto enables you to not just focus on the behavior, but on the person you are becoming, and who God wants you to be. Plus, you get to include others in your dreams, plans, and prayers.
In resolutions, you only get to set goals for yourself. In my Personal Manifesto, one line says, “I help others be world-changers.” To me, that’s a powerful reason to get out of bed and do life every day.
Your To-Dos are Born Out of Your Personal Manifesto
Don’t think that with the Personal Manifesto you will walk aimlessly through life with no goals. Oh no. your goals, daily to-dos, and even your routines are all born out of your Personal Manifesto. In fact, you will be more focused with a Personal Manifesto than with resolutions, but the focus will not be born out of your self-will, it will spring from your heart.
Working on Your Goals When You Don’t Have Time to Work On Your Goals
Finding Time to Make it all Happen
Today: Identify the little spots of time you have right now to make progress on your goals.
How to Waste Time on Your Laptop – an Expert’s Guide (or, My Real Life Strategy for Getting Things Done.) Don’t you just love your computer?!?! It is such a time saving device. I can do my banking, order groceries, talk to my agent, invite friends over via evite.com, and design my next newsletter anywhere in the world that has a Verizon tower nearby. It is amazing all the tasks I can get completed the aid of a power outlet.
So why have I spent a large part of my summer playing Free Cell?
I have just hit some major deadlines in my life after 18 months of running at full steam ahead. I realized just this last week apparently I am not capable of work unless I am under tremendous pressure and have a sense of overwhelming guilt. I just kind of sat there thinking, “I know I have things to do, but I don’t want to do any of them.” Real mature attitude – yes?
So I have got to go back to giving myself some rules and boundaries when it comes to my time on the computer.
Here are some of the rules that I am now abiding by when it comes to time wasters:
1. No More than 20 minutes on Facebook a day. I have to tell you, I loves me some Facebook. I love seeing what old friends are up to. I love hearing about the little things in my niece’s life that my brother probably wouldn’t call to tell me, (“Elsa said A-B-C today. We have started the Harvard Fund.”) Love hearing the latest industry buzz and reading what my favorite authors and readers are up to. Love Love Love.
And that is where the trouble begins.
I love checking out what everyone else is up to, and can get super caught up in commenting on people’s status. That is fine when I am standing in line at Safeway. But when I should be writing my next chapter on time management? Not so much. So when I am at home, I am keeping my Facebook addiction down to 20 minutes.
2. Clear out my inbox once a week. I will do anything to avoid answering unpleasant or complicated e-mails (see my Free Cell reference above.) So I have been giving myself a weekly inbox dump where everything must be dealt with (and then I reward myself with an episode of Top Chef – hey, it’s better than chocolate chip cookies.)
3. Turn the Wireless Off for a Chunk of Time – Every Single Day Twitter and Facebook and E-mail – Oh My! I have several ways to keep myself entertained on my computer. I love hitting the reload button on my Outlook to see what new mail I have sitting there (yes, we have already established I have a problem. Now let’s move on, shall we?)
So, for about 3 hours every day, I turn off my wireless and concentrate on just working. Whether it is writing a blog post, writing a chapter, brainstorming a new speaking topic or having a conversation with a client, I focus completely on the task at hand and not on the e-mail that I am waiting for.
I call this my “Cave Time” and it is the only portion of the day that I can trust myself to do anything that involves numbers or creativity (which for me, both require super-human concentration.) Now don’t get me wrong – a little Free Cell every once in a while is a good thing. But I want my computer to be a tool to get more things done, instead of a distraction that keeps me from getting things done. (I can watch all the cute cats on You Tube I want once my speech is written!)
Maybe wasting time on your computer is not your vice. When I asked a group of women what their secret (or not-so-secret) time sucker were, here is a list of what they came up with:
• Celebrity Gossip
• Phone time with friends
• Glamour Magazine
• Shopping (for self and kids)
• Looking for recipes
• “Stupid” TV
• Twitter and Facebook
All of these things, in moderation, are fine for most of us. But, I know that I have let an hour of writing time turn into “Just checking out a few LOLCATS pics. Gulp.
Fear of Success Sometimes, it can be a bit scary to start working on things we are passionate about. If we never get started, we never get disillusioned. It is a lot easier to give up on a game of Spider Solitaire or watch Entertainment tonight than to get frustrated by bumping up against obstacles while working toward your goals.
I have to set up rules for myself when it comes to computer time. Is there an area of your life that you need to get in control of, time-wise, in order to get stuff done? How will you do it – set time controls on your computer? Have a friend hold you accountable?
I have given myself a not so subtle reminder. Whenever I open up my computer, there is a quote that pops up to remind me how I need to choose to spend my time…
“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
Getting a Couple of People to Hold You Accountable
Today: Find a couple of women to hold you accountable for your goal. I could be the women you are already working this book with, or it could be women who have the same goals as you do.
The Goal Girls started six years ago when every area of my life was in transition. My marriage was falling apart and I found myself back in the job market to support myself and my kids. On top of all that, I needed to find a new place to live. I felt like everything was spinning out of control.
I knew that I also needed to makes some changes in other areas of my life. Spending time with God had become a faint memory for me. I wanted to reconnect in a real way, but I was having trouble being committed to my day-to-day relationship with Him.
I needed support that was more than a once-a-week Bible study. I needed people around me to love and guide me through this hurtful time in my life.
At the same time, my friend Vikki, a 30 year-old wife and mother, was just plain overwhelmed. With her two active kids, and another on the way, she was feeling the pressures of keeping it all together. In addition to taking care of her family, Vikki worked outside the home several nights a month, and was the women’s ministry leader at our growing church. The fast pace of Vikki’s life was threatening to swallow her up if she didn’t makes some changes immediately.
Another friend, Angela, young and vibrant at 34, had an even more desperate situation. Complicating her busy life caring for her two small girls, her health was in serious jeopardy and she knew that she had to take some radical steps including losing weight and exercising in order to start restoring herself physically so that she could lead a normal life.
All of us were longing for change. We wanted to live healthier lives, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Each of us needed help figuring out what God designed us to do, but we also needed a way of making sure that we stayed on track- someone to hold our feet to the fire.
I asked Angela and Vikki if they would be interested in trying an accountability group. I was honest and upfront,” I had no idea how it would work, but I am so frustrated and scared that I am willing to try just about anything. I guess we can just make it up as we go along?” Apparently, they were just as desperate and we decided to meet the next week.
That was eight years ago, and we are still supporting each other, praying for each other and holding each other in godly accountability.
What is Accountability?
Accountability is simply having to report to someone the progress you are making on an activity. When you work in an office, you’re accountable to a boss for the work that she assigns you. Even if you are a self-starter, most of us need that little bit of outside pressure to get our jobs done well and on time. What do you do when you‘re running a household, your own business, and your own life, and there is no “boss” to answer to? Asking other women to hold you accountable is a great way to have a little bit of that outside pressure to help you stay on track. Vikki, Angela and I sacrifice time from our overcrowded lives to stay accountable to one another because it is biblical and it works. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Being with one other and holding one another accountable keeps us focused and on task.
How is accountability different than a support group?
Generally support groups include organizations that focus either on a stage of life (including mom’s groups or after divorce groups), or a specific area to overcome (Overeaters Anonyms or Alcoholics Anonyms.) Generally these groups have up to dozens of members at each meeting. While support groups offer an environment to meet with others who are in your situation and the opportunity to learn and be encouraged, there is generally a lower level of follow up for individual members.
Accountability groups offer the chance to meet with one or two other people in order to stay focused on whatever area of their life they are trying to grow in at that time. While neither Angela nor Vikki are writers or step-mothers, they are able to hold me accountable in those areas by following-up on the goals I have set for myself and shared with them at past gatherings.
What it looks like for us
We came to our once a month meetings prepared with our goals already written out. I dedicate one sheet of paper to each area of my life. There is a page dedicated to health, another for important relationships in my life, one for household management, and so on. Sometimes my goal list will be much longer in one area than another. When one of my kids needs special attention, or I have good friend who is going through a tough time, I may have several goals on my “Relational” page, but almost none in another area. Along with each goal, we set a target date that we want to see the goal completed by. For instance, on my “Spiritual” goal sheet, I might write: Goal Date of Completion Join Bible study September 15th
When we write out our goals, we try to be specific and realistic. Instead of setting a goal of get better at cooking, I might write “Try three new main courses from the new Greek Cookbook”, or “Sign up for the Asian cooking class at the community center.” When I started to focus more on spending time with God, Angela reminded me to be specific and realistic. At first, I had written the goal down as “Spend 45 minutes every day in prayer and quiet time.” Angela graciously but firmly challenged me on my completely unrealistic goal. “Kath, how are you going to go from 0 to 45 minutes? Why don’t you start with five minutes a day and build on that.” From that five minute block of time, I have grown into having a meaningful and significant quiet time every day.
When we first started meeting eight years ago, we were in for a reality check. Over the first few months of sharing, we learned to gently say to each other, “Wow, that looks like a lot to accomplish with two kids and everything else going on in your life. Is it realistic? Is there something that you could give up or move to another month?” We have learned to protect each other from overextending ourselves, and in turn, have learned to take care of our own schedules and bodies.
The next time we get together, we give each person 40 minutes to go over last month’s goals and set out her vision for the next month. We make copies of our goals that we can pass out to the other two. That way, we have an easier time checking in with each other.
Between each meeting, we stay up to date on where each of us is in meeting our goals set out at the last meeting, as well as asking for additional support when we need it. For example, the weeks before I moved to a different city, I needed more support, what we lovingly call “kick-butt accountability”, in staying focused and on track with getting my house packed up and ready to be sold. During those pressure-filled weeks, I would receive several phone calls a day asking how my plan was going. Just knowing that Vikki or Angela could be calling at any moment gave me the extra push I needed to stay on track and tackle what had to be done.
Your accountability group can also be focused on one specific area of your life. I have separate groups for more complex goals I am currently on: health and writing. These groups give me the special support I need to accomplish bigger projects in those areas.
The Benefits of Accountability
Our group has gotten the three of us through life together. Angela and Vikki have prayed and held me accountable through the hardest time of my life. During the rough days, it was a huge comfort to know that I had two godly women who knew what I was going through and could remind me that God had designed me for a greater purpose than what I felt like at the moment.
Following my divorce, I really wrestled with the question of where God was in my life. I felt abandoned and unloved. It was Vikki and Angela who reminded me of all that God had brought me through, and pointed out all the ways that God continued to care for me even when I couldn’t feel his presence.
Getting through rough times is a blessing, but the most thrilling part of accountability is seeing the progress in each other’s lives. It’s been an honor to stand with Angela and Vikki as I’ve seen them accomplish goals that none of us would have dreamed possible just a few short years ago. From keeping our houses clean, to losing weight to opening a small business to walking a half marathon–no goal is too big to not be supported. On the flip side, no goal is too small that it is not celebrated when it is reached. Plus, the biggest honor was to have these two ladies celebrate with me as bridesmaids at my wedding to Roger. While people who attended the wedding were excited to celebrate our new lives together, Angela and Vikki were two of the people who had walked me back to a place of loving and growing in God – a place of health and healing. These women were not only celebrating the future I had with Roger, but the past that they had walked me though to get to the place where I could be part of a healthy marriage.