The start of a new year, a time when people count down excitedly, pop the bubbly and enthusiastically greet each other “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” hugs, while exchanging hugs. For many people, it’s a new beginning where they renew their commitments, set new goals, and dare I mention the word… Resolutions.
Pardon me for my cryptic position on this. As I enter my 36th year on planet earth, I cannot help but feel a kind of dread of being reminded of the past… errr… resolutions set but not met, vows made but still made to wait.
After all, what is a new year apart from the fact that you now have to adjust the last digit when you have to fill in dates on forms? Nothing else really changes…
Why do people not meet the goals they set?
Even more pointedly, why do people who meet their goals still feel unhappy and unfulfilled?
Looking back on my experiences, I’ve realized that when it comes to setting, and meeting goals, it all really depend on the intentions and process of fulfilling those goals.
I have learnt about these 3 Ps that you want to avoid when setting your goals.
This one is very common. I remember ending 2015 feeling really happy that I have met my professional and financial goals, then I made a critical mistake to start 2016. I began 2016 by making a goal to improve my relationships with people around me.
Intentions good… So far…
However, in the process of improving my relationships, I made it a point to become more available to people… without setting proper boundaries. I made myself available to almost all the requests people made of me, until I hardly had time for myself. I became burnt out, not to mention, irritable and privately frustrated.
Not a good recipe for happiness, if anything, a cocktail for disaster.
Throughout 2016, after some minor conflicts with a few people, I overreacted and lashed out. What hurt me most was that I was lashing out at people that I care immensely about. Instead of strengthening my relationships, as per my goal, I created frictions and cracks, and lost some important relationships that meant a lot to me.
Proving to Others
This is one of my personal Achilles heel from when I was very young.
I remembered that day in Primary One (grade one). I have just gotten back my Mathematics exam paper, and a bright smile was beaming across my face. At the top right hand corner of the front page, written big in red ink was 87%. I was extremely happy that I had done better than most of my classmates. I remembered that day when I went home, I didn’t walk, I ran, I skipped home. So happy and excited I was to tell my parents about it!
“Mum! I scored 87% for Mathematics! I scored better than my classmates!”
The look on my mum’s face would stay with me for the rest of my life.
“What? Only 87%? How could you be happy with only 87%? At this level, you should be aiming for 95% and above!”
“But Mum! I did better than all but ONE classmate of mine!” I protested…
“Why do you compare with people lesser off than you? You should be comparing with the better ones! Look, my colleagues’ children are studying in either Tao Nan or Red Swastika Primary Schools (at that time, the top two schools in my region), and they’re all scoring well. If you don’t buck up, how can you compete? How can you survive in future?”
That has had a significant impact on me in my life.
I have always felt the need to compare and keep up with the Joneses. “Oh, so and so speaker is publishing a book, so I must publish mine ASAP!” Nothing wrong with peer pressure, but it becomes crippling and disempowering when I made publishing my book an exercise in “proving myself”, in proving that “I have arrived, I can do it too! I belong to the ‘big league’!”
As an entrepreneur and speaker, enduring rejection is part of the package, but I have had a hard time dealing with it. I often took it personally that it meant I was not good enough. I am always asking myself “How can I prove myself?”
I am not sharing this to be overly dramatic. I am sharing this to show you how disempowering and unfulfilling the desire to prove can be. As long as we feel the need to prove ourselves, we will never truly be happy even if we’ve achieved our goals.
This one is less obvious, but it is a clear and present peril to achieving your goals happily. How often have we set goals and resolutions that are meant to compensate for those unmet and unfulfilled ones the previous year? When we do this, we set the goal with a same-blame and self-criticality that creates a negative energy around that goal.
A classic example is when people have not met their fitness / weight-loss goals, who end up going on diet binges or extremely punishing exercise regimes. This is not only unsustainable, but may end up causing you emotional, not to mention physical hurt eventually.
What’s done / not done is in the past. Acknowledge your gaps and set new goals that excite you. Do not set a goal to “right a wrong”, there’s nothing wrong with you, so don’t punish yourself with your goals!
Setting Goals and Resolutions That Set You Free
Setting goals for a new year heralds renewed hopes, and positive energy. Have you made your goals? It helps to run your goals through these 3 Ps, so that you ensure that your goals are free from what others think about you, and self-judgement. Your goals are an authentic expression of your greater dreams and vision for your life, don’t be encumbered by needing to please others, to prove to them, or to punish yourself.
Take life, and your goals seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously!
Have an Insanely Amazing 2017!