Intention vs Resolutions – an Addendum to Goals Setting

[This is a little add on to my January 1 post on goal setting that I believe complements that material.]

It is January 3rd….if you have not declared your Resolutions, might as well give up. You are a loser. It’s gotta be done on January 1st, at the first second after midnight, or it won’t work. And everything must be carried out perfectly. No leftover Christmas goodies for you, Bub. Don’t you dare overspend on your grocery budget. Had an exasperated thought toward your kids? You blew it. Might as well wait for December 31st to begin again. Can’t tarnish your perfect record, now, can we?

Heard this before? This is part of why resolutions don’t work. An All or Nothing mindset. It totally goes against human nature. We are dependent upon the idea of taking actions to fix us. I do believe that creating healthy habits in our daily lives contribute to our success and well being. I’ve been working on a handful of habits daily since August 1st of 2016, and have seen a lot of success. I’ve started small, and have added to each habit, little by little. And I have had added habits over time. I haven’t been perfect with them, and I don’t beat myself up when I’ve botched it. However, even more important than the effort put into the habit, is the intention behind the habit. But we need to bring a kind of filter to our actions, a kind of gentle spark. And that spark is Intention.

Intentions have a compassionate energy behind them. They are not tied into the success of an outcome. They ask that we bring some mindfulness to our actions and make efforts to do our best. We can have a plan and work the plan. But when we get off track or take a misstep, or outright fail, we forgive ourselves….AND START AGAIN. We can even show some forbearance toward ourselves. We can know that this action is not part of the plan, and we can not muck around in the guilt and shame that comes with it. The next moment is brand new. Start again. Socrates said, “The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

When you walk with intention. You have a subdued focus that filters your actions. It’s good at the beginning of goal setting to harness some of that passion and determination that comes with the initial thrill of carving out your intentions. The key word is harness. A harness is gear that is used for controlling an animal. Have the passion. It’s good and necessary. It’s a kind of fuel. But, keep it in check. And don’t let it run rampart over your confidence when you get off track.

And guess what?

You’re gonna get off track. You’re gonna misstep here and there. Unless you are an alien. I’m pretty sure my target audience is human. Therefore, be kind to yourself when you sway, or outright fail. Start again. Keep your head, and start again. It’s okay. You are allowed to do that. Really, you are. If you are concerned about what others might think, it’s not their fight. It’s yours. Actually, think of it as a walk, a journey. You are going to a different place than they are. You might have a similar goal or desire a similar outcome, but you’re going to have a different route to get there. Own up to your meanderings, and get back on the track, and resume walking. One step at a time. Drip.Drip.Drip.

Disclosure: today’s post was inspired from the app Calm. Today’s Daily Calm session (January 3,2017) was titled Intention, and I definitely borrowed some of the quotes and phrasing from it. I wholeheartedly recommend this app for mindfulness practice. I gladly pay $39.99 for the yearly subscription, it’s worth every penny.

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Zig and Seth’s Goals Program (and mine)

Well, it’s that time of the year again…

Resolutions! (Ugggghhh….I hate resolutions!)

Guess what? I don’t make resolutions. I set goals. Why, you ask? Well when you resolve to do something, you are resolving to DO something. DO implies acting (which is important, you can’t resolve something without action.) However, if you aren’t taking the right actions, what you “resolve” to do might not matter to begin with. If, instead, you to choose a target, rather than just acting with the same ol’ same ol’. (Going to the gym, getting out of debt, etc.) How are you going to know when you’ve reached your goal unless you’ve defined it clearly? Don’t be a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific. That’s a quote from Zig Ziglar, and it’s his goals program that I want to highlight today.

I was introduced to Zig’s program through Seth Godin’s Pick Four book. Seth listened to and listened to over and over again Zig’s motivational tapes during a rough patch in his early adult years, to the point where he wrote down Zig’s goals process and began implementing it. And it worked. About four years ago, Seth reformatted it and tweaked it in a small spiral bound book that is intended to be used in a 90 day period. It is something I’ve been using, and I’m going to review it here.

1.) Setting goals works. First of all, you must choose something, and in doing so, you are not choosing the others. One possibility out of others. And in doing so, you are saying “this is something I care about, this is something I will devote my energy to.” So….choose wisely. (I think I’ve mentioned that before elsewhere.)

2.) Become like a child sitting on Santa’s lap. Take about a half day and just dream. Dream big. It’s okay. Write. Down. EVERYTHING. Even silly stuff. Then sleep on it. Take another half day. Do it again. Sleep on it. Then take a look at your list. Eliminate anything that is obviously beyond the laws of physics or that can’t be supported by science. Then eliminate anything that, well, just clearly isn’t plausible. (Ok, the Queen of England is NOT going to call you up and ask you to go on a secret mission….dreaming big is ok. Unmitigated fantasy is not.) List them into these categories: Career, Family, Financial, Mental, Physical, Social/Emotional, Spiritual. If one category is out of balance over the others, dream up a few more goals. “Let’s assume that the overriding purpose of your goals is to live a life that benefits others, one that you’re proud of, one that allows you to reach your potential – does your list reflect that?” For each item ask “What happens to me and the people I care about if I reach this goal?” If you can’t come up with an answer that satisfies you, eliminate this goal. A goal you don’t care about isn’t a goal you are going to be able to work hard to achieve. If there are contradictions in the list, you’re going to have to make some choices to whittle down the list a bit more.

3.) Choose from your categorized list four goals. Only four for now. Start out this quarter small, and after a few wins under your belt, add more goals to your list of actively pursued goals.
For each goal, ask these questions:

A.) What will this goal look like when it’s completed? How will I actually know when I’ve completed my goal?

B.) What are the benefits from reaching this goal?

C.) What skills or knowledge are required to reach this goal?

D.) What are the major obstacles to overcome and mountains to climb in order to reach this goal?

E.) Who are the individuals and organizations I need to partner with to help me reach this goal?

F.) What is the plan for reaching this goal? (Write it out; tell it like a story.)
4.) After fleshing your goals out, it’s time to get started. Get a notebook or journal, and for each day, Monday through Friday, (you get Saturdays off,) follow the following format:
Goal_______________
Steps I took today to achieve this goal: ______________________(use as much space as needed.)
Is this enough? YES NO

If you didn’t do anything toward reaching a goal, write “NOTHING” in the blank space. Not to shame you, but you do need to feel a bit of negative stimulus if you are not consistently putting out effort.

On Sunday, you have a week in review. This is important. Ask these questions and write the answers:
Highlights from last week:__________________________
What got in the way/What didn’t work?:________________
What I learned from what didn’t work: _________________
You need the honest reflection so you can make mid course corrections. If something isn’t working, do something else. If you find a bunch of “NOTHING” s in your daily steps, then maybe you need to re-evaluate if you really want this goal.

As Seth writes, “Drip, drip, drip, things get done, progress is made, and goals are accomplished.”

Goals require effort, as resolutions do. The up front passion and determination of resolutions are great, but without a workable plan, then the envisioned glory fades quickly when friction and push back hits. Taking the time to define clearly and FEEL strongly at a core, even a spiritual level are both necessary to make significant progress. And the daily drip of accumulation will spur you on if you track it and record it.

Here’s to a prosperous and productive 2017!

A Big Enough Why

I’ve come up with four questions I ask when trying to clarify my goals.

1.) What is it that you want?
2.) Why do you want it?
3.) How bad do you want it?
4.) What are you willing to give for it?

I want to focus on the second question. “Why do you want it?”
Why. The question of motive and motivation. Everything you do has a Why behind it. Some of the times it’s easy to determine the why. Sometimes you need a therapist. Two days ago I stated in a blog post that folks who I once thought as lazy and/or felt a sense of entitlement I now think, more than likely, don’t have a big enough Why in their lives. It’s not a question that anyone can answer except the one asking themselves. Sometimes when you ask this question of yourself, you’re tempted to lie or give a canned, presumptions answer. That would be doing yourself a disservice.

Sometimes crazy impassioned people do more harm than good, but passion is important. If your Why doesn’t enflame a passion, then you might need another goal. Sometimes folks are afraid to ask Why, because they know without a doubt they can’t come up with a good enough reason for pursuing the said goal.

“I want a Ferrari.” Why? “Because it will make me look important.”

Thats so empowering. Not really, if you couldn’t discern my sarcasm. (If you really want a Ferrari, go ahead. I’m not anti Ferrari. Cars just aren’t my thing.)

Sometimes you know you want to have, or be, or do something, it’s just hard to come up with the why. It’s intangible or words escape trying to define it. I think that’s okay. It might very well be a work in progress thing, something that evolves over time. You kinda know the what and you kinda know the why. You probably ought to test the waters some. Do some research. Sit on the idea a while. Pray about it. Meditate on it, contemplate on it. I’ve been there, and maybe I’m still there. I’m closer than ever to knowing.

Sometimes you have the why, but something else is out of whack. You might not have the character needed to do whatever it takes. Character really does count. Self discipline, persistence, and perseverance are character traits that are necessary to accomplish most worthwhile pursuits. You might need a season or three to work on these issues and others. How you deal with people matters. If you’re lacking people skills, good luck trying to accomplish your goals. Not gonna happen.

I’ve been getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning at least four days of the week. Why? Because I want some extra time in the morning to get focused on my day. I read. I pray. I meditate. I read God’s word. I read some more. And I think. Why do I do this? I need to prime the pump. And it makes a huge difference. I try to focus on the positive, and contribute positively when I can. I know the first half of my days at work have been smoother since I’ve been doing this. (I’ll be honest, the second half of the days are kinda rough, I run out of steam. I’m working on that.) The character trait of self discipline was something sorely lacking in my life for many years, but it’s something I’ve been working on for many, many months now. As a result, I’m better defining my Why behind my goals, and they’re being pursued consistently.

So, go dream up a What. Then find your Why.

Why, you ask?

Why not….it’s worth a shot.

A Question that Guarantees to Help You Focus

In early June of 2013, I bought that plane ticket to Orlando. I hate wasting money, so this meant there was no turning back now. The bridge was burned.

So, I had this goal. Actually, there were two goals. Go to Disney World. And weigh in at 225 lbs. (Translated to lose about 20 lbs.) I am a great procrastinator and money tends to burn a hole in my pocket, so these were challenging tasks to me. I had to save money on a regular basis, while still paying rent, bills, and buying food. I had to exercize regularly and eat healthy, or, said differently, move more, eat less. By the way, eating healthy costs a BIT more than eating unhealthy.

I was reading a book, The ONE Thing, by Jay Papasan and Gary W. Keller. The premise of the book is that we need to ask ourselves one question…

“What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

I pondered the question for a few days.

I’ve never been a very self disciplined person. I would have the BAD habit of sleeping in to the last moment, and rush around to get ready, and go straight to work. After work, I would come home, fix and eat dinner, and watch DVDs, listen to music, or read. Tomorrow, repeat. I desperately needed some good habits in my life that would shape some desired outcomes.

I had recently purchased a book titled, “Get some Headspace”, by Andy Puddicombe. It’s essentially a beginners course in mindfulness, using meditation. (don’t worry, my Baptist brethren, there are NO Buddhist overtones to this program.) There is a supplementary iPhone app as well. After studying the content for a few days, I knew that I should put this into practice. I made this my ONE Thing.

I struck gold.

Every night, at around 11:30, I began the guided meditation. I began on Saturday, July 13, 2013, and continued through Sunday, September 22, 2013, a 72 day streak. There are 10 days of ten minute meditations, 15 days of fifteen minute meditations, then 20 days of twenty minute meditations, then it begins several blocks of 40 day/20 minute programs.

In a later post, I will write about what is called a Keystone Habit. Meditation is what I would call a Keystone Habit. For now, let’s just say that a Keystone Habit is any habit developed that influences the development of other habits. When I began meditating, over the next two months, I also began to exercise regularly, eat healthier, cleaned my apartment more regularly, had consistent morning devotions, organized my files, bills, and mountains of papers, cataloged my dad’s record collection, (with the help of others,) read with better recall, saved money for my trip, and many other consistent actions. My weight and blood pressure went down. And I felt 1000% better.

This is not meant to be an endorsement for mindfulness and meditation, (although I definitely recommend it.) I’m just stating that My ONE Thing for that season in my life was choosing to meditate on a regular basis, and as a result, everything else became easier or unnecessary.

By asking this focusing question, I was able to kickstart a series of habits that dominoed into desired outcomes. And I did it in a relatively short amount of time, (approximately 2 1/2 months).

So, I leave you with this obvious question: What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?