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Goal Setting from the Inside Out

Goal Setting from the Inside Out

It’s so curious how we spend the last weeks of the year in a sugar-plum-induced family frenzy of parties and holiday sweaters, and expect to walk into our lives on January 1 ready to drill down and get things done.

To get our minds focused back on what the year holds in store for us we make these shoulds-posing-as-resolutions and order all kinds of shiny productivity tools and smile at the future coming toward us. Then February rolls around and we glance sideways at our list and hope nobody’s looking over our shoulders.

Straight out, resolutions are dangerous little dragons because we humans need meaning. We need a resonant, compelling context for any goal, wish, or dream to have a shot at making it into our everyday schedule.

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Wait, Come a Little Closer…
So let’s say we’ve teased out a few New Year’s Resolutions by now, and ordered some shiny new gadgets and calendars for 2009. What’s to keep the litany of familiar patterns from grabbing us by the heels as we reach toward our resolutions?

Too many high maintenance friends…loathing the 8-to-5…missing appointments…too much laundry…no time for family…forgetting to back up the laptop.

Those perfectly reasonable sources of frustration provide cover for something deeper. If we look inside the window to our soul and listen, this string of buried refrains actually kills countless plans and goals for getting things done and becoming the high priest[ess] of accomplishment and joy—because we keep avoiding what we really, really want most.

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We Already Know This Stuff
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to go back to school, get a law degree and work in the social justice field. Every year you resolve to put it on your list, apply to schools and set a start date. And then life happens—a broken arm, a big new client, something—and you set your lifelong dream aside yet again. It’s too much. Too costly. Ridiculous, actually.

We already know who we are and what we’re passionate about. We can do all the soul searching and personality tests into infinity, yet they somehow keep pointing to the same things. The longer we dismiss what we already know, no matter what productivity gadget we employ, or how many nannies and assistants we hire, the louder the buried refrain will get. Even though we think it’s the report, or the big meeting that’s keeping us up twisting in our sheets at night, it’s everything we’ve been meaning to do and desiring most that does it. Not your crazy schedule and the soccer-momming and the endless board meetings.

We humans can tolerate just about any circumstance when we’re truly committed to our highest purpose. When we actually give our dreams a committed shot at landing on our everyday schedule, we can tolerate busyness and life at high speed.

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Goal Setting from the Inside Out in 2009
Truth? No matter how much we want to get things done, what we really want is a life that matters. We want the chain of endless doings to add up to something meaningful at the end of the day. So, take a look back at your calendar in any given week for 2008 and ask yourself two questions:

  1. “What’s most important to me?”
  2. “What values did I honor?”

The information you gather by answering those questions will help you percolate what’s next. Declarations.

Create Context and Meaning with Declarations
To give your resolutions or goals heart and soul, take a look at what you most deeply value in each of the four life areas: Life’s Work, Relationships, Personal Wellbeing and Financial Development. Next to each area, you’ll have words like joy, integrity, leadership, and service, and you’ll use these words to craft your declarations.

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Declarations are timeless statements of purpose in the present tense designed to create ongoing quality of life shifts. Much like a mission statement, declarations stem from who you are and what you value, and point to your vision. They may sound bold and completely outrageous, perhaps even a little wild—but not impossible.

You’ll know you’re on track if your declarations make you want to cry or scream or jump up and down. (Go ahead, we’ll wait.) Declarations also act as your truing mechanism when you forget who you are and what you’re up to. Or when your busyness has no connection to what you value. Or when you’ve been saying yes way too much.

Practically speaking, declarations inform your goals, not the other way around. So, once you’ve finished your declarations, listing your top goal in each area (that’s right, just one) should come easily and organically.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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