This New Year, Set Your Goals and Stick with Them
Since the inception of motivational speakers like Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, and Zig Ziglar, to more recent figures like Colin Powell, Paul Harvey, and Joel Osteen, stadiums consistently fill with tens of thousands of people searching for answers that will give them some sense of direction and purpose in their lives.
Typically, these speakers have a central theme: For change to occur and good things to happen, you have to write down your goals, put them in a place where you can see them every day, and stick with them even during the most difficult times in your life. Many people keep them on their mirror; others slip them into their wallet or purse and read them on their way to work.
I remember listening to a tape by Norman Vincent Peale several years ago in which he described a study that found that Yale University graduates who wrote down their goals had much greater rates of success in all aspects of life -- from health to employment -- compared to those who did not put their goals into a visible form. I don't normally put much value in what motivational speakers have to say when their primary goal is to sell their books and tapes, but I do recognize the value of writing things down since there is a tendency to lose focus or forget our most important goals and the reason why we exist. As trivial as this may sound, one thing you can "take to the bank" this holiday season is that for change to occur, you're going to have to write down the things you want to change.
The key to a good goal is to identify aspects of your life that are bothering you to some extent but are within reach. Make sure that the goal itself is not too ambitious. For someone needing to lose a large amount of weight, it is better to start with small attainable goals such as where and what you eat (i.e., avoid eating in front of the TV, don't keep certain products in the house, etc.) rather than trying to tip the scale. For example, if you start the morning with high-calorie foods such as bacon, eggs, donuts, etc., try eliminating the donut or bacon and add something healthy such as high fiber bread with some reduced calorie spread.
When it comes to physical activity, use the same set of rules. Develop simple goals that can be achieved in a short amount of time (i.e., at the end of 3 months). Then set another goal for the next 3 months. Purchase an inexpensive pedometer to help you keep track of how many steps you are getting on a daily basis (NCHPAD has arm bands that allow wheelchair users to monitor their upper arm movements with a pedometer - go to http://www.ncpad.org/363/2053/PEP~Toolkit) and continue to reset your goals until you reach a comfortable level of physical activity.
I learned a long time ago that life has to be viewed as a long distance race rather than a sprint. It is not won by the fastest people but by those who stick with their game plan over the course of life. During this holiday season, grab some low fat eggnog, sit in your most comfortable chair at the most comfortable time of the day, and write down your goals for 2008 divided into three month intervals. Make sure they are realistic and reevaluate them every three months. Don't worry about slipping; everyone does and all that is required is the will and determination to get back up and keep running. Over time, you will start to realize that life is as simple as the game we played as little kids - Chutes and Ladders. Some days you get a ladder and are closer to the finish line; other days you hit a chute and fall back a few notches. The key is never giving up and always moving forward. I have a quote on my wall from Oliver Wendell Holmes that I often read to help me stay focused during the high and low moments in life: "Greatness is not where we stand but in what direction we are moving. Sometimes we sail with the wind and sometimes against it - but sail we must and not drift nor lie at anchor."
During this last month of the year, think about setting a few goals for 2008 that will give you a stronger desire to wake up in the morning and that will energize you to become a better person physically, emotionally, and mentally. Goals are the roadmap to a happier and more fulfilling life. Trust me on this one. All those motivational speakers couldn't have been wrong! Happy Holidays!
"People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no personal goals which are worthwhile...Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still; get yourself a project...Always have something ahead of you to "look forward to" - to work for and to hope for." - Maxwell Maltz