clear goals & accountability. For example, if you want to run a half marathon, you find and sign up for the race you want to run, and then you go get a training partner who will meet you on those gray, bleak days when you'd rather not leave the house, and who may even run the race with you. It's a win-win. You have someone encouraging you and holding you accountable, and in return, there is a great relationship being built through shared experience.
So, how do we think through our goals for the New Year? For some, all goals are physical, for others, professional. That's not a bad thing, but it may leave us incredibly unbalanced as the year unfolds. Instead, let's look at different areas of our lives and see how we could move forward and grow in a way that promotes a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
The first thing I do is come up with a phrase or word for the year. This is my blanket that covers all of the resolutions. No matter what goal I'm striving for, this concept should be present in each. For example, my last year's phrase was "living boldly with grace." As I traveled by myself to Costa Rica with my four kids, launched my blog, & began a new health program, this was the undercurrent beneath each. It is helpful to cast a bigger vision of what we want our year to be about. My sister, who has a fabulous stamped jewelry company called As You Wish Design, even did a necklace with this year's motto. I love it!
1. Physical - This one is pretty self-explanatory. Hitting the top 10 New Year's resolution list every year is.... you guessed it, to lose weight & get fitter. If you are in this category, decide on a specific plan and find a weight loss coach or trainer with whom you weigh in once a week. Have them test your body fat, so even if the scale doesn't change, you can measure progress. As you think about physical health, don't limit the analysis to diet and exercise. I would encourage you to look at other aspects as well: sleep, sugar intake, vitamins, stress, and the amount of quiet or "down time" in a day.
2. Spiritual - Neglecting this area can take big tolls on the well being of our soul, and yet it is often the one most ignored. There is now extensive research pointing to the fact that religious people are happier and less stressed than non-religious. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of this journey, creating a goal that allows space in your life for something bigger than yourself will pay great dividends in your sense of peace, your relationships with others, and most importantly, your relationship with God. Some examples in this area could include: going to church on a regular basis, spending 15-30 minutes in the morning reading a devotional and praying, memorizing scripture, or committing to listening to podcasts or other spiritual teaching to and from work.
3. Relational - Each one of us has multiple important relationships that we are juggling at any given time. This area could sweep over us like a tidal wave and bury us if we let it. Sometimes it seems daunting to invest in and improve all of the relationships in our lives. My encouragement would be to pick one or two and create specific ways you will improve those. For example, if you choose your spouse, you could commit to having couch time every night for 10-15 minutes while the kids clean up from dinner. Or, you could schedule dates for the next few months - sitter, location and all. Another example would be a boss or employee. You could commit to saying one positive thing to that person a day for the next month. This literally only takes seconds of your time, but could have a huge impact on how you interact with and think about that person. Most of the time in relationships, it is the little things that add up to make the biggest impact.
4. Professional - Many people spend the majority of their weekly life at work, but sometimes don't take the time to evaluate how their work life is going, and where they are headed professionally. Make a list of 3 things that are going well, and resolve to keep those present, and list 3 things that could be improved in your personal work-a-day world. Break down how you will improve those areas. For example, maybe you find that you aren't able to return calls in a timely manner. Commit to returning calls for the first half hour of your work day. Or maybe your profession is a stay-at-home mom but you feel that your hours get squandered away by chores and little tasks that take too much time. It may be time to create a more productive schedule.
5. Educational - I am a firm believer that when we are growing and learning, we are better. It feels good and empowering to learn a new skill or explore a field of interest. Sometimes this means improving in an area where we have a few skills already, but haven't taken the time to really become proficient. To me, this is like the sprinkles on a cupcake. Some of the other areas of our lives are more foundational, but this adds fun and spice.
Here is a worksheet to get you going. Dream big, have fun, and make 2012 one of the best yet!