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It seems like such a simple way to plan one's life: Write down what you want to achieve and then begin to work toward those goals. So why is it that so many of us struggle with this process?

Some of us write New Year's resolutions at the beginning of each year, knowing they probably will not be accomplished by the end of the year. Others refuse to write anything down because they think it is a waste of time.  How can we manage this differently?  


Thinking differently about success

Rather than "all or nothing" thinking, we could acknowledge at the outset that the original idea is going to change over time. We could factor in the need to "review, revise, and rework" our goals periodically. In fact, our "new year" of resolutions could begin any day and not just on January 1.

Redefine success

Success can be redefined to include more than a large salary.  After all, money is just a means to purchase things. It does not take long for a high salary to feel empty in and of itself. 

Success can be reframed as an attitude of feeling happy about who we are as we notice progress toward our goals. We can recreate our version of success every day or every week. Of course, a well-formed long-range vision is essential to a program of success, but that vision must be adjusted as we expand our horizons based on our experiences. In the same way, goal-setting is important as a roadmap to your destination, but not as an endpoint per se.

New thinking about what motivates us

"Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose" (Pink, 2009, p. 203). In other words, it is no longer enough to just find a way to reward our efforts and/or punish our failures. We need to feel we are taking charge of our lives, overcoming obstacles, and working toward some kind of overall purpose.


Take the time to review, revise, and rework your goals. This is not a one-time process. You will need to do the "review, revise, rework" process again and again. Keep your worksheets and compare your answers. Notice how they change over time. Even the same information can be perceived differently as your ideas evolve over time.

The following list of questions are examples; be sure to add your own.


a. What are your goals now?
b. What goals are on your list year after year?
c. What goals have you reached in the past?
d. What made the difference?


Which goals are unrealistic? Put them on a separate page to be revisited at some point in the future. Make small adjustments to the goals you want to keep. Remove any goal that no longer serves your vision.


Visualize the end result of each remaining goal. Make notes of the new vision. What do you want from this vantage point? Think of this as the New Beginning by recalling the fresh feeling of each New Year.


When you are satisfied with your new list of goals, decide how to measure your progress toward completion of each goal. Will you work on each goal daily, weekly, or monthly? Would it be better to break down each goal into steps and feel a sense of accomplishment at the completion of each step? Decide on a course of action and then modify it as needed. Collect information regarding what works best for you.

What energizes you to work on your goals?

Start a list of things that provide a boost of energy for your work. For example, some people find that organizing their work area somehow "clears a space" in their minds to begin their project. Sometimes visualizing the process for a few minutes before actually starting to work helps to set the stage for high productivity.

Read self-help books that appeal to you. Sometimes reading a few pages of inspiration can help you get started on your project.

When you are focused and "in the zone", your efficiency and creativity flow more naturally.

What interferes with working on your goals?

As you begin to observe your work habits, make a list of things that drain your energy, and then decide what needs to be done to recoup the energy. Following are some examples:

a. Inefficiency – When things take longer than expected: Review your process and take action to eliminate interferences. When you feel scattered, find a way that helps you pull back your energy. Try to deliberately focus on your project while doing deep breathing exercises.
b. Too much to do – When your plans take more time than you have to give, some decisions need to be made. Can you hire help? Can some tasks be delegated to family members? Are you doing things that really don’t have to be done at all or at least not as often as you would like?
c. Negative emotions such as worry, anxiety, depression, fear, anger, regret, scattered thinking: Decide what needs to be done to think more positive thoughts; if needed, consider psychotherapy.
d. Not being able to find things – A simple way to improve this is to clear all work spaces on a daily basis. Even if you only have time to put things in a "things to do" drawer, at least you will know the one place to look instead of searching all spaces in every room.
e. Lack of focus – Just as you can clear work spaces for physical objects, you can also clear your mind of irrelevant thoughts and ideas. It is a skill well worth learning. Imagine training yourself to do some deep breathing before working on a project and mentally set aside any thought that intrudes. Sometimes writing a list of irrelevant thoughts as they occur can release the need to keep reminding yourself that other things also need to be done.


Life is a journey, not a destination. Every step you take is part of the process of constantly reassessing and rebalancing. Goals are important to point you in the direction of what you want at a particular point in time, yet they need to be reconsidered as new information is processed. Give yourself permission to change your mind, to upgrade your original vision, to love yourself no matter what you do or do not do. Your goals are important, and so are YOU.

We are living in a rapidly changing time period, so learn to think differently about your life. And remember:

"Happiness is always an option."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



Allen, David (2003). Ready for anything: 52 productivity principles for getting things done. New York: Penguin Books.

Allen, David (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York: Penguin Books.

Attwood, Janet Bray, and Attwood, Chris (2006). The passion test: The effortless path to discovering your destiny. Fairfield, IA: 1st World Publishing.

Cameron, Julia (2002). The artist’s way: A spiritual path to higher creativity.  New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Ferry, Tom (2010). Life! By design: 6 steps to an extraordinary you. New York: Ballantine Books.

Pink, Daniel H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books.



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