Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stick with Your Goals by Finding a "Meaningful Why"

Tip of the Week, Early January 2013


When I went to see my doctor for a physical last summer, he asked me to get some standard blood work done and handed me a few papers to take with me when I went to the lab. Those papers have been sitting in the Follow Up folder on my desk for, well, many months now, because there's almost nothing I hate more than having blood drawn--or anything else involving needles--and since nothing bad will happen if I don't follow up, I've been dragging my heels.

I thought about those lab order papers last week when I came up with one of the things I'd like to focus on in 2013: being as healthy (if not more so) in my late 30s as I was in my late 20s. When considering what this goal entails, I realized it goes beyond the usual suspects (eating well, getting some kind of exercise most days, drinking more water, and so on); it also includes being sure I know things like my cholesterol levels so I know the baseline I'm starting from.

A Meaningful Why
All of this got me thinking about one of the reasons I sometimes fail to follow through on goals and challenges I set for myself, and why I sometimes see the same thing happen with my clients: there's no meaningful why behind those goals. 

For example, when clients tell me they want to undertake an organizing project because a partner or other family member has asked them to, or because it seems like a worthwhile thing to do, there's a good chance they won't succeed. Why? Because there's nothing meaningful driving them to do the hard work involved with getting organized for good. Who wants to put time, effort, and energy into something simply because they (or, worse, someone else) think they should? Not me, that's for sure!

On the flip side, when there's something meaningful driving my clients, they tend to be much more likely to stick with the organizing process, even when it gets tough. For example, a client who found herself completely overwhelmed by several years of unsorted, unfiled papers was determined to tackle them because they caused her stress every time she looked at them, which meant every day (as they were overtaking her office), and she knew that that stress not only weighed heavily on her mind almost constantly, but also made her more likely to snap at her family. 

Taming her papers required a lot of her, but she kept with it because the reasons why she took on the project in the first place--reclaiming her office, radically decreasing her stress, and improving her relationships with her husband and kids--were so meaningful to her.

What's Driving Me
I asked myself what my meaningful why is for my 2013 goal, and here's what I came up with: I want to aim for excellent health so I can banish the stress I feel when I don't get enough exercise, don't eat well, and don't drink enough water, and so I have more energy to do some of the dozens of things I want to do but don't always feel up for at the end of a busy day or busy week. 

When I'm faced with rough patches throughout the year--when, say, sticking with my regular exercise schedule means heading to the gym in the rain when I'd much rather stay home, or when knowing where I stand health-wise requires (gulp) getting blood drawn--it's these motivators I'll keep in mind.

As we head into week two of the new year, take some time to come up with your own meaningful whys. Remember, the idea is to go beyond simply stating a goal to get at what's really driving you to reach it. Jot down your whys somewhere convenient so you can refer back to them throughout the next few months, when many resolutions are either made or broken.

Here's to a happy, healthy, successful 2013! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lab appointment to make.

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