I don't know about you, but I gave up setting new year's resolutions many years ago. I realized that I'd get really ambitious at the end of the year, think of all the great things I'd like to do in the coming year, and make a resolution that I'd stick to each and every one of those activities.
I'd write down things like "I'm going to go to the gym every day this year," or "I'm going to lose 20 lbs," or "I'm going to meditate for an hour every day." And I'm not saying these aren't good ambitions. However, the way I approached them was more like they were wishes, not goals. There was no plan to carry them out.
This year, I took a different approach. On January 2nd, I had the opportunity to attend a goal setting workshop put on by The Flourishing Center. The founder of center, Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, conducted a 3 hour workshop that applied some evidence based practices from positive psychology to help the attendees create more realistic, helpful plans for the coming year.
The approach Emiliya took followed the acronym B.A.G. The letters stood for:
B - where we've Been
A - where we Are
G - where we're Going
We started with where we've been. This was a great approach to get us to celebrate the wins in our life, the things that had gone well. So much of the time, we humans naturally go to what isn't working or what didn't go well. By looking back to appreciate what we'd accomplished, it put us in a more positive mindset. To do this we looked back at 2021 and spent about 15 minutes writing what we were grateful for. The prompts we were instructed to use were:
"I'm grateful for..."
"I'm grateful that..."
It was an awesome experience. The more I wrote, the more things that came to mind. Looking back on what I had written when I was done was eye opening. Taking this short break from the busy-ness of life - 15 minutes - to appreciate the good in my life gave me a much more positive perspective on the year than I had before the exercise. If you'd told me I could go on to write three full pages of things I was grateful for and proud of in 2021, I probably would have thought you were crazy.
Next up in our B.A.G. was taking a look at where we are right now. The tool used was a mind map. I personally love mind maps for brainstorming or, in this case, brain dumping.
If you've never used a mind map before, I think it's a useful tool to capture ideas that pop into your head which might in turn trigger other thoughts.
To make a mind map, you start with a central idea written on the center of a piece of paper (or on your screen if you're using software). In this particular instance, "My life on 1/2/22" was the central idea. You then add lines (aka branches) off that idea and add thoughts that pop into your head. For me it was areas of my life like Career, Business, Health & Wellness, Family, and other aspects of my life. From there you continue to branch and add thoughts.
Here's a sample of my mind map
I used free software called Freemind to make mine, but other software packages are available. Or you can just draw on a piece of paper or use a white board if you prefer.
The final thing in our B.A.G. was looking at where we want to Go in 2022. This is where we took what we had learned so far about all we'd been able to accomplish in 2021 and the status of where we are and what's most important to us right now as inputs to help create our goals for 2022.
We didn't get through the whole goal setting process during the workshop, which was okay. However, the workshop did set me up to be better prepared to set realistic goals for 2022.
So, what's the difference between the resolutions I used to set and to goals I'm setting for 2022?
Relevance and a plan.
As I set my goals for 2022, I'm making sure they are tied to what is most important to me right now - not just some aspirations that seem like good things I "should" do. These are things that will give me motivation as I work toward them because they are tied to my values and long term vision.
And they will be things I can act on in the here and now to start making progress. I won't necessarily have a full plan laid out, nor is that necessary, but I'm going to ensure I know what the next step or two or three are so I can start creating momentum through small, early wins.
More to come on goal setting in a future post.
Take care, be well, and have a prosperous and joyful 2022!