I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions. For starters, I feel that resolutions are often unsustainable leading to the inevitable feeling of failure. At some point in our lives, most of us have started off the new year with the “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” resolution. The new year begins with several fervent weeks at the gym as we live off celery sticks and lettuce, we start to see progress but inevitably we fall back into our old habits. Not because losing 20 pounds is unattainable but because we made a resolution without thinking through the steps of how we’ll get there – this is where goals come into play.
At this point, I have to confess, I’ve never been great at setting goals either. As an artist, I tend to follow my inspiration which works out well in the creation phase but falls short on the business end. You may not be shocked to know that ‘if you build it they will come’ isn’t the best business strategy … but that’s how many artists operate. We get so caught up in the joy of creating, there’s an unconscious part of us that thinks customers will just magically appear on our doorstep clamoring for our creations. Spoiler alert, this rarely happens!
So when my friend, Cristina, invited me to be part of her pilot program for a personal productivity group, I decided to jump in with both feet! OK, if we’re being really honest, maybe not with both feet at first, more like I committed to dipping a toe in the water – I’m not a big ‘joiner’ and the idea of weekly meetings (via video conference) was a bit daunting. However, I knew that I needed some structure and, most importantly, accountability when it came to my business. And, not only would it help keep me accountable with goal setting, but I’d have others to help keep me motivated.
For nearly a year, we’ve met once a week. Our little group spans four decades – Kim is in her 20s, Katie is thirty-something, Cristina represents the 40ish crowd and I’ll just leave it there as I’m sure you can fill in the blank! I mention our ages because I think one of the reasons that our group has been so successful at staying together is that we all have something unique to contribute. We learn so much from each other by seeing things from a different perspective.
Getting Started with Goal Setting
Our first exercise was to create a mind map. I loved this as it required me to actually put on paper all of my chaotic and often sporadic ideas. It’s like organizing your stream of consciousness – as much as possible. Next we started working on the Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner. This helped to start setting some goals. Each week, we’d meet and share our goals, our progress, our thoughts and ideas. After the first few weeks I was feeling empowered, ready to achieve goals and kick ass! We were rolling along and then something interesting began to happen.
It’s OK to Change Course
What started as a group with the intention of goal setting and accountability began to be so much more. For starters, we each began this journey with specific business goals in mind. And one by one, we each began to do a deep dive, discovering which goals no longer fit us. Like those jeans we all keep buried in our closets – the ones that no longer fit but for some reason we keep holding onto thinking that if we could just fit in those jeans our life would be complete! Ironically, even if we do manage to fit into those jeans again, they no longer suit us and we often end up tossing them out! Some goals are like that. When examined under a microscope, or in this case, with the assistance of others who we have entrusted with our deepest desires – we began to discover that many of our goals fall into the category of ‘should’ rather than ‘want.’ How many times have you stubbornly stuck with a goal because you thought you should, not because it was something you really wanted? I discovered that designing jewelry really isn’t my passion but I thought that because this is what I’ve been doing for the past several years I ‘should’ be able to make a successful business out of it. I love the actual creating, but fashion isn’t my jam – I spend most of my time in jeans, or black yoga pants and a white t-shirt, and quite honestly I don’t wear a lot of jewelry! So how could I expect to fully engage in the marketing aspect when it didn’t really excite me? I kept setting goals targeting the sales of my jewelry but I wasn’t getting anywhere – duh. Time for a course correction. Kim had a similar experience when we first began. She outlined a new venture but after a short time, discovered that although it could be a profitable business it wasn’t meant to be HER business – it just didn’t fit. Rather than feeling like failures for changing course or ‘quitting’, Kim and I both had the support and encouragement from our group. And what we all began to learn was, it’s not only ‘ok’ to change goals, it’s absolutely essential for growth.
Doing Nothing is Something
There have been weeks when each of us in the group felt we hadn’t made any progress with our goals. The past several months have been especially challenging for me as my husband, Micheal, and I decided to sell our building (which houses my art studio, his office and our living space). It feels as if my full time job has become cleaning the house to get ready for showings. At first I felt frustrated and often thought I should just drop out of the group because I wasn’t actively working towards my goals or contributing anything. But Cristina, Kim and Katie have given me the permission I needed to acknowledge that sometimes it’s ok to just ‘be’ where you are. Sometimes life sweeps over us and we just have to go with the flow and trust that although we may feel stagnant there is movement under the water. What I’ve learned is that it’s the time when you feel nothing is happening that the ideas are percolating. This is the time to go within, meditate, journal, work on vision boards, anything that will help keep you centered. By staying with the group and focusing on forward momentum I made a couple of breakthroughs which leads me to my next insight.
Passion Ignites Your Goals
Nothing will help you reach your goals like a good dousing of passion! And one of the things that I’ve learned from our group is that we need to do the internal work to figure out what sparks our passion. Many of us have a variety of interests, things we love to do and even things that we’re extremely good at, but how do we differentiate those from our passions? I think it can best be described as a bubbling excitement – when you’re passionate about something, you can’t wait to get to it! It’s like being a kid on Christmas Eve full of joyful anticipation! That’s how it feels when you discover your passion – you can’t wait to get to start setting the goals that will help you achieve success. The main reason that Micheal and I decided to put our building on the market is that we’re ready for another renovation project. We have a smaller house that has been a rental for quite some time and when we went over to do a walk through, I could feel the excitement begin to bubble up! My creative juices were flowing just thinking about the redesign process! Until the housing market crash in 2008, I’d had a successful decorative painting and design business – I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I started thinking about our new renovation project. Now I can’t wait to start the goal setting process in motion for a new business idea (details to come)!
Goal Setting is a Team Sport
Of course you can set goals and work towards their fruition all by your lonesome. But being a part of the personal productivity group has taught me that a key element in successful goal setting is teamwork. And the main component is accountability. If you know you’re going to be meeting with a group every week you’re more likely to be productive – and when you get stuck you won’t just quit because you’re team mates will be there to pick you up and help carry you across the finish line! I can’t find the words to adequately thank Cristina, our fearless leader, for setting up the group – and Kim and Katie for their support and encouragement, every single week!
Cheers to a new year filled with peace, love and light – may all your goals bring you joy and happiness.
NOTE: Cristina Liriano is a consultant and corporate team coach who specializes in assisting teams and individuals improve how they work. Please check out her website at www.agilecopilot.com for more information on setting meaningful goals for intentional living.