I had some pretty big plans at the start of this year. I knew what my goals were, and as usual, I was annoyingly optimistic about what this year could bring. But this year had other plans. For many of us, it’s been weird and hard and hard and weird. And sometimes you need to adjust your expectations and refresh your goals.
At the start of this year I was coming back from an injury and setting big weightlifting goals. I was ready to pour my heart and soul into building this blog, and share my passion for self-improvement with all of you. My wife and I were preparing to pack up our life, leave our home, and embark on a nomadic year on the road.
I was laser-focused and deeply committed to these goals.
If I had relied solely on January for my picture of what this year would look like, I’d be standing in uncharted space right now. Apart from the blog (uncomfortable winky face), nothing matches that picture I had. It would be easy to beat myself up over not achieving the other goals.
Oh, you thought this is the part where the annoying optimism fades? Nah, Friend.
I found more creative ways to keep up my exercise habit. My family is updating our travel timeline. And of course, I’m still here writing for you beautiful folks. I just needed to refresh my goals to stay realistic and up to date.
This year has been a roller coaster. And we’re now sitting halfway along that ride. We have a pretty clear view of the highs and lows (and also lows) that have come before, and some idea of what’s ahead. We can’t see everything, but it’s enough to assess whether it’s time to adjust our plans.
You’re Allowed to Refresh Your Goals Anytime You Want
I find the first week of the new calendar year a pretty interesting time. The phrase “New Years’ Resolutions” inevitably circulates, to a variety of opinions. Some people love the opportunity to set new intentions for themselves in the coming year, while others decry the tradition as arbitrary, or even pointless.
To a degree, I think they’re both onto something.
January 1st is an arbitrary point in time for setting goals. Strictly speaking, it’s no better or worse than October 26th or, say, July 2nd. Except for one simple thing: there’s typically no shared conversation about goals on October 26th or July 2nd. On January 1st, there is.
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”Ford Prefect, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Personally, I like using the turning over of the calendar as a time to refresh goals. Not because that’s when it’s “supposed to happen,” but because the holiday is an opportunity and a reminder to think about goals, and discuss them openly.
Say what you will about New Years’ resolutions, but they do succeed in getting everyone talking, and thinking, about refreshing their goals.
And that’s what I set out to do today – start the conversation. Whether you join the masses on Jan 1 or you’re part of the edgy Oct 26 crowd, life has probably changed since you last set your goals. And today may be the perfect day to look at them again with fresh eyes.
It doesn’t matter when you prefer to set goals. What does matter is that you put real intention and focus into achieving them. But most important of all is that you come back around to check on those goals, and know when they’re ready for a refresh.
When Does it Make Sense to Refresh Your Goals?
So if we aren’t basing our goals around the calendar, then how do we know when it does make sense to give them a touch-up?
Most likely, you already check up on your goals in some way, to assess your progress and know if you need to change your approach. Checking in periodically is not only a good way to keep yourself on track with your goals, but also a great way to keep your goals on track with you. The goals themselves should be up to date with where you want to go and what’s currently achievable.
Most goals hit a point where they resolve – succeed or fail, win or lose, these goals in some way reach a ‘done’ state. Further effort will not help you on these.
There are also times when the underlying circumstances change. Life is constantly shifting and often proves to be wildly unpredictable. The environment in which you committed to those goals may not be the one in which you currently find yourself.
In either case, you need to refresh your goals to keep them from going stale.
Setting a new goal for yourself (or updating an existing one) is like turning over a new leaf. And you’ll have a much better time of turning over a new leaf if you first trim the dead leaves from the branch. Your resources – time, energy, money, everything you need to achieve your goals – are finite. If you cling to the dead leaves of your tree, the goals that no longer fit your situation, they’ll continue to soak up your attention and your resources, and your tree will struggle to grow.
Let’s Get to It
If, like for so many of us, your life circumstances have changed in the past few months, now may be the perfect time to refresh your goals. And even if not, it can’t hurt to check in to make sure that the goals you have are still in line with what you’re currently striving for and where you’re going.
Right now, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve achieved, and how you’ve struggled. I’m not here to judge your performance. I’m here for what comes next.
Maybe the last few months haven’t been kind to you. Maybe they’ve been great. In either case, the path that you had previously set out for yourself may be due for an update.
What does it look like to turn over that new leaf? Start with some of these questions:
- What do I currently want out of life, in the short and long term?
- What are the steps I need to take to get there?
- Is there a reasonable way for me to take any of those steps right now?
- Are there likely to be any roadblocks in the near future?
- How will I adjust if I do hit roadblocks?
- What tools are at my disposal to achieve these goals?
To all my New Years’ Resolution skeptics out there – you’re right. The day is effectively random. There’s no need to refresh your goals in January over any other time. So how about today? It’s as good as any, no? The “when” is not what matters. What matters is that your goals work for you, that you work for them, and that you take a little time here, there, or anywhere for those two things to keep being true.