How are you doing with your goals? Remember those? Chances are, you are making more progress on some than others. That's normal. Sometimes we set very big goals but later realize they may be too big to accomplish in one year. We also sometimes set goals that aren't as difficult as we thought, once we finally make a plan and take action. At this time of the year, you probably have a better idea of what you need to do to reach your 2023 goals, and can use that information to make any necessary changes.
"I’m not going to drop all my goals because I didn’t accomplish them exactly as I hoped. I’m not going to call the quarter a failure. I’m not going to say that setting goals and being focused isn’t worth it. -Christian Muntean"2
Record at least three accomplishments from this quarter.
First, congratulate yourself on what you've accomplished so far this year -- even if it wasn't as much as you planned. Our lives can change in an instant and you may be dealing with circumstances that were not on the horizon back in December or January. No problem! Goal planning isn't about sticking to a strict plan, it's about making a plan that can change to fit your life. While we want it to be challenging, it also needs to be realistic.
For example, you decided to only order in or eat out one day a week but find yourself still ordering out two or three times a week. Why? Is it a matter of not wanting to cook after a long day at work? Try making larger meals so that you can stretch them over a few days, leading to less time spent cooking. Is this a busy season for you and you simply don’t have the time or energy? (Tax accountants, I'm looking at you!) Try going a little easier on yourself during extremely busy seasons and allowing yourself to order food a set number of days per week, making sure you go back to your action plan after your busy season.
- Allowing myself one to two hours before I start work so that I'm actually awake for work and have time for meditation, Pilates, journaling, and maybe throwing in a load of laundry. I have sleeping problems and am a night owl, so easing into my morning makes a huge difference in how I deal with the rest of the day.
- Read or listen to a book for about an hour every day. I often split this into a morning and evening session, but it depends on the day. My goal is to read 35 books this year, which may not sound like much but I'm a non-fiction fan and tend to go for the longer books. What can I say? I'm also a sucker for the director's cuts of already-long movies.
- Eat from home at least five days a week. I'm a decent cook, but I don't enjoy it and would rather be doing something else. However, if I want to save money and eat better food, meal-planning and cooking is a must. I've been pretty good about sticking to this goal and only eating out or ordering in one or two nights a week.
Think about what is working and what isn't.
You probably already know which new habits and activities are working and which aren't. Review your goals and make a note of what can be kept or even improved upon, and what needs to be changed.
For example, one of your goals is to exercise three days a week, but you've only been able to fit in one or two days. Why? Are you forcing yourself to go to the gym at a time people say you SHOULD, but that time doesn't really work for you? Try a different time - your goals should work with YOUR schedule. Maybe you dread the gym. Do you prefer to exercise in private? Try videos on YouTube. Adjust your action plan so that you are more likely to reach your goals.
What I learned this quarter:
- I have to keep learning this lesson: Don't try to go from nothing to everything all at once. While we all want to rush and get to the person we hope to be – sometimes that’s too much to ask of our current selves. Don't start out saying, "I'm going to meditate, exercise, journal, and read every morning." That's a sure-fire way to not do any of it. Plan for a certain amount of days and don't plan to do everything every day. Be sure to check off what you get done every day so that you can see you’ve made progress, even if it's not everything, every day. For me, slowly adding habits to my morning routine has helped me reach my goals.
- This goes along with one of my accomplishments: realizing that getting up early doesn't help me, it just means I'm cranky and completely out of it more than I would be otherwise. Due to a sleeping disorder and what I am prescribed to get at least SOME sleep, waking up early is very difficult and not productive at all. I was able to move my start time so that I could get up at a better time for me, and it's made a huge difference after just one week.
- What works for others, and what is constantly touted by "experts," doesn't mean it's right for me. I've tried yoga many times, but it is not for me. That's why I prefer Pilates. I like the idea of yoga, but there are too many poses that hurt my knees, making it painful and not fun at all. I've tried all the tricks and for the specific knee issue I have, they don't work. And that's OK. If you try something a few times and it causes you more pain than joy -- literally or figuratively -- find something else. Just because everybody's doing it doesn't mean you have to. (I think I just heard my mother.)
Check and reassess your goals.
Are your goals still aligned with your values? If your goals no longer match how you want to live, it's time to reassess. Set up a mental quarterly review between you, yourself, and you. This quarterly review is the time to seriously think about your goals and if they are still right for you. There's nothing wrong with eliminating or changing goals -- few people get through a year without doing so.
For example, you may have told yourself that this is the year you declutter your entire house and go Minimalist. A month later, you had a family emergency and are now spending a lot of time traveling between your home and a family's home. Since you aren't home nearly as much as you had been, chances are you aren't decluttering as much as you planned. Plus, family stress can take a toll on your energy. In this situation, you may want to change that goal to decluttering one room or a few rooms, rather than your entire home. You can still meet part of your original goal and make incredible progress without running yourself ragged trying to declutter everything.
After my own reassessment, I've:
- Deleted one goal. I wanted to earn a certificate in instructional design because it looks interesting. However, once I got into my year, I realized it wasn't happening. I had a major death in my family in September, then a very scary health scare with my partner in January. My focus needed to change a bit and instructional design had to go. If things are better later, I can always add it back in, or maybe take a few of classes in the course this year instead of aiming for the whole thing.
- Postponed my first cruise to next year. As much as I want to go on that Alaskan cruise, this year I need to focus on my family and moving into a new home. A cruise takes a big chunk out of the savings I need, especially since it will be a solo cruise -- my partner is NOT a fan of boats, and that's fine. If I feel guilty about spending that money on a cruise, I will not enjoy it and will feel even more guilty, and the snowball rolls down the hill. Better to do it when I'm situated in a new place.
- Realized my hobbies are a complete mess. Well, I knew that before, but when I put them all in one place during a decluttering session -- whew! Not only do I have way more than I should (especially in this tiny apartment), but I have a ridiculous amount of WIPs (Works In Progress). I've decided to stick to my three main hobbies and not add more, so the extras were tossed or donated. I’ve also established a new goal: I will start something new for every three WIPs I finish. To be honest, a lot of them just need final touches -- sew liners into crocheted purses, add that bit of ribbon embroidery to a needlepoint canvas, etc. I'm setting aside specific days every month were I just work on (truly) finishing them.
As much as we plan, life happens. We need to understand the difference between what we can change and what we can’t and roll with it. Make sure you set aside some time this month or in early April to assess your goals and make changes as needed. Don't beat yourself up for not finishing every action item you wrote down for the first quarter. Instead, celebrate what you accomplished and consider if the rest of your goals still fit your values and life circumstances. Don't forget to set aside time to do the same at the end of each quarter. We'll do this again at the end of June -- see you then!
Setting Goals: What's Your "Why"?
Non-Traditional Alternatives to SMART Goals
More Alternatives to SMART Goals
1 “3 Simple Steps for a Quarterly Checki-In on Your Goals.” Day Designer. 4/3/19. Accessed 3/20/23. https://daydesigner.com/a/blog/3-simple-steps-for-a-quarterly-check-in-on-your-goals
2 Muntean, Christian. “How are You Doing? First Quarter Check-In.” Christian Muntean. Accessed 3/20/23. https://www.christianmuntean.com/first-quarter-check/