When we enter a new year, be it in the biblical, Hebraic calendar or in the Gregorian calendar, there takes place a shift. Sometimes it is as subtle as a slight change in the weather… or it can be the slightest change in our behavior or mood… while at other times, everything in our lives from family, to time, task, and activities alters drastically.
Some changes we consider good, others bad. But with any change that comes our way, there are certain things we can do to better prepare ourselves and improve ourselves in the process.
“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.”—Unknown
The start of a new year often prompts people to create plans for change. In the weeks leading up to and on into the first month, there is an increased drive to get houses in order—literal and figurative. Like a bird preparing its nest for the increase to come, we suddenly look back on what has been and, with eager eyes, seek out a better future—a greater increase—through our efforts of preparation and change.
Goals are made, but often quickly broken. When that happens, we are left with a sense of inadequacy at our mountain of goals never climbed. In fact, as the years go by and more unfinished goals are left unachieved, fewer goals tend to be made. We may even make them, but with the silent knowledge that we have no intention of keeping them. Yet, there are ways we can lessen these failures and promote success. We CAN create goals and follow through!
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”—Mark Twain
Some things that can help us create goals we can follow through with, are:
- Create ATTAINABLE goals, habits, and patterns
If our goals are not within the realm of attainability for US personally—after all, we each know our own strengths and weaknesses—then how are we going to succeed? We need to know what we want to achieve, figure out what steps are needed to get there, and then determine if we need to make them smaller or larger for where we are now. Remember, goals and the steps to reach them can always be altered later if we did not dream big enough or misjudged our ability to follow through. Finding a level of attainability at the start is always best.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”—Vincent Van Gogh
- Create a plan that includes SMALL steps toward the larger goal
When we create a goal without a step-by-step plan, the goal, no matter how large or small, can appear daunting; potentially causing doubt, fear, delay, or a desire to quit before or soon after beginning. Creating small steps that we can implement on a daily, weekly, or AT MOST, monthly level, allows us to see our goals in a more accurate light. It can show what we need to do or how to make better steps as we progress through them. It can teach us that goals are possible; increasing belief in our ability to achieve goals as we start to see goals not as giant leaps, but as small steps.
“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”—John Wanamaker
- Choose a TIME OF COMPLETION for each goal
Some goals may be smaller or easier to achieve in a shorter amount of time, while others may be far more long-term in nature. We need to understand that not all goals are “created equal” and that expecting all our goals to be completed at the same time is not fair on us and can set us up for failure. When we have realistic time-frames for each goal, success is much more likely. Yet, we have to remember that life happens, good and bad, and this may alter our time-frame—this is not an excuse to procrastinate, but instead a reminder not to berate ourselves over things we cannot control.
“Small steps, over time, move mountains.”—Unknown
- REMEMBER that IT TAKES TIME to create a new habit or pattern
Patience is key. Even with the implementation of small, frequent goals toward our ultimate goal, it takes time for habits and patterns to become instinctive. On average it takes two months or more—18 to 254 days being the typical range—before habits or patterns are instinctive. So, if we feel as if our step-by-step plan is difficult to achieve at first, that is normal. If we can get past the first two to three months in our goal, it WILL become easier and more automatic. Just like riding a bicycle without training wheels, it can be challenging at first and take time and patience until the new balance clicks in. Once we set our small steps toward a final goal and stick with it, we can establish and become comfortable with the new routine.
(Research on the time it takes to create new habits conducted by, Phillippa Lally)
“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so that when you look back down the road, it all adds up and you know you covered some distance.”—Katie Kacvinsky
- Limit the NUMBER of goals you set for yourself
At the start of a new year it can be tempting to look back at the past and see EVERYTHING we want to change… and then decide to change it ALL. However, if we have too many goals to complete, things can become muddled. We begin to bounce between goals, forgetting some and obsessing over others… then remembering the forgotten ones and dropping the old obsession for the new one, trying to play catch-up.
When we create a few SOLID goals—with steps, timeframes, etc.—we can give them the attention they deserve, AND increase our satisfaction toward the desired outcome. One to three major goals, with perhaps a few minor goals thrown in, will create a much higher success rate. Further, when we regularly succeed in our goals, we tend to have greater levels of contentment and are more likely to begin and complete new goals.
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”—Helen Keller
Even though there may be other methods we could follow to create successful goals, following the steps listed above gives us a firm foundation for creating and fulfilling whatever goals we choose… be it at the start of a new year, or whenever we feel prompted to improve ourselves and our lives.
We at My Olive Tree hope this helps everyone to not only create better goals, but that we may all find success in every step… knowing that each step in our goal is valuable toward our ultimate success.
With each step it is important to remember that every goal is a process. While it is not always easy, patience is essential. We need to remember that any movement toward a goal—even the smallest of steps—puts us in a better place than if we had never begun. And in the end, it is the small steps that lead to great victories!
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”—Robert Louis Stevenson