Going into the New Year most people take the time to reflect and review. “R”s that gain almost as much respect as Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic (ironic, since upon reflection those famous ‘R’s aren’t actually ‘R’s at all…what do they teach in schools these days?). As a highly paid educator, I’ve found this time of year becomes quite valuable—if it is used wisely. Once upon a time, I spent the majority of the holiday rushing around, trying to do a lot which, quite frankly held very little value. I even wound up (gasp!) working over the holiday. So instead of returning to the second half of the school year refreshed—I returned more like pack animal, just piling on ‘one more thing’ so that by the time the end of the year rolled around in June I was ready to call it quits.
That’s not how I approach this time of year any more. It became too exhausting. My new approach—one of self-reflection and re-orientation, is liberating.
Some people make resolutions: pie-crust promises to themselves for improvement over the upcoming year. But before the end of January they’re typically off the treadmill and first in line at the Cinnabun stand just like they were the previous January. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good Cinnabun, and I have nothing against weight-loss goals. But a pie-crust promise, easily made is easily broken. So I don’t tie myself down with useless resolutions, but rather I set achievable, measurable goals for the upcoming year, that measure ways that I want to grow for the next five or ten years. I learned a very important lesson about myself in the past few years: I need to change. We all do. It’s part of the evolutionary process of life. Not Darwinism, but the adaptation necessary to survive. Species survive when they adapt and change. Humans are the same way. We don’t like change, but we need it. It’s the only way that we can become who we are created to be—living breathing CHANGING organisms. Making resolutions is admirable, but turning them into a goal-oriented, driven lifestyle full of ambition. That is productive.
During this process of change I’ve learned to do two things.
- Write down my goals.
- Find accountability.
Writing down your goals:
Writing down your goals may seem stupid, but there is something binding about having a written plan. Legal documents are written, witnessed, even notarized. Shouldn’t you take your future just as seriously? Don’t just say you want to lose weight, write this goal down and make it measurable and achievable.
Goal # 1: Over the course of the next three months I will lose 10 pounds by eating healthier and going to the gym at least three times a week.
Then you can map out your plan (If you need help, may I suggest Ruth Soukup’s blog, Living Well and Spending Less. She has some fabulous resources, including a free ebooklet about setting measurable goals.)
I’m single, so being held accountable for anything can get, well, difficult. But even if you are married, asking your spouse to keep you accountable for your goals can put a strain on your relationship (honey, does it look like my diet plan is working? Seems like a loaded question and a great way to set yourself up for a dishonest response or a fight). Accountability doesn’t have to be with someone you live with. In fact it is a great way to help build relationships, and there are many ways to be held accountable for your goals, but if you don’t have someone to hold you accountable—chances are you’ll begin to make excuses little by little until the goal seems less and less important.
If you’re a writer, try a critique group or a writing group in your area. If you’re looking to meet spiritual goals, find a small group to join (church is a great place to start, but small groups are where real relationships are built and where accountability happens).
Zig Ziglar said it best: “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the real problem. We all have 24-hour days. “
Creating a plan, sticking to the plan and having accountability for that plan is how people accomplish great things. And how I plan out my new year.
Imagine what we could accomplish this year if we Taylor Swift the negatives and the bad attitudes and “Shake it Off”. What if we ALL pull a Frozen on the bad habits and “Let it Go”. If each and every one of us determine to use the next 366 days (yes, it’s a leap year!) to accomplish something great, well we might just change the world.
Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow published by Indigo Sea Press. She has a Bachelor’s in English from UNC-Wilmington and currently teaches 9th, 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Ashley lives with her dog, Emma, near Columbia, South Carolina.