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Have you ever been the victim of your own inability to say ‘no’ to what doesn’t serve you? Only to crumble under the pressure of everything you’ve taken on? I’m not just talking about saying ‘no’ to others, but what about saying ‘no’ to yourself? I have always been a diligent scribe, taking notes of the endless to-dos and then forever busying myself without ever stopping to evaluate whether or not what I’m spending my time on is actually important or not. As moms, it’s especially easy to fall into the trap of trying to do and be everything for everyone. To decide if a task is important, you have to know what your goals are. That way you can evaluate if a task moves the ball in the correct direction. You don’t have time to do everything, so you must be sure that the tasks you prioritize are the important ones. Remember, if everything is important then nothing is important. The shotgun approach will get you nowhere, while laser focus will enable you to accomplish great and important goals. This is precisely the difference between people who are living a life they love and those who are not. (Sidenote: As a mom, it’s incredibly difficult to not do everything you can for your kids, but you’re actually teaching them important lessons and cultivating independence by letting them do more for themselves.)
As humans, we seem to think setting goals is formal and unnecessary. We have a vague idea of what we want, and especially if they are small things that aren’t necessarily urgent, we assume they’ll happen at some point. However, we have a default setting of treading water if we don’t know exactly what we want or how to get there. That’s the magic of making specific goals- we define what we want and how to get there, so that our subconscious, thinking brain will search for ways to get us there. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” If we can’t find the words to explain what we want, how can we expect to understand it, much less know how to start getting ourselves there? I experienced some overwhelming guilt at the end of last summer when all of the fun things I KNEW would happen simply didn’t. By the time I realized it, there was no time left. You don’t want to feel that way on your deathbed. As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” It’s essential to set your sights on specific goals so that you can direct all of your energy to achieve them.
The below 5 steps will walk you through evaluating your current life satisfaction and setting specific actionable goals to make improvements in all areas of life. The secret sauce in this method, which makes it different from anything you’ve probably done before, is setting a theme for each month. Every Adams advises, “It’s not about time, it’s about choices. How are you spending your choices?” Therefore, put thought into your choices this year and change your life!
5 Steps for Setting Theme Goals:
1) Complete a Wheel of Life assessment (to evaluate current life satisfaction)
2) Brainstorm and categorize a list of goals for each area of life
3) Prioritize each area of life so that each corresponds with a month and becomes the theme
4) Outline specifics for each theme for structure and synergy
5) Set an overall theme word for the year.
1) Wheel of Life Assessment
In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod explains a concept he calls ‘Level 10 Success’. “If we’re measuring our levels of success/satisfaction in any area of our lives, we all want to be living our best lives at a ‘Level 10’ in each area.” Creating your ‘Level 10 Life’ begins with an honest assessment of where you are currently. The “Wheel of Life” assessment is a circle graph that is divided into 10 sections; one for each major area of focus in your life. Each section has a progress bar to highlight (1 is struggling and 10 is near perfection) with the satisfaction you feel in each area of your life. As you read each section, tune in to your ‘gut feeling’ and assess how satisfied you are. When the graph is complete, it gives you a snapshot of your life satisfaction overall. It is also a great starting point to figure out what areas you need to improve first to start living your ‘Level 10 Life’. Here’s a free template you can use to do the exercise yourself. I have also added the category of “parenting” for a total of 11 areas because that feels deserving of specific focused effort.
On a blank sheet of paper do a total brain dump of all of the goals that you have in your head that you’d like to accomplish for the following year. Then assign each of those goals to an area of life. Some goals could go in two or more areas, but whichever way you classify them is fine. As you review each area, you may think of new goals, as well. I tried to brainstorm as many ideas as possible, (at least 10) in each area to push myself to think a bit more creatively. Then I went back another day to cull them down to what truly resonates and to what I want to make a priority. I broke bigger goals down into specific action steps that would enable me to make progress. I started my action steps with a verb so that when I read each one I will know what action must be taken. Some goals are ongoing and will build throughout the year, while others will be one-time tasks/events. Don’t forget to build in any great habits you may already have. Each action item that I selected will help me achieve ‘level 10 success’ for an area.
I listed all 11 areas and then prioritized them. It was challenging because all of the areas are tremendously important. While it may seem selfish to start with myself, if I’m in good health and feeling motivated and inspired I’ll be able to do a better job of meeting my goals to help others in other areas. Each area then corresponds with a month and is used as the theme. For example, whichever area of life you selected as your top priority will be the theme in January. In case you’re concerned that there are only 11 areas of life and there are 12 months, December was not forgotten 😉 December can be left open for evaluating the preceding year, revisiting any goals that weren’t completed to your satisfaction, setting goals for the following year, and/or finding ways to savor the memories with sentimental projects.
4) Theme outline
Upon reflecting on my 2018 goals, I noticed that I set goals in all different areas, but it was difficult and overwhelming to track and make sure I was making progress on them. Instead of a shotgun approach to achieving goals in all 11 categories, selecting a theme for each month is a fantastic way to bundle similar goals. Now that you have set an area of life to focus on as the theme for each month, we’ll plug our goals into a monthly goal sheet. You will select a word to focus on that compliments the overarching theme. I find including an inspiring quote is helpful. Set 1-3 big goals for the month and then smaller action goals will align with a subcategory: Personal Development (inspiration & knowledge to improve), Health & Fitness (care for my body), FUN & Recreation (places & people to see), Finance (direct money where to go), Home (ways to upgrade my environment), Systems & routines (to make the basics easier), and Relationships (ways to reach out & connect with husband, kids, family, & friends). While we set these goals annually, the goals for the current month should be reviewed daily and inform your activities throughout that month. If you set all of these great goals for the year, but do not review them at the appropriate times that you have outlined, they will not be helpful. Additionally, selecting an image to represent each month can be an excellent way to visualize how it would feel to accomplish those goals, and that gives you something to strive for.
Themes create synergy so the mind can focus and look for solutions based on a specific topic. For example, if the theme for the month (in my case March) is marriage, and you have started reading a book about how to improve your marriage (Personal Development) and you’ve instated weekly date night with your husband (Relationships), that gives you an opportunity to discuss the ideas that have come up in the book (could be related to any category in the outline).
The themes aren’t mutually exclusive and some goals can be worked toward simultaneously. For example, even though the ‘Physical Environment’ theme isn’t until September, I want to make some progress toward home improvements every month. So I try to find ways to improve my physical environment in alignment with the theme of each month. I do so by selecting a home improvement task that has no cost associated with it, as well as one with a cost (to be budgeted for). Using the ‘Marriage’ theme example, a free home improvement project would be cleaning out and organizing the junk drawer that Hubbs gets angry about every time he’s searching for something and can’t find it in there. (Here are some quick win decluttering/organization ideas to include for your monthly home improvement projects!) A goal with a cost would be a new couch for the TV room so that we can snuggle when we watch TV.
5) Overarching theme
Is there a theme that appears for the year based on your list of goals? Or maybe there’s one area that resonates with you the most? Maybe there’s one word that describes your ideal year? For next year my word is Gratitude. I want to make gratitude a priority because it’s an important skill and exercise. This word aligns beautifully with one of my life goals; to make everything that I do fun and do it with unconditional love and gratitude and always be present. As Jim Rhone advised, “Learn to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.” Gratitude is the perfect way to live in the moment and appreciate what I have and where I’m at, and it informs my goals for each month, the entire year, and moves me toward a part of my life goal. Consolidate the images that you’ve selected for each month and you have a visionboard! Are you excited to go through this process for yourself?! For an example, here’s my list of small actionable goals organized in the context of prioritized monthly themes.
It’s imperative to set goals because our language limits our lives. We must articulate our goals in order to reach them. Evaluating our current life satisfaction is the perfect place to start. When we know where we’re at, we can see if it’s where we want to be or not and if it’s not, we can brainstorm action step ideas to get there. When these actions align with the laser focus of a monthly theme, we can make progress in all areas of our lives and our actions build on multiple areas of desired improvement. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Let’s make next year the best year ever!