First: Start at the end
Ignore your goals for a minute. Start with “I want to be happier”. Just brainstorm and write down all the things you think would make you happier.
If you enjoy dreaming and imagining, try imagining your ideal life and write down what makes it ideal for you. Or you could try remembering all the times you felt really happy – what was happening? What made you happy then?
Now ask yourself: “which of these things will make me happiest?”. That’s the one to start with. Turn it into a loose goal, beginning with “I want to…..”. Don’t worry at this stage whether it looks achievable or not. That part comes next.
Second: Ask why
So now you’ve got a loosely-framed goal, which you think will lead you to being happier. Let’s see if that’s true for you.
It’s time to make your assumptions explicit and then test them.
Start with your goal and just keep asking “Why?” or “So what?” until you get to the answer “I’ll be happier”. Be brutally honest – no-one else ever has to know. Write your answers down.
Now go back and really look at your reasons again. Are they really true for you? And which ones? Is the sequence logical – does one reason really lead to the next? Does the chain really add up to you being happier?
Let’s look at an example of how this might work.
Let’s suppose you’ve chosen the goal “I want to lose weight”. Why?
“so my clothes will fit better” so what?
“so I’ll look better” so what?
“so I’ll feel better about myself” so what?
“so I’ll be happier”.
Now question your assumptions. Is it really about your clothes fitting better or you looking better? If so, you could instead buy better fitting clothes, or change your hair. Then you might realise that you don’t in fact have the money to get your hair done and buy new clothes – so you may need to focus first on increasing your income.
Or is it really about feeling better about yourself? In which case, you may not need to lose weight to achieve what you want, but work with a counsellor to help you love or accept yourself more. So your goal isn’t actually about losing weight, it’s about accepting yourself more. If you work on that, you may well find that the reason you are overweight will disappear too.
Can you see how this process might lead you to radically different goals from where you started?
The aim is to keep challenging and working on your assumptions until all the steps between the goal and “I’ll be happier” make total sense to you and feel right.
Once you’ve done this (or perhaps if you get stuck on this bit and need a new way of looking at it):
Third: “live it”
You don’t have to go and make your goal happen straight away, particularly if it involves a big change.
You can “live” your goal from the comfort of your own home. Sit or stand still and step into the shoes of yourself living as if you had achieved your goal. Try it virtually on for size. It’s suprisingly effective and can start to bring up all sorts of new ideas and questions, to help you refine your goal.
Here’s how. Make sure you step into yourself living your “new” life. You need to be looking through your eyes, feeling the feelings. Too many of us fall into the trap of watching a “movie” of our new life; watching ourselves living it. Then we start to get confused again between our own plans and what we watch on tv.
You could also really live out your goal in small ways. Rent in the countryside for a few months and see how “the dream” is in reality. Lose a few pounds and see if you are indeed happier.
Then use all that new information to refine your goals and go through the process again.
Sounds like a lot of hard work? Yes, but it can be inspiring and energising too – and way less time-consuming, exhausting and confidence-sapping than trying and failing at the wrong resolutions.
Any questions? Email me and I’ll do my best to answer.