This is the time of year we start to think about what we have or don’t have, usually spurring on our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, start working out more or accomplish something we’ve always wanted to do but never tried. We assess how we did and how we’re doing, and what we liked or didn’t liked about the previous year. While we don’t want to spend our lives in discontent, we also want to live with purpose and taking time to reflect is a great starting point.
For some twenty-somethings, this is also a time when the questioning of purpose begins. “What am I doing with my life?” Maybe you even feel a little lost, like Dory Stewart in the new TBS show Search Party, a new dark comedy about a girl who finds meaning in someone else’s story. Dory works as an assistant to a wealthy woman in New York City and she’s totally unfulfilled until she’s swept up in an adventure to find her missing friend. You don’t need to go on a manhunt for your missing friend from college to bring purpose to your life. You just need to get intentional.
Whether you had a productive year or the laziest one yet, here are a few ways you can set out to make your goals for 2017.
Write Down Clear Goals.
Without clear goals, we don’t have anything specific we’re working towards, making it easier to lose interest because of the ambiguity and general lack of direction.
A lack of the direction usually makes the goal take longer to achieve, and over lost time, it becomes harder to assess whether we’re on track with them or not. We’ve lost the game before we’ve even begun. When we take the time to write down our objectives—with numbers or other specifications—then we also take the time to really pinpoint what we need or want to change and how to get there. This makes our plan actionable instead of a vague idea or wish.
This time last year, for instance, I wrote down that I wanted to write 100,000 words, the general requirement for a book or novel, and pay off a specific amount on my car loan. Because I wrote these down and tracked my progress consistently, I was able to assess and work towards them with a very clear goal in-mind. If I wasn’t able to write enough one-week to meet that goal by the end of the year, then I made sure to double up another week. I’d do the same thing with my car payment. If I didn’t make a specified payment to reach the goal, then I’d cut back on expenses the next month to make up for it.
Maybe you want to lose a certain amount of weight. Write it down—make sure it’s practical—and begin working towards that goal one step at a time.
When I talked to others about my goals, I often had friends, or friends of friends, who wanted to join in. For instance, when people heard I was writing a book, they’d also express an interest to write. I’d invite them to join me at a coffee shop, which turned into a writer’s weekend away, then a storytelling event and more.
Instead of passively waiting on my dreams, I became an active participant in the everyday habit of working towards them. Not only that, but my action led to a community of others taking similar initiative. Finding like-minded people who continued to encourage me in my endeavors, just as I encouraged them, kept me accountable even when I started to lose interest.
If you’re not able to create that type of community with your existing friends, look for meet-ups or groups where you can work toward that with others as support; or consider asking a close family member or friend to check in with you for accountability.
Focus Your Attention.
I have to admit that it’s hard for me to sit for any length of time without checking my phone for text messages or social media updates. Over the years, it seems my attention span has gotten shorter from all of the instant distractions and multitasking. Because I know that, I also know that if I’m going to sit for any length of time, I either need to turn off my phone or put it in another room until I’m through with whatever task is before me.
Maybe your phone isn’t a distraction for you. Perhaps it’s a series of unexpected obligations. You might set aside a certain time of day to work out but then something seizes your energy or time first. This happens. Just make sure to be flexible enough that you can re-focus your attention at a later date and remove any distractions that are in your control.
If others have expectations of you as well, let them know that during certain times of the day or this specific time period, you’ll be unavailable because you’re working on whatever the task is. Give yourself permission and don’t look for the approval of others on this. While most will understand, there will be some who might push back or think you’re being selfish. Be willing to be patient with those people and yourself.
For instance, a friend of mine who started her own business had to tell her friends that throughout the month of December she’d be busy packing holiday orders and most likely wouldn’t be able to hang out until January. Most understood and the ones who didn’t soon did because she managed their expectations upfront. She knew that if she was to be successful, she had to focus her attention for this specific time period, but still took the time to assure the others in her life that they were still important.
Enjoy the Process.
Achieving a goal isn’t going to make you happy or fulfilled. That’s a very small part of a goal, and in the end, life is more than what we have or haven’t achieved. Besides, the entire process leading up to a goal is where you’ll spend most of your time and effort so make sure you make allowances to enjoy the process, otherwise you’ll miss out on the life happening around you. Remain patient, take a break when you really need one and enjoy the small accomplishments leading up to the bigger endeavor. These seemingly insignificant milestones are just as important as the goal itself.
So as you’re taking time to write out your goals this year, remember they aren’t about simply attaining, they’re about living a life of purpose and making the most of what you’ve been given or what you’ve been called to do. Knowing that you’re giving all that you have, a life that is both spent and full, is reason enough to start down a specific path towards a future where your best is before you.
Katie Connors is a social media director and writer in Nashville, where she drinks a lot of coffee and gets overly excited by whatever book she's reading. You can follow her travel adventures and book reviews on Instagram @kickinkate.