Goal Setting in January? You don’t have to!

By amandaalexander | Goals

It was about 3pm on Sunday 2nd January, the rain was incessant and the sky was dirty grey. I had spent 2 hours taking down the decorations and hoovering the pine needles and before that another 2 hours clearing out Freddie’s wardrobe.

I laid a fire, made myself a cup of tea and lit some candles in the living room. I had already printed out a workbook.

I was finally ready to review my year and set my fabulous goals for 2016.

But it didn’t quite go as I’d expected. I pretty much drew a blank with every question in the workbook.

I tried to answer questions like this:

“What amazing things did you achieve in 2015?”

I thought of some things I’d achieved, but they didn’t feel particularly amazing.

“What tools and resources have helped you succeed this year?”

I couldn’t think what helped me succeed. I could, however, remember the “tools” that had sucked up my time and caused me grief and frustration when they didn’t behave as expected.

“What made you happiest this year?”

Ah… now this was much easier. I scribbled down:

“Being outdoors, moving, getting muddy, swimming in lakes and rivers, dancing, larking around with the bloke, the company of good friends and fascinating people, cuddling my boys, laughing, being silly. Doing what I love in my business – connecting, coaching, speaking”.

Feeling more positive, I got to the part of the workbook inviting me to “manifest” an amazing year.

I couldn’t think in terms of amazing. I wasn’t feeling inspired or fired up. I started feeling like a fraud. Surely I should be able to describe my plans for the year without even pausing?

On Sunday 2nd January, the day after the hangover from hell (because I’d had a REALLY good New Year’s Eve larking around with lovely friends dancing and being silly), with that incessant rain still falling from the lowest, darkest of skies, the only amazing thing I could think of manifesting was a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

Then I read 3 words that were supposed to inspire me, but which actually made me feel like crawling under a blanket and hibernating…

“BEST YEAR YET”

Have you heard that phrase yet? More than once, perhaps? I’m guilty as charged – it’s a phrase that I have used myself in previous years. But “best year yet” wasn’t doing it for me. I wondered how I’d feel about this phrase if, like many people, I was in the middle of a big life challenge.

Of course, we can set intentions and get really positive and follow through on our intentions. But there WILL be downs as well as ups throughout the year. Let’s face it, none of us will come to the end of 2016 with jaw-ache because we had a fixed grin on our faces for 365 days.

And that’s perfectly normal and fine.

But I could feel myself getting anxious about it. One of the voices in my head – Ms Inner Critic – had already piped up:

“Call yourself a Coach? Call yourself a positive person? You’re a FRAUD. How can you coach people when you can’t even set your New Year goals”

Ms Inner Critic got into her stride:

“If you can’t even set goals and be positive, how on earth are you going to succeed this year? You’re just going to meander through the year and get nowhere. You’ll be a failure.”

I listened to Ms Inner Critic, stayed with the anxious feelings and got curious…

What if it doesn’t matter if I’m not feeling inspired?
What if I’m just buying into a load of self-development “thou shalt” dogma without applying my own common sense to it?
So what if I don’t feel particularly excited right now?

Which is when the other strange voice in my head – Ms Inner Coach – gently whispered…

“I bet there are LOTS of people struggling with goal setting in January”

So I created a little meme on my phone to express my feelings, thinking it might help one or two people to read it. I wrote:

“Actually… you DON’T have to set brilliant goals in this first week in January. It’s all OK… the year will unfold and there will be plenty of opportunities ahead.
With love from Amanda xx”

I posted it on my personal Facebook timeline. The response has taken me by surprise. To date, 113 people have liked it, 13 have shared it and the comments? Well.. they can be summed up in one word:

“Phew!”

If you’re all fired up, you’ve set great goals and you’re convinced that 2016 will be your best year ever, then this is GOOD and I’m cheering you on. And of course, in this case, this particular post isn’t going to float your boat!

However, if you are feeling a bit “meh”, not quite ready to take on 2016 or just a bit unclear as to what a great 2016 will look like, then this is for you..

Here’s what to do instead:

1. First of all, here’s your PERMISSION SLIP:

* You hereby have my permission to feel less than brilliant or amazing in January.
* It’s OK if you’re not ready to set goals.
* It’s OK if you’re still transitioning from Christmas.
* And guess what, you don’t even have to set a date by when you WILL set goals.
* Let it be – I know it feels uncomfortable. You want to feel good and that will come. Just go with the flow!

2. Here’s what you absolutely do NOT HAVE to do this month:

* Set any goals
* Set the intention that this will be your best year yet
* Take part in Dry January
* Take part in any challenges
* Go on a detox
* Stick to your resolutions
* Beat yourself up because you broke your New Year’s resolution today, yesterday or even on 2nd January.

You can if you want – but you don’t HAVE to.

3. Seek your moments of “flow”

When do you feel “in flow”? Being in flow is when you are so captivated and happy in your present moment that you forget to tell yourself that you’re rubbish or that your life isn’t perfect and that you’re a rubbish parent because you haven’t created a balanced meal plan for the week.

It’s when you are absolutely present in the moment. It might be walking in the countryside, laughing with your best friend, when you’re in a team meeting and you’re brainstorming ideas. It might be when you’re in a warm bath reading a trashy novel. You could be swimming, dancing, climbing, singing, playing the ukulele or driving your car with the radio turned up loud with one of your favourite tunes.

The trick to finding your moments of flow is tuning into your core values. What makes you feel that you are truly alive, living in integrity, soaring? Usually, our moments of flow are fully aligned to one or more of our core values. For example, I love being outdoors, I love meeting new people – values of freedom/adventure and of connection. So I’m in flow when I’m doing something outdoors or engaged in a fascinating conversation.

And here’s the thing – The more you can seek out and indulge in your moments of flow, the more you’ll start to feel inspired, see opportunities and get clear on what you want in 2016.

Next week, I’m going to share with you a great alternative to goal setting this year. It’s come about, funnily enough, from a fascinating coaching conversation with one of my clients, Grace Marshall, who always inspires me.

Until then, relax, be kind to yourself and go with the flow!

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  • Caroline

    Such refreshing advice, Amanda. Thank you!
    Caroline