A New Year's Exercise to Improve the Outcomes of Your New Year's Goals


 

By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC

So, it’s the New Year again. And probably almost everyone will be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions or plans or desires about what they want to achieve during the year ahead. We seem to be oriented this way – to take stock once a year – to mark off our life journey, and use intervals to review and evaluate our course. That is what you are doing, right? Right?

I bet I probably had you with the first part – the part about making goals for the year ahead. But what about the next part – of evaluating and reviewing your course? Might you be doing the one without the other? If I’m right, I would say that if so you would be among the majority. It seems to me that many folks had all kinds of dreams, plans, goals etc. of where they want to get to or what they want to reach or achieve. But only a small percentage of those invest in reviewing their course direction, as it were. What I mean is, there are a lot of us Americans who really like to go,go,go – full steam, petal to the metal, squeeze all there is out of life, etc. etc.  I’m not saying that everyone is a high energy type. I am referring to our inner-directiveness, or drive. We want stuff! Not necessarily material stuff. It might be that we want more peace in our lives, to live in a better location or have a better or new job, or maybe a better or new relationship. I guess what I think it boils down to is that many of us would have to say we aren’t content.

Look, I’m not saying that having goals or dreams or ambition is a bad thing. I can’t say that because I have those things, too. Well, I guess I could but not in good conscience. What I am proposing is that we can all sometimes get caught up in our goals and desires in such a way that we don’t stop to reflect on what is good right now about our lives. We have a tendency to put our heads down and plow towards our goals, and we end up stepping over the very contentment and fulfillment we were striving for.

I’m not suggesting that it is easy to have contentment where you are. For many of you the circumstances are very challenging. I get why you would focus on the day when things will change. Nothing wrong with that desire at all. And I also know that there are many of you who aren’t dealing with severe life issues, although you may be dealing with other emotional struggles, you may be unhappy or you may be rather weary. Whether you are in the first category or the second,  I want to recommend an exercise in cultivating contentment.

Allow me first to present the foundation principle so that you can understand the exercise. The principle this is built on is this: that God is The Good Parent. What this means is that God is best understood in terms of how he thinks and feels about us and how he relates to us by seeing him as the parent of preschoolers. Oh – and by the way, you and I are the preschoolers.

Settle this notion that you are God’s toddler into your mind. See him as wonderfully excited by you – as parents of young kids are. See Him enjoying your eager inquisitiveness about the world around you, your every attempt to learn new things, your getting into things and making messes. Picture in your mind that even when you talk back, act out, tantrum, pout and get annoying in 100 ways that He is patient with you, since He knows that you are a preschooler and so He isn’t expecting you to be more mature than you currently are. He knows that it is HIS responsibility to develop you and grow you up to maturity. He is not worried about this happening. What this means is that God is in control of your life journey and your destiny. Like a good parent, He cares about your dreams and desires. In fact, He knew you would have them before you had them. He specifically designed you to have the dreams and desires and goals that you have.

Now, with this foundation principle in place, here’s the exercise. Every day for the next three weeks, I recommend that you take 10-15 minutes each day and you review the things you are grateful for. Begin in prayer and ask God to reveal things to you to be grateful for; to show you how He has been intimately engaged in your life journey and your life development. Ask for His perspective on the events of the past year or more. It will be more effective if you write things down.

At the end of the exercise, then go ahead with thinking and praying about your goals. See if this exercise doesn’t provide a new perspective on the way you go about making your goals, as well as the way you seek to carry them out.

I would love to hear from you about your experience with the exercise!

Drop me a line!


 

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