At the beginning of every year, so many of us take time to think about and resolve to accomplish a goal, implement a new habit or start a new project. But how many of us take the time to gain clarity around our life’s purpose, goals and dreams? I mean, who has time for that between work, kids, managing cases over the holidays…it seems never to end. Never mind the time spent with family and friends.
Have you already felt your New Year’s Resolutions slip away into the “maybe next year” column? So how do we gain clarity around the important things in life and find time to accomplish a new project or goal?
It may seem cliché, but it all goes back to every 5–year–old’s favorite question, “Why?”
When we are feeling lost or wondering why we aren’t making the progress we were hoping for, ask yourself, “Why was I pursuing this goal, dream or idea?” Chances are, we either don’t remember, or it wasn’t a powerful reason for sticking it out during the tough times.
Once you’ve answered, “Why was I pursuing this?”, then flip the question and ask yourself if your ‘Why’ is strong enough to keep you on track when pursuing that goal gets hard—or you, quite simply, just don’t feel like it.
For example, I was talking to a colleague and her stated reasons for her health and fitness goals were to improve her relationships with her husband and son, and because she would feel better. So, I asked her, “Is feeling better a strong enough reason to overcome the ‘I don’t feel like it today’? Is improving your relationship with your family a strong enough reason to make a healthier food choice or go for a run when you don’t feel like it?”
I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that ‘because I should’ or the idea that ‘I’ll probably feel better’ fell by the wayside when push came to shove; however, her relationships were incredibly important, and she found a reason to pursue healthier habits that she could stick with, even on the toughest days.
Take a few minutes and revisit your New Year’s Resolutions, or start one today, and ask yourself these questions.
If you are finding this task difficult, I get it, I’ve been in your shoes. Sometimes we struggle to gain clarity in life and figure out what our ‘Why’ even is, especially around random New Year’s Resolutions that we didn’t put much time and effort into, or surrounding our decisions about which goals we want to achieve in 2019.
Another question that can help us gain clarity is asking ourselves, “What do I value most in life right now?”
Thinking back to our previous example, my colleague valued her relationships the most. Even if you didn’t come up with the reason before, now it seems obvious, right? Simply looking at the same idea through another lens or from another angle can help us gain amazing clarity and help us achieve our goals even faster.
Need another perspective? Take a moment and think about someone you are mentoring or a high school student who wants to become a veterinarian. If they asked you, “What has made you the most successful in life?” What would you tell them? Chances are those are the skill-sets and values that will also help you to successfully achieve your current goals.
Still struggling? Break out your journal and write these questions down with good old–fashioned pen and paper. Then keep writing whatever comes to mind. We know from scientific studies of college students that the students who took notes with pen and paper performed better on tests, especially on questions that required students to conceptualize or comprehend information compared with those who took notes on a laptop.1
The hypothesized reasoning was that writing by hand requires you to interpret what you hear which improves comprehension and your ability to conceptualize information. When typing, students were more focused on transcribing the information to ensure they captured everything, rather than thinking about what they just heard and deciding what to write.
Finally, take a minute to complete this statement and discover your current ‘Why’. My big WHY in life right now, something that is driving me, that is worth the struggle, something that is bigger than just me, something that I am willing to fight for is…and the reason it’s important to me is…
I find that working towards goals and dreams that are about something bigger than just myself and that align with my core values are infinitely easier to achieve (or strive for) than those that would merely be nice to accomplish. +
1. Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159–1168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614524581