Berger: June’s a good time to check in on goals

June 15, 2013 

Michele Berger

DAN SEARS — Dan Sears UNC-Chapel Hill

In June most people want to talk about graduations, Father’s Day and the start of summer. I’m, however, inclined to ask them, “How is the vision that you set in January coming along? Do the goals you affirmed still speak to you six months later? What intentions for your year have fallen by the wayside? Is that vision board or treasure map, representing your dreams, collecting dust in a corner?”

I wish we could label June as “Jump-start Your Vision” Month. Why? Because midyear we naturally turn toward an assessment of how the year has been going for us. Coaches often get a lot of work in June, most of it involving supporting people in creating forward momentum for pursuing a vision and tweaking their goals.

For many, the energy, commitment and intention to pursue a big vision can fizzle out by February. The fitness industry often labels people who sign up for a membership at the beginning of the year, “January Joiners.” Historically, by the second week of February, most of the newcomers won’t be seen again until late May (scared by the approach of summer).

Some people get discouraged if they’ve tried something for 30, 40 or even 90 days and haven’t seen results. We’ve all heard this mantra before – if you want to form a new habit or quit an old one, try something for 21, 28, or 30 days. Despite what we’ve heard from advertisers, some psychologists and self-help experts, there is little scientific evidence to support the idea that effort over any specific time period will automatically produce a positive behavioral change. Now, isn’t that liberating? Sometimes we can make rapid change in a short amount of time and sometimes we have to redouble our effort and change takes longer.

So, I say before we declare that in any given year, we’re going to do “x” for “x” number of days or weeks, let’s check in with ourselves. If the change we’d like make is in an area of life where nothing else has seemed to work, then OK, maybe we should go for an intense 30- or 40-day challenge, but then I advocate asking for support in a public way – solicit friends to help with accountability, or work with a coach. If people want to tweak a positive habit (i.e. something they are already doing, but would like to do more of), then I recommend choosing a smaller increment (10 days as opposed to 21 days), and to enjoy the sweet spot of repetition.

I review three key areas with clients in jump-starting their vision midyear:

•  Design and desire. We look at what’s not working and why. Let’s take the example of someone who created a goal to make a green smoothie every week and then stopped. I might explore how this goal sounded excellent in the abstract, but the design wasn’t very manageable (because of time, cost of materials, and/or motivation).

I’d then discern if the underlying desire for the client is to possess better health and increased energy. If so I’d strategize to see if we can fulfill this desire by designing a more effective pathway, strategy or behavior. The elements of design and desire need to be in sync for effective goal setting.

•  Buffets and three meals a day. In looking at action steps in pursuing goals, I contrast eating at buffets versus planning three healthy meals a day. We can fall into a trap of constantly taking actions (or piling up our plates at a buffet) that don’t really serve us and dissipate our energy. For example, I work with many creative writers who spend so much time developing their platform (i.e. creating a Facebook page, posting multiple Tweets, writing on a blog, etc.) that they have less energy to deepen their craft. We need to plan a series of thoughtful actions (like our daily meals) as a staple for reaching our goals.

•  Questions and answers. Writer, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” The great thing about a midyear vision check-in is that enough time has passed to ask deeper questions of ourselves than we could in January. Employing a sense of wonder and gratitude, we can track the insights, synchronicities, and serendipity that has shown up our lives since the beginning of the year. With our environment in full bloom, we can feel supported by physical lushness while digging a bit deeper in our internal gardens.

Michele Tracy Berger is a professor, creativity coach and writer. Readers may contact her at mtb@creativetickle.com.

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