Today's blog post is brought to you from the beach. It's one of those long, slightly curved expanses of beach with a few family groups dotted along. Remarkably empty for a hot day in peak holiday season.
Small waves lap the shore. Rocky outcrops sit at either end and the scrubby Australian bushland loiters behind. It's 31 degrees, the sun is hot, there's not a cloud in the sky. Our two small boys are digging holes in the sand by the water's edge with the assistance of a dozen cousins; big and small, boys and girls.
I've sat myself down in a beach chair under a large shade tent and flatly refused to move. I'm feeling lazy and languorous. My head has that slightly dull, slow-to-fire feeling of holidays and maybe a little bit too much wine last night but I'm still keen enough to pick up my notepad and favourite pink writing pen to jot down my thoughts and ideas. This was the plan, to finally find the space and time to write at my leisure rather than snatching moments here and there and wishing there were more.
It's time to think about my plans and projects for 2015. More accurately, it's time to shape the little mini thoughts and idea fragments that are washing around in my head into something more structured, more formal. To create a proper plan for the year.
I'm not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. The very idea smacks of restraint, of restriction, of limits and rules. Things that psychologists call 'avoidance' goals - ceasing a behaviour, eliminating certain activities, chastising when there's an inevitable slip. I'd much rather focus on growing, learning, improving and achieving. These are known as 'approach' goals - goals that encourage competence, performance, trying new things and developing new skills. So this year I'm spinning things around to focus on my Personal Projects for 2105.
There are a couple of upsides to this:
- I'm moving the focus from the New Year (a ten day focus at best; no-one's talking about New Year in April) to the whole year. My 2015 Personal Projects will be just as relevant in December as they are today. What's more, it takes the pressure off the need for miraculous changes in behaviour and the instant creation of new habits if I've got all year to work on them.
- I can shape and mould, tweak, add and revise my projects as I go along. If it's about growth and learning I will try things, do more of what works, less of what doesn't. The end goal can remain the same - or maybe change as I learn and grow - but the path to reach it might weave and wend and that's ok.
The basics of good goal setting still apply:
- Keep it simple. You've got a much better chance of success if you create a series of simple mini goals rather than anything too complex.
- Be realistic about what you might achieve. Always better to under promise and over deliver - even to yourself.
- Find a way to track your progress. This is where breaking your project or goal into simple steps can be really helpful. Much easier to tick each little step you take off the list, see your progress and maintain your motivation.
- Reward your successes - especially if it's a tough slog. Plan your reward ahead of time so that you have something to work towards.
- Make sure your project is something you really want to do and not just something that you feel you should do. Shoulds are a surefire bummer as far as achievement is concerned.
In the spirit of sharing and commitment, here are the headlines for my personal projects for 2015:
- Raise my blog profile and see if I can make it fund itself. I absolutely LOVE writing and I want to spend as much of 2015 doing it as I can but competing priorities (kids, food, a house to build) mean that the pressure will be on this year to spend more time making money. There must be a win-win here.
- Return to regular yoga practice and step it up a little. I was good in 2014 but I will be better this year both in regularity and focus.
- Save money. Have to earn it first but there's a plan....
- Focus on professional development. I will be Chair of our local Australian Psychological Society this year and I have a commitment to the local psychology peeps as well as myself to get actively involved in what's going on nationally and locally. Shouldn't be hard as I love to learn but I need to be disciplined and set aside designated time.
So that's me and my plans for this new bright shiny year. What does 2015 hold in store for you?