New Year’s Resolutions – let’s get real do they have any real chance of success? I don’t have a prejudice against resolutions because they are founded in making a positive change in a person’s life, and what can be wrong with that? I’ve certainly made resolutions in the past, some have succeeded some have failed right out of the gate. So what is it about resolutions that makes it so hard for them to stick? I think it’s because we make lofty resolutions with no real plan or breakdown of how to really get there.
“I want to lose weight.” But there’s no real plan about how many times to go to the gym or how to change your diet. Or so many people feel they have to use a cookie cutter approach that they are doomed to fail at. There’s no set of goals to break down the big resolution and there’s no taking into account what works for you.
I took a long hard look at where I have succeeded and where I have failed and I’ve taken a new approach to 2016. Instead of making resolutions, I have made a list of goals. What’s the difference? For some, it is just changing out a word that means just about the same thing. But for me, they are smaller, more manageable ways of making positive change in my life. They are also things that take into account what works best for me and if I work at it I feel I can succeed!
The most important element in setting goals for the New Year is to see where you are now. Right now, where are you financially? Spiritually? Professionally? Physically? Emotionally? Socially? Gather where you are at this very moment and when you leap into the new year track yourself by the month and see how you are progressing, but don’t beat yourself up when things are dramatically changed right away. Goals take time and reaching a goal takes even more time. Remember, be patient with yourself, commit yourself to your goals and know it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!
Career & Professional Life:
1. Earn a Promotion. I’m ambitious – could you tell? I’ve had my job for a little over two months and I’m already seeking a promotion? Well, yeah, but I’m not expecting one to be handed to me once I get back from holiday vacation. Rather, I’m hoping to dive in with what the rest of the year holds for me and be ambitious with what I can learn and work toward. The first year in a new job is a learning experience with typically sitting back and learning. But I would much rather take a proactive approach and learn while also doing. I want to extend my reach and not just learn on the job, but show that I have something to offer. I’ve already hit the ground running, so my goal for 2016 is to capitalize on my work ethic and what I already know in order to take the next step in my career.
2. Join a Professional Organization. With whatever industry you are in, there’s some type of organization that you can join outside of your office walls to get help in growing your skills and knowledge. For me being in the nonprofit world, the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) are two that would be strong assets to me in growing in my career (and making that promotion more realistic!). My goal is to dive in and learn more and not just having one narrow focus. I want to put myself out into the community, meet other leaders in the industry and see just how I can become a better professional.
3. Finish a Draft of my Book. I have started writing a book that focuses on millennial spirituality. It has been a culmination of what I’ve learned through my own experiences and in building a relationship with God and finding Him in all things. I’ve felt a passion toward this writing project and every time I sit down to type something up I can just feel the end result through my fingertips. I’ve only managed to get out a small fraction of the book altogether, but I’m hoping to give more time in 2016 to getting a solid draft done!
4. Find my Freelance Power. “You Should Freelance.” I’ve heard these three words more than I care to count and I’ve been more than lax with following through with making it happen. In 2016, I’m hoping that the work I’ve done on my blog will be a jumpstart to start freelancing. With my experience writing columns at my college newspaper and my love for exploring Buffalo and the world around me, I think freelancing is a great goal to work toward in 2016.
Health & Fitness:
5. Find a Routine that Works. Let’s get something straight – I don’t want to be a bodybuilder and I’m not a gym rat. I’m not the typical guy that can eat chicken and rice for every meal nor can I drink protein shakes like they are water. Sure, I can try but why set myself up for failure by using a cookie cutter approach that doesn’t fit me? I know I’ve gotten out of shape so my exercise goal is to not lose a certain amount of weight or stick to a specific routine, but rather just find a routine that works for me. I’ve subbed in a volleyball league over fall and into the winter and it was a lot of fun. It got me back to a sport I love and had me sweating like I’ve never sweat before. So why not make that one way of exercising? I’ve also been told by dozens of people that I should try yoga if not for the exercise purpose but to alleviate my stress. So why not give that a shot and see if that works for me?
6. Cut the 3 C’s. Coca-Cola. Coffee. Carbs. They are the trifecta that have me off my health game. Coca-Cola is my weakness – it is like a drug (actually it might as well be one). I’m cracking a can and slugging it down as soon as it catches my eye. I know I need to limit my indulgence if for nothing else than cutting those 22 teaspoons of sugar per can out of my system! Then there’s coffee. It isn’t the worst in the world, I’ve even gotten better at limiting my cream and sugar intake, too. I’m down to a large single-single (much improved from the triple/triple days!). However, when I drink coffee at work, I hardly drink water, which is a recipe for disaster. Then there are the carbs. When I was trying to eat healthy, I was still loading myself with carbs and really not enough of the protein and fats that I needed. So I’m not going on a crazy diet, but rather trying to make a few simple changes and substitutions to see if I can eat better and reap the rewards of doing so.
7. Combat and Manage Stress. I’m impatient. I’m a worry wort. I’m a ball of stress. So combating stress whether it’s learning to meditate, exercising through yoga, getting better sleep or just learning to breathe, will be quite the goal to achieve. I know through the examen (which you’ll read about below) has a natural meditative spirit to it, and being committed to exploring different fitness avenues, I’m hoping that I can really manage this better. It’ll allow me to not crack under pressure and allow me to enjoy my spare time and learn better from my mistakes.
Money & Finance:
8. Cut my Car Payment Timeline by 1/2 Year. I’ve been pretty good about paying more on my car payment than the monthly bill. When I bought a new car I picked a four-year financing plan so that payments were manageable but wouldn’t be a drawn out process in paying back my car loan. I’ve managed to pay $15 more a month and upped than to $65 once I got my new job. So I’m hoping that by making higher payments and hopefully paying off my car in full by the end of 2018, I’ll give myself more financial freedom down the line. Saving on that interest, and erasing several car payments can allow me to put more of my money toward my savings and retirement.
9. Save for that 3-Month Emergency Fund. I’m very good with my money so I don’t struggle with making ends meet or living beyond my means. But there are two big things to consider when wanting to be on a sound financial foot. Limited or nonexistent debt and strong savings. By limiting my car payments by paying more on my principal, I’m limiting my debt. Therefore, my second financial goal of building up an emergency fund (equal to three months income) is the next thing to accomplish. If any catastrophe comes up, I know I’ll have a cushion to work with.
10. Challenge Myself. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I am always up for a challenge and trying something new. This year I want to do things that really push me to my limit and scare the hell out of me! Whether it’s something new or different, or completely out of my comfort zone, I want to really push my limits. I’m already thinking that a big way to challenge myself will be to run a half marathon at the Buffalo Marathon at the end of May. I used to run all the time, but this will be a stretch since I’ve neglected any type of health commitment as of late. But if I sign up now, there’s no backing out!
11. Have More Fun. I work hard there’s no doubt about it. Through my work, I feel a sense of accomplishment and success, but I often lose track of having fun and enjoying the time I have outside of work. Having a stable routine makes me want to take advantage of my spare time and really see what’s out in the world. Whether it’s getting into a sports league or meeting friends out for drinks and trivia, I’ve slowly found ways of enjoying my spare time. For 2016, I want to take steps in assuring that I’m not just working hard, but enjoying life along the way. Anyone in for some fun exploring Buffalo and the world beyond? Maybe going skydiving or starting a poker league?
12. Make Reading a Habit. I LOVE to read and what was my Christmas list loaded with? Books! But I have made a bad habit of asking for books and not reading them. So I really want to make reading a habit. I know I won’t be able to read for fun every single night, but I do want to squeeze in reading to the point where I can read one book a month. I don’t just want to read one book a month, but I want to read a different type of book each month. I’m hoping that expanding my horizons and reading different genres will be a different way of being enlightened and will hopefully help my writing as a result, too!
13. Travel. 2014 was my year of traveling. I traveled to the far ends of the country from Maine to California, but 2015 was a year of being planted in Buffalo. Since I’m now going to be staying here for the near future, I want to plan one trip that allows me to get away and explore a place that is new. I have longed for a vacation to get away and see a new part of the country so this year I want to make it happen. I know I can’t take as many trips as I have in the past, but getting one getaway in 2016 will scratch my wanderlust itch! Using some vacation time to get out of your own surroundings, see a new place and get a different taste of the world is something I have grown a fondness for!
14. Give Back Regularly. I am a man who loves philanthropy – I have made it my career after all! When I worked on my own personal fundraiser, Matt’s Mission, I had a blast volunteering and raising money. Now that it is my career it can be easy to neglect the power I have in my free time to give back elsewhere. The beauty about my job is that it is a Catholic organization that prides itself on serving the community. In January, the staff is offered the chance to take a day to volunteer, which I am excited about! But I want to be able to make this a regular occurrence, especially now that I have a routine that is very much stabilized. My goal is to volunteer somewhere at least once a month, and to incorporate some small act of kindness once a day. I remember as a kid having “do a small act of kindness every day” engrained into my brain. So I want to bring that back now as an adult. And really how can that be an ambitious or lofty goal? It’s simple, it’s reasonable and it’s perfectly manageable whether you are a kid or an adult.
15. Find my Sunday Spot.
Ever since leaving Canisius it has been so difficult to find a place that is just right for me to go every Sunday for Mass. There are certain places I like to go, but not one that has left me feeling like I want to come back every week. That is huge for spirituality. I do believe that you don’t just need mass to explore and live your faith, but it certainly does give you bookends with which to frame your spiritual life in and I need that frame. So a simple goal for me in 2016 is to be a bit of a migrator in finding my Sunday spot, then commit to getting to Mass every Sunday!
16. Commit to the Examen. After doing the Spiritual Exercises, I wondered how I could keep the power of that experience going even after I completed the journey. The truth is that the Exercises are never done – I still talk with my Spiritual Director, although I need to do that more regularly. The examen is really the perfect way to keep myself fulfilled with my faith and also growing in my spirituality. Each day you take into account everything that happened – what you are grateful for, and sorry for, but also that which made you experience God’s presence and closer to Him, or maybe pulled you away from Him. From there you pray and reflect on your day and look forward to the new day that awaits. It’s the Exercises in a nutshell and would be the perfect way to get back on track with my faith life. My goal is to find a time where the examen works best for me and make it a habit to do each day and to coincide it with time to journal.
You may read this and think – 16 goals, is this kid nuts? Yes, I am! But I also know that making some lofty resolution and hoping it’ll work itself out isn’t plausible. Rather I would rather focus on smaller, tangible goals that all weave themselves into one another to make real and lasting change!
I learned that I, like many, have big visions for the future, but struggle with breaking down the goals to get to that big picture. So I know that tracking my progress and keeping myself on track will be difficult, but something I’m determined to stick to. I know all my goals weave into one another. They’ll allow me to grow as a professional and as a person, allow me to feel more appreciation and give back while also giving myself more enjoyment out of life and better financial, physical and spiritual health!
Let’s hope with these goals I’ll see some strong, positive improvement in 2016! Join me in 2016 and see how it all develops!
What goals do you have for 2016? Sound off in the Comments Section below!!