Goals must be esteemable. Those that are not esteemable—which do not add to your sense of self worth, your positive perception of who you are and what you are worthy of—are rarely met. In order for decisions to stick, you must genuinely believe they are good and healthy for you, you deserve that goodness, and achieving them will bring you, as my life and business partner Zara Green says, H.E.R.: Honor, Esteem and Respect.
Goals must be rooted in pragmatic self-love. If you do not truly believe that achieving a goal is good for you, you will not accomplish it. More importantly, if you don’t love yourself enough to accept absolutely nothing less than what is good for you—you will be easily dissuaded from it by others, or by your own doubts and feelings of unworthiness. Furthermore, if your goal is rooted in the need to please or earn the love or approval of anyone other than yourself, you will either fail to achieve it, or doing so will bring you not esteem, but rather emptiness, disillusionment and even resentment. Needless to say, these are disincentives to you remaining faithful to your commitment. The pursuit of an esteemable goal must be out of love, not guilt or obligation.
Goals must be about choosing what you want, not merely removing what you don’t want. I read somewhere that worrying is praying for what you don’t want. Focusing on what you don’t want—stress, poor health, strife, conflict, poverty, mistreatment—only brings you more of what you don’t want. That’s why, for example, a person who resolves to end an unhappy relationship, in the absence of a clearly defined standard for a happy one, will find themselves in one just like it, with a different person, repeating the cycle. Effective goal-setting—again, as an act of esteem and self-love—is not about getting rid of what you don’t want, but being clear about and focused on what you do want in your life, on a daily basis.
Goals must be specific and measurable, not vague and open-ended. This is not news to you productivity and efficiency experts out there. To show the difference, here are a few of my goals for 2014 (along with comparable, common resolutions): I will gain 5 lbs and reduce my body fat to 8 percent (not, “I will go back to the gym and exercise more); I will take vacation and reserve a hotel suite for a writing retreat to finish a manuscript (not, “I will work on my book”); I will complete 15 hours of online courses for entrepreneurs at LinkED U (not, “I’ll get better at social media marketing for my business). It is impossible to look at a list that specific twice daily and not get it done—unless it’s not meaningful to you and you experience no thrill at all in anticipation of how great you will feel when you do. The more detailed your esteemable goal, the more likely it is that you will take action and organize your daily living around advancing toward it.
If you go week after week, month after month, without getting any closer to a goal, be honest enough to take it off your list, perhaps reserving it for future consideration. Either you don’t really want it (nice, but not necessary), it’s not truly esteemable (more about what’s important to someone else than what’s best for you), or you don’t love yourself enough to claim it for yourself. If it’s the third reason, you need to commit to self love and personal growth not as goals or resolutions, but a way of life. Hopefully, you’ll grow in self love and personal resilience enough to recommit to that esteemable goal in the future. In fact, my partner Zara says it will likely require you to change your relationships with yourself and the people and things in your life—usually an esteemable goal in and of itself.
In the meantime, you can focus on those goals you do take consistent, daily action toward, without being burdened by guilt over what you’re not doing. By the way, while my first list had 11 goals, I’ve learned that fewer commitments equals more simplification, greater focus and a higher likelihood that goals will be achieved. Less is, indeed, more. So now, I rarely commit to more than a half-dozen esteemable goals for a given year.
Deciding what you want to achieve in the New Year takes honesty and faithfulness, not just idealism and hopefulness. Too often, resolutions are about what we hope happens in the New Year, or some day. For me, esteemable goals are about what will happen, based on the choices I make and actions I take today and every day.
May God continue to bless you, your family and your endeavors in the New Year.
Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.