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Goals for the New Year

Dec. 1, 2011
The end of a calendar year is a great time to compare where we are with where we want to be. A new year seems to promise ...

2012 is the year you can accomplish your goals; you deserve it

by Heidi Emmerling Muñoz, RDH, PhD

The end of a calendar year is a great time to compare where we are with where we want to be. A new year seems to promise new opportunities to design our best future ever.

How was 2011 for you? Are you on the path of your choosing or have you been derailed? No matter how this last year was for you, next year can be even better. The key to accomplishing what you want is to set goals and channel your focus.

The first step to achieving your goals is to determine the “why” of it all before the “how.” If you know why, the how will follow. However, if you take a backward approach and try the how before articulating the why, then the first challenging how will defeat you. You will be stumped because the how will serve no obvious purpose and will go by the wayside. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, determine why you want to lose weight before starving yourself on carrots and celery. The first time you look at that carrot wishing it were a chocolate chip cookie, you’re bound to choose the cookie because there will be no purpose to eating the carrot. However, if your reason for losing weight is to live longer or have your joints feel better, or even something like improving your appearance to attract better employment opportunities, the next time you reach for that chocolate chip cookie you might pause before diving in.

Another reason you want to figure out the why first is so you can better hit your target. Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else.” Just as you need to know where you’re going when you pull out of your driveway, you need a focus for your life. Without the why, you risk wandering aimlessly until you’re completely lost.

Finally, discovering your why challenges you to rise to your potential and grow spiritually and professionally. You won’t know your potential until you challenge yourself by taking your inventory and discovering your calling. While you may think you’re great at a particular task, you will have no way of knowing what other talents you have unless you challenge yourself.

Once you discover your why, you are on your way to how. A good process is the plan/do/review approach. We’ll start with a review of your last year to facilitate your planning. Examine your successes and failures. If you skip, this step you risk not knowing if you are on or off track, and you use up your resources. This is a well-grounded educational theory — without reflection, there is no learning.

Make a list of 10 great things that happened to you last year. Did you get a raise? Leave a bad office? Go back to school? Start a family? After completing your list, write the lessons you learned. If you received a raise, did you hone your negotiating skills or learn your worth to the practice? If you left a bad situation, did you figure out what you find less motivating? If you went back to school, did you uncover a new passion?

Now prioritize your assets. Begin by asking these questions: What was the best decision I made last year? What accomplishment am I most proud of? Who (and it can be several people) recently had the greatest impact on my life? What was the biggest risk I took? What improved the most for me? What was the best compliment I received? What three things will I quit doing (why?) and continue doing (why?).

Please don’t censor this. Make sure it is private. If you write thinking your children or spouse will read it, this won’t be an authentic growth process. You might be compelled to write that your proudest accomplishment was getting married, when in fact it was your ability to stand up to the office bully. You might write that your children have the greatest impact on you because you think this is what sounds best. If it is true, by all means write it. You may indeed adore your children more than anything, but the person who made the biggest impact might have been a special patient. Rest assured that not placing your family members in the top slots does not mean you don’t love them. Conversely, if you make your list and you’ve written nothing about your family or physical health, it might mean you should consider a balance. However, you won’t know this until you go through the process. You’ll understand that it’s all about balance.

As you’re doing your review, focus on gratitude for the gifts in your life. Oprah Winfrey said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.” This might sound all airy-fairy and new-agey, but I can attest that my life has changed immensely since I started keeping a gratitude journal. It is now how I start every single day. On a particularly challenging day when you think nothing is going right, you might be grateful simply for having a bed to roll out of in the morning or food in the pantry.

So go ahead and list your assets. This is for your eyes only, so there are no brownie points for modesty. Go ahead and brag. Do you have a marvelous way of engaging people in conversation? Do you have great time management skills? A great education? What is going great in your life right now? Are you healthy? Do you have wonderful friends?

And last but not least, what is great about you? This is hard, especially for women conditioned not to tout their strengths. If you are like this, then you need to change, at least while you do this exercise. Are you smart, organized, pretty?

Another rule to planning your goals is to turn off your inner editor. Do you want to be a lion tamer? Hula dancer? Romance novelist? Let it flow and banish that inner critic.

By now, I hope you are feeling abundant, buoyant, and ready for the “plan” stage. It is crucial that these items are written down, not just floating in your head. There is a saying, “Don’t just think it — ink it.” If ideas are not written, they can float away.

Here’s my crazy story about this process. I knew I needed to do something to relax because I was under an incredible amount of stress (the why). I tried to take time for facials, manicures, pedicures, and massages (how). I’m an educator, so I don’t have a lot of extra time or money to do these things as often as I’d like (these are stumbling blocks or limited resources), so I looked into how I can pamper myself at home. I worked on making my personal spaces (work and home) like “zen dens.” My bathtub has pillows, fluffy white towels, and plenty of lotions and potions. This helped a lot, but some of the products were expensive and others didn’t quite do the trick. I discovered some affordable and excellent products through a home-based business that sells spa and beauty products. By becoming a consultant, I can purchase these items less expensively, and I developed a small clientele. Do I plan on quitting my tenured professor job? Not yet, but being a consultant is a fun outlet. I get to pamper myself, do something different that balances out the seriousness of my life, show friends how they can do the same, and even make a few cents. Who knew? If I had let my inner editor have a say, this never would have happened.

Another strategy is to think big. Instead of saying your goal is to grow tomatoes, how about growing an entire organic farm? If you don’t dream big, you won’t rise up and accomplish it. Also, state things in the positive and in the present: “I am debt free by January 2012” rather than “I don’t have bills.” You want to move toward your goal, not merely away from a problem. Additionally, by using the present tense, you distinguish between wanting and having. If you say, “I want to write a best selling novel,” your focus will be on the wanting rather than the having.

Again, be sure these are your goals and align them with your values, not what your boss wants you to do, what your mom always dreamed for you, or what you think sounds altruistic. If these are not authentically yours, your interest and time will wane.

To do this “big picture” step, not only write down your goals, but also draw a picture or make a collage and keep it visible, either in your home or folded up in your wallet to refer to regularly. People have said this is so powerful, that sometimes the exact item in an image comes to them. For example, if you want to take outside walks more and the picture you envision is a person with a cocker spaniel, don’t be surprised if a cute cocker spaniel comes your way, even though that wasn’t consciously part of your goal.

The next part to the plan is to organize your goals and create steps. I think of everything in terms of health — your professional/financial health, your physical health, and your emotional or spiritual health. Have 10 goals for each area, and you might find that they overlap. For example, see yourself exercising one hour a day for physical and emotional health. See yourself getting loupes for your professional health to be a better hygienist, and for your physical health to help alleviate your back pain.

Now that you have 30-plus goals, narrow it down to your top five. That doesn’t mean you can’t do the others. However, by consciously prioritizing some, you position yourself to achieve them. It’s sort of like lifting a heavy package. You don’t just walk up to it and pick it up without thinking. More effectively, you visualize yourself picking it up — taking a deep breath, squatting, and preparing your muscles to do some heavy lifting by tightening your abdomen.

As you look at your top five, determine if they are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time sensitive). If not, tweak them so that they are. Instead of saying, “I’m going to get fit and be the strongest person in the world,” a better goal is something like, “I can bench press 100 pounds by Feb. 1.”

Decide who you need to be to accomplish your goals. We’ve all heard how people win the lottery and lose all the money, or how people lose 30 pounds and gain back 50. This is because we need our core values and beliefs to match the goal. If you just want to get rich but haven’t internalized the steps it takes to manage the money, then it will disappear. If you lose a significant amount of weight, you risk gaining it back if you don’t live like the thin person you want to be.

So what does it look like to be physically fit? Does it mean preparing your own food? Living (permanently) with a new schedule? Loving going through the doors of the gym as much as some love walking into a shoe store? Packing sneakers and gym clothes whenever you travel and actually using them? Does it mean exercising and eating right are as necessary and normal for you as breathing?

If you want to earn an extra $100,000 a year, who do you have to be to achieve that? Maybe you need to be a smart, confident, effective leader who is time efficient, influential, and passionate. Decide who you want to be in your professional life and your spiritual/emotional world.

Now map out how you are going to achieve each goal step by step. Identify any potential stumbling blocks and brainstorm solutions. To lose 50 pounds, one step is to eat right, and another is to go to the gym. Now break it down further. How are you going to eat right? Perhaps you need to get rid of junk food in the kitchen, shop at farmer’s markets, and purchase supplements. What do you need to do to go to the gym? Perhaps research memberships and costs. How about making the time to go? Do you have to get up an hour earlier? What are you going to do at the gym? Go tanning? No! You will probably need to do some combination of cardio and weight training with free weights, machines, or a combination. Do you need to hire a personal trainer? Join a support group? Are there people in your life who might try to sabotage your goal? How will you say no to Aunt Ethel’s peach cobbler? Get specific.

This is the year you can accomplish your goals. You are worth more than a mediocre passive existence. You deserve living the life you design. The universe will be a better place if you live your life with purpose and passion. I wish you a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year, and that you become all that you were intended to be.

Heidi Emmerling Muñoz, RDH, PhD, is coauthor of “The Purple Guide: Paper Persona,” a guide for dental hygiene professional development and creating the job search materials to get there. Dr. Munoz is a professor and former interim director of dental hygiene at Sacramento City College, a CODA site consultant, and regular contributor to RDH magazine. She is a member of ADHA and AADH. She is also a newlywed, proud mother of two grown children, owner of Writing Cures editing and writing service, and an independent consultant for BeautiControl. She can be reached at [email protected].

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