Personal goals and the start of a new year go together like peanut butter and jelly. Undoubtedly something is inspiring about the start of something fresh. A new beginning and the promise and hope that a new year brings. It’s common to focus on the typical new year’s goals like losing weight and working out more. Which aren’t inherently wrong or problematic. Creating personal goals and focusing on self-improvement gives you ownership over your life. And, this is the secret sauce that will allow you (and me) to make 2021 the year of the comeback regardless of the chaos it may bring (and unfortunately already has).
Personal Goals Help When You’ve Lost Control
I don’t believe anyone on this earth didn’t experience some kind of loss, disappointment, setback, challenge, anxiety, or frustration this past year. And, while most of us are clinging to the hope that 2021 will save us from the emotional and mental roller coaster that 2020 put us through. It’s important to be realistic. The world’s problems weren’t magically fixed when the clock struck 12 on new year’s eve.
We’re still living in uncertain times. The pandemic is still here, and COVID-19 isn’t gone. There’s ongoing political division and unrest, differing opinions regarding the response to the pandemic, social injustice, prejudice, implicit bias, racial bias, racism, classism, stigma, and stereotypes. I could go on, but they’re still real and exist in our society today. Additionally, there are elevated cases of domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking. Not to mention the reality that those in the mental health community are struggling due to continued isolation. This causes an increase in depression, anxiety, and, unfortunately, suicide.
These issues didn’t and won’t magically go away. No matter how bad we want them to or how over it that we are. However, there’s something that life has taught me about these challenging seasons of life when we’ve lost control and struggle. It’s the reality that you can control yourself while you can’t control the world or external circumstances. You have the power to do the heart work that will aid you in building a resilient mindset and heal yourself. By doing this, you can be the change you wish to see in the world. And have a real impact on your community and people within your circle of influence.
I Challenge You to Try These Personal Goals
Looking back on 2020, I believe there are some key personal goals that we all can benefit from, myself included. These are some goals that you should definitely consider adding to your list.
Be Mindful of How You Treat Others
There’s a saying that hurt people, hurt people. And, this is definitely true. Being in pain, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally can cause you to lash out. However, this doesn’t excuse or make it ok to use your emotions or frustrations as an excuse to hurt others. You’re the resident CEO of your behavior. And you should keep in mind that other people are dealing with their own stuff just like you are.
Therefore it’s important to become more mindful of the behaviors, actions, and words you direct towards others. They have a lasting impact and can be hurtful or even damaging. If you’re feeling incredibly frustrated or not in a good place, prioritize spending time with yourself. Instead of hopping on social media and leaving a paragraph-long comment on why you think a person sucks. Or picking apart every person in your life for their “stupid” decisions. All while offering your unsolicited advice. Honestly, all of these behaviors reveal more about who you are as a person and less about who they are.
Put that energy into going somewhere to decompress and clear your head. Choose to work through your emotions by journaling or talking to someone. These actions are more beneficial than attacking someone.
So, make sure you’re prioritizing time to work through your own issues instead of internalizing them and trying to be strong. It’s ok to feel upset, sad, disappointed, frustrated, or angry. But it’s not okay to keep these feelings inside and turn around and explode on someone because you didn’t deal with what’s bothering you. That’s lame. And remember, what you put out in the world is what you’ll get back.
Make Daily Gratitude A Personal Goal
Have you ever been so wrapped up in the stresses of life that you forgot about all the good things in life? I know I have. Because it’s so easy to forget the enormous privilege we have as human beings living in a world with luxury and conveniences all around.
Consider the fact that you woke up this morning, you’re breathing, and your heart is beating. You’re able to enjoy the benefits of indoor plumbing and electricity. You have food to consume that you don’t have to hunt or gather yourself. You have a closet with clothes you can wear.
And although many of us are apart from our families, we have phones for video calls and text messages. Social media allows us to connect with those far from us and create a community with others around the world. Not to mention the smartphones, smart homes, cars, navigation, and entertainment literally at your fingertips.
This is why practicing gratitude every day is so necessary. Creating a list of simple things and little blessings that you have every day connects you to the reality that not everything in the world is bad. Yes, things aren’t perfect. There’s much work to be done. However, taking the time to appreciate and acknowledge the things that are going right sparks hope and joy in the heart.
So, choose how you’re going to focus on gratitude more this year. Whether it’s something as simple as keeping a journal or meditating on all the things you’re grateful for. Find a way to celebrate the good.
Marketing and advertising campaigns have done a good job of defining self-care as a luxurious act. Think about it what do you envision when you hear the word self-care? I’m sure you think about a bubble bath, manicure, pedicure, a facial, a massage, or some other pampering activity. And, yes, these are self-care habits that we all should indulge in. But, they’re not the only self-care habits.
According to our dear friend Google, self-care is defined as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” Furthermore, it makes no mention of bubble baths, manicures, or pedicures. But seriously, this definition is important when it comes to truly understanding the role of self-care in our health and well-being and how it takes center stage in our daily lives.
As a matter of fact, I guarantee that you’re following self-care habits daily and don’t realize it. Simple practices such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, drinking water, eating fruits and vegetables, working out, going to the doctor, walking outside, journaling, or spending quality time with your loved one are all self-care activities. So, stop and recognize that self-care isn’t a one-time event it’s a daily practice.
Make It A Personal Goal To Learn A New Skill
Is there anything better than the feeling of accomplishment that comes from mastering a new skill? Maybe not for you, but it definitely is for me. You may find it beneficial to make it a goal to work on cultivating a new talent this year. I’m sure there’s something you’ve been curious about.
Maybe you want to try your hand at learning to cook French cuisine. Or, you’d like to empower yourself by learning how to change the oil in your car. Perhaps your personal goal is a little more creative, and you want to learn how to play the guitar.
The point is that you find something that appeals to your passion and GO for it. Doing so will help to take your mind off the things you can’t control onto something that is a fun and worthy challenge that you can handle.
Spend Time Volunteering and Giving Back
I don’t believe that volunteering and donating to charity is a lost art. But I believe that many people prefer to bicker about social issues instead of becoming a part of the solution. It’s so easy to sit on a high horse and talk about all the things that should be done. As opposed to actually getting in the trenches and getting dirty. Hence why, if you’re disgusted with specific issues in society and your heart is bleeding for the marginalized or forgotten, get active.
Pour that energy into your community and look for opportunities to volunteer and support. Participate in fundraisers and local food drives. Donate money to charities and causes that you believe in. Scroll through Go Fund Me and find someone to donate to their cause or situation. Become someone’s pen pal. I know for sure that kids undergoing cancer treatment, the elderly, and those struggling with depression and mental illness would appreciate having someone send them kind words.
Also, please make it an effort to carry a few bills with you so if you see a homeless person or run across someone struggling to pay for their groceries or get gas, you can help them out. So often, I see people walk by them like they’re invisible, and it tears my heart to pieces. They’re not invisible; they’re human and need help. Don’t ignore them. Even if it’s just to acknowledge them and smile. I sometimes think the fact that someone even looked at them makes them feel a little less invalidated. This year let’s all make it a personal goal to be more passionate about DOING the work instead of debating and arguing about what should be done.
Make Self-Advocacy a Personal Goal
Struggling with many of the issues I’ve faced has taught me the importance of using your voice to stand up for yourself and demand better. This takes the shape of creating personal boundaries for yourself, protecting your energy, and removing all that doesn’t serve you. It’s imperative to learn how to advocate for yourself when you’re living with an invisible illness. Having doctors, family members, and friends gaslight you, invalidate you and judge you is difficult.
Having the courage to use your voice and stand up for yourself in these situations is empowering. It lets others know you won’t tolerate their crappy behavior or ignorant opinions. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from friends or family members that don’t get it and don’t respect you. And, don’t be scared to get a second opinion or work with a new doctor if your current doctor isn’t listening to your pain points and providing you with the best level of treatment you deserve.
2020 definitely revealed a lot of division and bias that many secretly carried in their heart. Polarizing issues such as politics, race, and differing beliefs led to many shouting, accusations, hatred, and violence on both sides. And, doing this does nothing to change a person’s mind or viewpoint. It just further alienates them, making them double down on their stance.
For the record, when I’m talking about differing viewpoints and beliefs, in no way am I condoning racism, classism, sexism, or any form of biased behavior that alienates or degrades another group of people. I am talking about differences of opinion regarding politics, beliefs, religion, or lifestyle choices.
However, when left unaddressed, these beliefs can lead to implicit bias based on ignorance or stereotypes and develop into racist, classist, sexist, or biased behavior. As was witnessed this past year. The only way to overcome this is to embrace diversity as a personal goal for this year and years to come.
Confronting Your Implicit Bias and Prejudice
I know you’re probably thinking, “I don’t have any biases towards anyone. I treat everyone equal, and respect/accept others.” And, the lie detector test has proven that it is a lie ( I apologize for the Maury Povich reference; I couldn’t resist.) Taking the time, to be honest with yourself and recognize the biases you have towards others is the first step toward reconciliation.
Ask yourself what biases do you have towards individuals or groups of people that are different than you? Are there stereotypes that you believe about groups of people or specific cultures? What privileges do you enjoy that others of different races, cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic status, environment, or chronic health issues do not? Have you ever stigmatized another group of people based on a personal prejudice due to a negative experience or political affiliation?
Look around you. How many authentic friendships do you have with those of different races and cultures? Do you strive to pursue relationships with people from other races, cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, and political affiliations? And we can’t forget the stigma that is place against marginalized people such as those with chronic illness, mental illness, too fat”, “too skinny,” too rich, too poor, or anyone who doesn’t align with society’s rules of beauty and success.
Acknowledging your implicit bias and realizing that yes, you have them doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. In reality, we all have some sort of bias towards others. It’s not always easy to accept and understand those that are different. Yes, we’re all ignorant and a little prejudiced at some point and time in our life including me. However, it’s not enough to just recognize your bias and prejudice; it’s also important for you to do the work to overcome your bias and educate yourself.
You can start by listening to the pain points of others. Surround yourself with people of different races, cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, political affiliations, religions, and lifestyles. Create progressive conversations where you can both learn more about your differences—all the while accepting and respecting each other. Look for opportunities to learn from them and work to broaden your perspective.
In doing this, I’m not suggesting that you abandon your beliefs, ethics, ethos, or principles that represent the foundation of who you are. However, I am challenging you to let go of the false idea that everyone in the world needs to be YOU or adhere to YOUR convictions.
Everyone, even the people you disagree with, has the right to decide how they will govern their life the same as you do. And, this shouldn’t threaten you or bother you in the slightest because you’re solid on your beliefs and principles.
When you remove race, status, politics, religion, money, and power, we’re basically the same. We all have families and friends that love us. Each and every one of us has responsibilities. There are dreams and passions that we pursue to fulfill our life purpose.
We’re all trying to figure out life and make the best choices we can to achieve health, happiness, and joy. And, in case you didn’t realize it, none of us are going to make it out of this thing alive. We all have an expiration date. It’s these basic similarities that make us all more alike than we think.
The Truth Is…
These goals and resolutions are not glamorous or famous. They’re not the types of goals that sell magazines. They’re definitely not ideal marketing goals that support the consumerist agenda in which more is better. Indeed they are silent yet powerful goals. They encourage you to become your best self and approach the world differently.
These personal goals invite you to dig a little bit deeper and give a little bit more of yourself. To work on your heart and challenge you to grow and evolve. However, I hope you take the challenge to do the inner work that encourages you to flourish this year and the years to come.