I think most of us enjoy the idea of a fresh start. The possibilities seem so great at the beginning of a new year.
That is probably where New Year’s Resolutions came from. Although a lot of people shy away from having resolutions, the fresh start of a new year is a great time to set some goals for yourself. Whether you want to grow personally, financially, educationally, professionally or some other way, taking time to set realistic and attainable goals will make all the difference in your life.
I set a few goals for myself for 2014. Let’s take one of my goals and walk through how I came to some realistic and attainable actions.
Goals start as a general feeling. In my case, I am interested in homesteading or self-reliance. I like to cook from scratch, I enjoy making things myself and relying on stores less. I like having things on hand, verses feeling like I need to run out often and I am proud when I am able to produce for our family myself. My general feeling is that I would like to increase to my self-reliance.
Now, this is where people tend to stop. “My goal is to increase my self-reliance.” End of story. Now, if I stopped there, then I probably would not see much growth in 2014. Why not? Mainly because that goal by itself is tremendously overwhelming. What does it even mean? Do I need to start a garden, get a goat, get some chickens, stop purchasing all things commercially, redo my whole life? Or, on the flip side, do I just try making my own laundry detergent and call the whole goal done?
In order to see real progress, I need to be specific in what I want to achieve, set a timeline that keeps me moving without overwhelming me, and add in some accountability.
First, I need to be more specific. How do I want to increase my self-reliance? Well, I built some raised garden beds last year, so I do plan to plant a garden. I also would like to start composting. We have a local and grass-fed source of beef. Adding to that, we would like to find a local and sustainable source of poultry and eggs. With more sources of good food, I would like to start to preserve more of my own food, as well. Writing out more specific details will help me stay on track and keep me focused, especially when tackling such a wide topic. I suggest physically writing (or typing) a list that you can refer back to throughout the year as you move along your timeline. You may eventually decide to not do one thing or add in another, but at least you have a solid list to with which to work.
Next, I need a timeline that keeps me moving along, as well as gives me time to get somethings accomplished without overwhelming me. I want it to be fun and I want to learn and grow and continue to enjoy (for the most part) my homesteading efforts. With that in mind, I set a goal timeline of trying 2 new things a month. Some examples of that might be planning to start growing sprouts at home, researching and starting a compost pile, finding and adding soil to our garden beds or planting the garden. Notice that some things can even be smaller steps of the overall goal. Adding soil to the garden beds can be one new thing; planting the beds could be another new thing; finding ways to preserve the garden harvest could be a third new thing.
The point is to keep it managable, so you can succeed and continue throughout the year. Try to consider your other commitments as you plan out your year. Our oldest is graduating this year, so we have a big open house at our home in June. Because I will already have a lot to accomplish in June, I will plan some easier projects in June if possible.
Finally, I need some accountability. For me, I plan to blog about my two things per month. I also plan to share my progress with my best friends, who I know will ask me how I am doing and share in my successes, as well as cheer me on when I stumble. Knowing that someone is watching for an update is a great motivator! In fact, I will be blogging about all three of my goals each month.
Be sure to plan a celebration (even if it is small) at the end of the year. People rarely accomplish everything on their list, but having a detailed list, with a reasonable timeline and accountability in place will get you so much farther then just setting a vague goal.
And you never know – you just might even surpass your goal!