In 2015 I turn 60. Yep. I was born in 1955 and that means I, along with a bunch of other people I know, will turn 60 during the coming year. But rather than lament the event, I intend to celebrate all year long. Then when I heard from a fellow blogger about the idea of 60-FOR-60, I decided to take it on as a way to commemorate this important milestone. I’ll explain the details a bit further but regardless your age, you too can participate. But first, in order to achieve this goal or intention, I returned to a book I read last year that offers some great reminders about how every one of us, 60 or not, can achieve their goals in the coming year.
The book I am referring to is Succeed—How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. But don’t let the title put you off. I think the word goal has been so widely used and abused that I really don’t care for it. Instead I prefer to think of those things I want to achieve in the future as my intentions. Intentions mean that I have preferences that I want to aim for, plan for or practice a process to experience in the coming days. While there are similarities, going for goals seems to be primarily about the end result. Intentions on the other hand, embrace the process and leave the door open to all sorts of possibilities on the way to the result. Some believe that setting a goal is all about the “brain” while setting an intention is a whole body, (heart and soul included) process. Either way, learning how to experience the journey is a valuable way to go.
With that in mind, here are some valuable insights that I believe the book by Halvorson offers each of us in terms of how we all typically approach goals and intentions.
#1 Be specific. For anyone who is familiar with the practice of SMART goals, this one is primary. While SMART can have several different meanings, being specific about what it is you want to experience or achieve is an important intention anyway you define it.
#2 Make it challenging but realistic. Halvorson offers plenty of science to prove that in order to make progress toward anything we want to achieve we must make it difficult, but not completely unrealistic. Why? Because facing challenges actually motivates us. Finding that sweet spot of both challenge and feasibility is critical to both motivate us and keep us in the game.
#3 Think why or what. Halvorson offers some amazing information in her book about the “whys” and the “what’s.” Basically she says that thinking about why we want to do something energizes and motivates us. On the other hand, thinking what helps us to deal with something unfamiliar, difficult or that takes a long time to learn. Knowing the difference helps us approach our intentions in the most helpful way.
#4 Consider value and feasibility. Thinking about why we want to do something works really well for distant future goals. For example, my 60-FOR-60 intention will be something I can do all next year so what I want to do is stay motivated and excited about it as long as possible. On the other hand, things I need to get done today (or very soon) like write this blog post needs to be addressed from a what perspective. Value and desirability relate to the why behind our intentions. Feasibility is all about the what in the here and now.
# 5 Think positive but don’t underestimate. Halvorson is convinced that in order to achieve anything we must be “positive” about it. However, she is equally clear that we must never underestimate the challenges and difficulties we will face on the path. She actually recommends that we approach our intentions using the practice of mental contrasting. Mental contrasting suggest that you consider both the great things that will happen if you succeed while equally considering the obstacles you will find on the path. Halverson says, “…when people who believe they can succeed are instructed to use the strategy of mental contrasting when setting their goals, they routinely outperform those who are equally confident but who thoughts are all about imagining the happy ending.”
# 6 When the goal is easy, choose be-good goals. Several months ago I wrote about the difference between be-good and get-better. A be-good goal is really a performance goal and when we pick one that we are familiar with and feel is easily within our grasp. we will have plenty of confidence and optimism along the way. A be-good goal helps us remember everything we will gain from the process.
#7 If you are procrastinating or can’t see the big picture go for the “why” or prevention goal. Why goals help to motivate us so they are a great remedy for procrastination. And as I covered in a previous post about prevention vs. promotion goals, a prevention goal makes us focus on what we could lose and that “fear of loss” can serve as an equally strong motivation to act immediately.
#8 When the goal is hard or unfamiliar be specific about what you want to achieve. Thinking about what actually needs to be done to accomplish something helps when we are faced with something challenging or difficult to learn. It also helps to believe that we can always “get-better” no matter what we are facing.
#9 When you need speed, choose gain-focused promotion goals.
#10 When you need accuracy, choose loss-focused prevention goals.
#11 When you want to be creative choose promotion-goals. And never forget that feelings of autonomy fuel creativity.
#12 And finally, when you want genuine and long-lasting happiness, choose goals related to connection, competence and autonomy. Instead of pursuing outer-directed goals like fame, prestige and money, according to Halverson, these inner-directed goals are the only real path to true happiness.
So what is 60-FOR-60? For the coming year I intend to experience 60 brand-new-never-before-tried experiences and things. Interested? Why don’t you join me no matter what your age in 2015? It doesn’t really matter what is on my list (or yours) but what matters is the intention to experience a set number of things that are new and unique, and use some of the tips I mention above to help us do it. As the year progresses I will be writing more about it.
Hopefully the above suggestions will help all of us as we make 2015 both a year to remember AND a year we achieve our intentions. Now you know what I’m intending for 2015—what about you?