Goals Managing Self

Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions

Written by Allison Wolf

My New Year’s tip this year is to ditch resolutions and abandon the guilt that comes with them!

I think of January as the serious sister to December. While December is about gift giving and celebration, January arrives like the dreaded morning after bearing with it credit card bills, back-to-work stress and of course the latest batch of New Year’s resolutions: “I will stop procrastinating, go to the gym three times a week, and meet my billable hours target.”

There has got to be a better way to herald the New Year then marching to the orders of our inner drill sergeant.

 Replace all the gloom and puritanical posturing with some first class daydreaming.

What were the highlights of your 2015?

What was really good that you would like more of this coming year?

There’s always something new to learn, or see, or do. What to you want to get out of 2016?

When you are raising your glass of bubbly in December 2016 what do you want to look back on?

Compelling and inspiring goals encourage creativity.

They provide the challenge and the meaning that is so easy to lose when life get busy.

Goals also help us determine what to invest our time, energy, and money on. Setting a few goals at the beginning of the year helps us to ensure we stay on top of what’s most important.

If you struggle with specific goals then make it easier for yourself by setting some general intentions instead.

Daydreaming and goal setting transformed my friend Jeff’s life.

A few years ago he had all the outward trimmings of success: He was a partner in his forties, was happily married with two small kids. There was just one problem: he was bored and depressed. He was completely unmotivated. Most mornings he had to drag himself to work with a sinking feeling in his gut and a nagging refrain in his brain –- “there’s got to be more to life then this”.

Sound familiar?

Jeff knew he had to do something. He took the time to reflect. He had many long and engaged conversations with the important people in his life. He realized that he had to make a change. He was unhappy at his firm, and it was a long commute from his home. He searched out a new firm and joined it in 2015. He set some ambitious goals for the growth of his legal practice, and on the personal side, goals for his health.

Over the past year Jeff’s life transformed. He loves the new firm. He has excellent relationships with his partners and his clients are happy. With his energy back his practice is thriving and he exceeded his targets for 2015. What’s more, with the reduced commute and lowered stress he met his health goals for the year.

This December I have received a number of emails from lawyers sharing with me their successes over the past year. The common theme is that each person had the courage to reach for what was meaningful and right for him or her. They took risks, they tried new things, they said no to work that was depleting in order to make room for work that they enjoyed.

Setting goals connected to what matters most to us can be surprisingly hard. We are all much better at making those grim resolutions –- and then berating ourselves for failing to achieve them. Forming your own set of compelling goals is a process of discovery. Here are some steps to guide you along the way.

Suspend disbelief for a short while

On the weekend go for a walk or lean back in your armchair and put your feet up. Take twenty minutes or so to imagine a future where anything is possible. Suspend your disbelief and truly allow yourself to dream for a time. What would you do if you could do anything? What have been the moments in life when you have felt most engaged with your work or with some activity? What were you doing? What was great about it? What would you like more of in your life? What do you most value?

Goal setting loves company

Share the goals and dreams that emerge with a close friend, or family member. Ask to hear about their dreams. Talk about what you want to accomplish. Discuss what goals you want to set for the year ahead. Often our dreams and goals become clear through discussion with others.

Follow your “why” to deeper meaning

Why? Is a question that helps us reach for deeper truths. When you have settled on a few goals ask yourself why you want to achieve them.

In my friend Miranda’s case one of things she dreamed of for a long time was to have a mentor at her firm.

Why? Because she wanted to form a close connection with a colleague who she could learn from.

Why? Because she missed the companionship she had experienced as a young associate.

Being a partner it was not possible for Miranda to have a formal mentor at her firm, but upon reflection she realized that she could go about reconnecting with some of the senior lawyers whom she had juniored in the past.

This simple goal promoted Miranda to reestablish her relationship with a senior woman lawyer, Anne, whom she had worked closely with a decade ago. Now Miranda and Anne enjoy a monthly lunch date together.

Miranda’s initial dream of having a mentor led her to what was truly most important –- a close connection with a trusted colleague.

Write your goals down

This is the hard part. You have to take out your pen or power up the computer and write your goals down. It should take no more than five minutes. Sounds simple but it can actually be quite difficult. A lot of people get stuck here. Writing down goals is essentially about committing to doing them. Many of us are hesitant to commit! I know because I am one of them. I’m a coach but it is still really hard for me to write down my goals.

Test your goals

How powerful are your goals? When you think about achieving them how do you feel? Do you get charged up? A powerful goal is encouraging. It is something you really want to achieve and that you can visualize yourself accomplishing. If your goal fails to inspire you or you can’t imagine it, it may mean that you need to rework it.

 Take action

Keep your goal statements close at hand. Every week take a moment to determine what you will take action on during the week. Just one or two small steps forward each week is often all it takes to make goals happen.

Wishing you a great start to your New Year!

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at allison@shiftworks.ca or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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