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Reconsidering our approach to goals

For many of us, the start of the new year feels like the time to establish goals and start new things. One of my favorite podcasts is Unlocking Us with Brené Brown, and right before the new year I listened to her conduct two interviews with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. Clear pushes us to think critically about goals. He argues that goals are too focused on a destination, and they don’t really help us become the people we want to be. Rather, he emphasizes that designing systems is what results in change.

As I sat down to write my own goals for 2022, I found this idea gnawing at the back of my mind. If 2021 taught me anything, it was to put my energy into what is important to me and to remain flexible. I had always been taught to set SMART goals, to keep things specific, measurable and time-bound, and as a person who likes structure, this worked for me. But this time, as I started to write, this method didn’t feel like what I needed; it felt sort of artificial and forced. So instead, I decided to write ten areas that are important to my life, and then write more about what those mean and potential steps to help me prioritize them. Admittedly, it’s a little messy and quite open-ended, but it also feels more authentic and frames things more positively. It feels good to let my self-awareness about what is important lead the way for my actions in the new year.

What are the 5-10 areas that are most important to you? What do those look like, and what systems/structures/steps can you design to make those central to your life this year?

For more on why goals and resolutions aren’t always the best route for getting you where you want to be, check out this great article from another one of my favorite voices on human behavior, Amy Cuddy.

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