In my last post, I did a review of 2016 on a personal level, what went well, and what didn’t go well. I found it to be a very useful exercise, but the power of reflection is really in looking ahead and applying the lessons of past experiences. The next question is: What would I like my biggest accomplishments of 2017 to be when looking back in a years time?
It is universally accepted by everybody, from researchers, to elite athletes and high performers, that goal setting is an essential strategy for success.
Some goals are better than others though, and it is pretty well established that good goals are process-driven. James Clear has produced one of the best goal setting guide’s I have come across, which tells you everything you need to know about developing great goals and achieving them. Highly recommended reading: Goal Setting: A Scientific Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals. Another fantastic resource is this Goals Journal from Kikki-k. It uses prompts and exercises to help you establish your core values and to visualise your dream life. Then you work on setting your goals, using the monthly planner to keep you on track. It is a beautifully crafted and inspirational little book, and sometimes you can’t beat putting real pen to paper.
Priorities and Goals for 2017.
Reclaiming good physical health by improving my mobility, strength, and fitness. Last year my behaviours did not align with my core value of Health. The only way to regain control of this area of life is by investing time in myself and committing to a consistent training practice and healthful lifestyle.
Last year more than ever highlighted the influence a healthy mind has on one’s quality of life. My goal for 2017 is to be more mindful and better able to manage stress. Two strategies to achieve this are: 1) completing the 5-Minute Journal every single day, and 2) meditating with Headspace every single day. I strongly believe that these are keystone habits that will knock everything else into place. I will try not to break the chain and miss a day. But if I do I will draw upon the power of mindfulness: acknowledge that it’s pretty annoying to break the run, breath, let it go, and start again. Although we’re only halfway through February I am already feeling immensely more positive, grateful and in control of my mind and emotions. Moments of forgetfulness, misplacing and losing things have hit an all-time low which I hope to continue.
I bought my first guitar in 2007, ten years ago. And although I love nothing more than picking up the guitar and having a strum, the progress I have made is probably no more than 3 years worth of focused practice. Every year in a burst of January inspiration I tell myself that I really want to get better and more proficient, yet I don’t. Once again, we have a misalignment between my goal and my behaviours. I simply didn’t put the time or effort into significantly improving my playing. I have reached an internal cross-roads, and realised that I either stop wishing I was better at the guitar, or do something about it! The alternative is to continue the endless loop of aspiration and non-progress, which feels like some form of mental torture. The strategy is simple. Take the Guitar learning book that I got for christmas a couple of years ago off the shelf. Open it up, start from the beginning and do what it says.
In 2017 I would like to write more consistently on the blog, and in my Day One journal. I have set a challenge of writing an article every fortnight, as well as shorter blog entries and musings. Feed Me Strength is lucky to have the wonderful and talented Cornelia on board this year, and I am looking forward to reading her posts on healthy living on the site.
Leo Baubata has written about the benefits of blocking off ten minutes every day to write.
These include improving your writing skills, improving clarity of thought, forcing you to reflect on life, learning to create the habit of a regular writing practice, learning to overcome perfection and putting things out there to be judged, which helps to embrace failure and procrastination. All of that is enough to convince me that it’s a worthy goal.
Another valued activity that needs to be scheduled to make sure it happens. Again, I plan on realigning my values with my actions, by setting aside time in the evenings for reading. This also helps to wind down the body and down regulate sympathetic responses of the autonomic nervous system.
I have been using Audible to consume books over the past couple of years, which has been particularly useful for commuting through London. However, it is definitely much more passive than reading and if the book is particularly heavy I find that I don’t take it all in. Now, I choose my audio books wisely and leave the more complicated reads for the real thing.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.” Charlie Munger
I acquire books at a much quicker rate than which I read them, dopamine flooding my body in anticipation when go to Amazon or when I walk in the door of Waterstones. What a feeling when that new book magically arrives at the doorstep! Unfortunately, the excitement rarely stays with me long enough to read half of these books and they sit on my bookshelf, looking great, but very much unloved. I pulled 22 of these books off the shelves and stacked them up. This is my reading list for 2017. With an embargo on new purchases until I start getting through them. I’ll give my book buying addiction a bit of leeway with a two-out-one-in system.
This goal is strongly related to goal #2, a healthy mind, and to one of my main reflections of the past year, which was a skewed work-life balance. Writing, reading, training, meditating, practicing music, are all nobel goals that I would be delighted to stick to, but they are missing one vital component. All of these strategies and goals can be carried out without any social interaction whatsoever. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that isolation is not conducive to a healthy and happy existence. Social neuroscience is a rapidly growing area of brain research that demonstrates the impact of social interactions on neuroplasticity in the brain. Anybody who has spent long periods of time alone has probably experienced the effects it has on mental state. Life is better when you spend good quality time with friends and family.
So there are 6 things I am going to get stuck into this year. No doubt I’ll be derailed every now and again, but I’ll have this post to serve as a kick up the ass when needed and a reminder as to why it’s important to stay on track.
Cairbre is the face behind Feed Me Strength. Currently the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for Arsenal Women FC. He has a passion for athletic performance and an endless curiosity about the inner workings of the body and mind.
UKSCA accredited, with a Sport and Exercise Sciences BSc, and Sports Performance MSc from the University of Limerick.