Fine Tuning Those Resolutions

Here are six steps you can take to help you reach your goals.

As we approach a new year, we tend to think about new beginnings. For many, Januarygoal setting 1st suggests a time for starting some new habit, starting a new project, or simply starting over. The idea of setting new year’s resolutions has become cliché.

Yet, most of us have things we would like to improve about our lives. We think about changes that could make us happier or more comfortable. Unfortunately, our wishes or dreams don’t seem to be enough to change our reality.

So, what can we do to turn those dreams into reality? How can we most effectively improve our lives? The answer is deceptively simple. We get more done, create positive change, and realize more of our dreams when we start with written, specific, and measurable goals.

In “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School,” Mark McCormack relates a study in 1979, where graduating students were asked whether they had set clear, written goals for their future, and made plans to accomplish them. Only 3% of the students had written goals and plans, 13% said they had goals, but not in writing, and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the 13%, who said they had unwritten goals, were making twice as much as the 84% who had no goals, while the 3% with written goals were making ten times as much. Other studies have shown that people who set specific, written goals accomplish much more than those who don’t.

But, it’s not quite so simple. Here are a few guidelines if you want to tap into the power of goal-setting to improve your life.

  1. Your goals need to be specific. A goal of “I want to lose weight” is too vague. A specific goal like, “I want to lose 25 lbs.” is much better. The subconscious mind seems to connect to a specific number or amount, in a way that charges our motivation and determination.
  2. You need a deadline. You will be much more motivated by a goal of “I will clean out the closet by 5:00 Saturday,” than you will the goal “I will clean out the closet.” Try to make it a reasonable deadline, but set one.
  3. Make the goal measurable. This may be accomplished by making the goal specific, but it may not. There needs to be no question whether you met the goal. Anyone should be able to tell whether you succeeded.
  4. Determine a strategy to meet the goal. Make a plan. How do you plan to accomplish the goal? What are the intermediate steps you will have to take?
  5. Post the goal where you will see it. To be successful, you will need to be reminded of the goal. I’m sure that this is the reason someone invented refrigerator magnets.
  6. Tell a supportive, encouraging friend. Having an accountability partner can really help. They may be aggravating, but nonetheless helpful.

Give it a try. You have nothing to lose. See if goal-setting can work for you in changing your life for the better. And there’s no better time than the beginning of a new year!

A Love Letter with Tinsel

Christmas is a reminder that we are loved, but we often have trouble accepting it.

At this time of year, we all often see reminders of the real reason for Christmas, and we do need them. The onslaught of holiday events, family gatherings, shopping Loved at Christmasfrenzy and commercialism can be pretty overwhelming. In the midst of the chaos, we need a nudge to center our focus on a simple, humble birth in an ancient, middle-eastern stable.


So, we remember that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth and that’s good. But then we have to remember that He was born for the specific purpose of dying. He was born as a sacrifice for us. The first Christmas gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.   


But why? Why did He do this for us? We certainly didn’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. We had messed everything up royally. So why?


We’re told that it was because He loved us, and I believe that to be true. But, it’s too easy to let those words slip out without really considering their meaning. I think most of us have trouble letting that idea fully sink in.


We can accept God’s love when we think of others. We have no trouble accepting that God loves our children, our family members and our friends. We can even accept that He loves the world. But, we have a little more trouble accepting that He loves us, individually.


We may intellectually believe that God loves us, but we have trouble feeling it. We have difficulty accepting it, because we often feel so unlovable. We see our faults, failures and mistakes. We know that we don’t deserve that kind of love.


I believe that the biggest stumbling block for many is their inability to fully accept, and feel God’s love. It’s easier to imagine a wrathful, disapproving, punishing God. The idea that we could be completely and unconditionally loved, when we are so inadequate, seems to be too far a stretch.


But then, here it is. That annual reminder that you are loved completely, unconditionally and sacrificially. The reminder that you matter, that you are precious. Try to accept it.


Recall how it feels to sit in the sunshine on a warm, summer day. You can feel the sun’s rays soaking all the way through you. Imagine God’s love doing the same, soaking through every cell of your body. Accept the gift. Hold onto it. Enjoy it. Let every light, ribbon and tinsel remind you that you are loved this Christmas. And when you read the Christmas story, remember that it is actually a love letter to you, wrapped in tinsel.

As Slow As Christmas

As we age, time seems to move faster and faster.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. By lately, I mean the past few years, but ittime perception seems like just a few days. It’s interesting to me, how time seems to pass at different rates at different times.

When we’re children, time seems to pass very slowly. I remember the phrase “as slow as Christmas,” because it seemed that Christmas came so slowly. The days would drag on, as I closely examined the Sears toy catalog, imagining the possibilities of Christmas morning.

Back then, time also seemed to drag on, as I anticipated the end of the school year. I didn’t think about it much until spring, but the time between April and June seemed to take an eternity. I never considered my teachers feelings back then. I just assumed that they lived somewhere in the schoolhouse, and never imagined, in a million years, that they were as anxious to get rid of me, as I was to get away from them.

Then, around middle-age, something strange happened. The laws of time and space began to shift. The clocks began to spin uncontrollably. Time passed more quickly. A year seemed more like a month, which seemed more like a week, which seemed more like a day, which of course, seemed more like a minute.

This shift in the speed of time seemed so obvious, that I assumed everyone would notice it. Strangely, only those my age or older seemed to see it happening.  For some reason, young people we’re under the delusion that time was still moving very slowly.


The perception that time passes more quickly as we age is almost universal, and has been researched for years. Studies show that our perception of short periods of time doesn’t change much as we age. Our perception of longer periods, such as a decade, does change significantly.


Research shows that, when we are learning new tasks, time seems to move more slowly. This prompts the theory that we perceive time more slowly in younger years because we are having to learn many more new tasks. If true, this suggests that we might be able to slow time in older years by being life-long learners.


Some have suggested that a year seems much longer to a child than an older adult because it represents a larger proportion of the child’s life. A year is 1/10th of a ten-year old’s life, but only 1/40th of a forty-year old’s life.  The theory that the year seems longer to the child, because it constitutes a larger portion of his life does seem logical.


The issue has also been examined from a neurological perspective. Most researchers now believe that specific parts of the brain are used for time perception. Further, certain parts of the brain seem to be involved in perception of longer periods of time, while other parts gage shorter time periods.


Perhaps someday we’ll understand exactly why time seems to pass faster as we age. But, for now, I’ve done my own scientific study. I was once very young, and it took forever for Christmas to come. I am now a few years older, and it seems to come and go before I blink. Absolute proof. I guess I’ll just try to enjoy the season while I can.