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Setting Priorities for Resolutions

January 15, 1987|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management.

A goal is just a dream until it's written down. It is possible to change your life. You can get more of what you want if you are willing to learn to cultivate your mind and focus your efforts.

This is a time of new beginnings. The holidays are over and you have dozens of things you have put aside until after the holidays. Capture those ideas and bring them into reality by writing them down.

Many New Year's resolutions have a high rate of failure and fall under the category of good intentions. What does it take to turn that goal into achievement?

First, you want to gather those thoughts that have been dancing around in your head. Second, you have to decide what to do first and which opportunities to let pass. Third, you need to have a simple schedule for reviewing and evaluating progress to make sure you are still on target.

People who have mastered this technique make tremendous strides because their energies are focused. Organizers teach a number of variations of this program, but they have the same primary ingredients. Once you catch a glimpse of the success that such a program can bring, you are anxious to refine that process to reach ultimate dreams.

A Place to Gather Ideas

The first step is to capture those ideas that have been floating around in your mind and write them down on paper. Certainly, you want to be able to refer to this work sheet often, so anchor this paper someplace. I recommend that you keep it with your calendar in a planning notebook. This little book is exactly what the name implies--a place to gather ideas and lists of all sorts. This is the mechanical device that helps you plan.

This need not take the fun and spontaneity out of life. Rather it helps you get more of what you really want. The pencil and paper are the tools to help you pull your thoughts, intentions and dreams down to a concrete level, making it possible to use all of your physical and intellectual senses.

The second phase is deciding. Time is like money--you can only spend it once. If you decide to watch TV all day Saturday, you have said no to the hundreds of other possible things you could have done with that time.

Time is also like money in that some of it can be invested to pay back dividends later. I am not a workaholic who never quits. Neither do I feel that productivity is the only measure of the good life. But, the reality is that we can't do everything. The issue is, will you just let life happen or will you take an active part in choosing which activities will be neglected? By applying the goal-setting process, you decide what is most important to you.

One of my basic theories is that most unhappiness is caused by giving up what you want most for what you want at the moment. The process of setting goals and concentrating on their accomplishment helps you to keep working toward those things you want most.

A Mountain of Opposition

The next phase is the hardest because it involves action or change. Once you decide what you want, then you have to face a mountain of opposition. It means holding back interruptions and irrelevant temptations.

Every day we come against resistive forces: demands from other people; happenings beyond our control, and our own weaknesses caused by bad habits or procrastination. Progress is slow. That's why we need to periodically reevaluate where we are, whether the goal is still appropriate, or if a goal change is now necessary.

How do I apply this formula to my life? At this time of year, I begin gathering ideas of things I would like to accomplish. I sort them by writing them under one of 12 titles on a piece of paper. The goal categories are personal, career, physical, spiritual, house, hobbie, recreation and/or vacation, husband and each child. I gather all the brainstorm ideas, everything from catching up the scrapbooks to building a fence. The list contains far more than I can ever get to.

After the collection phase, I take an hour or so to do some thinking and choose the things I need to concentrate on during available time. As we start back into a regular routine of work and school, January is a good time to reevaluate and then redirect.

I break down the major, all-encompassing goals into short-term goals that are easy to see and measure. For example, as always at this time of year, there is a goal to lose weight. I need to get down to specifics, such as how much to lose and how will it be accomplished. It might be: lose one pound a week, eat 300 calories less every day, or exercise four times each week. I will identify specific goals for each area of my life. I try, every Sunday evening, before jumping into a new week, to take a few quiet moments by myself to outline objectives, working from both the goal list and to-do list.

For most of us, time is not our own. We have a few discretionary hours and the rest is committed to sleep, work and other have-tos. You will see more growth in yourself, more accomplishment and more satisfaction if you make rational choices about the time for which you have a choice.

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