The final week of the year arrives and reminiscent thoughts of recent holiday celebrations with friends and family whirl through your mind. Grumbly gurgles of digesting delicious diet-busting smorgasbords emanate from your belly. It is that time to begin contemplating your New Year resolutions for the next 365 days. The popular default resolution often leans toward the repentant commitment to diet and exercise, some elect reading goals, and others set financial goals to tame that credit card trigger finger.
By mid-January, many of our resolutions either remain unattempted or abandoned with self-loathing, leaving a sour distaste about resolutions and goal setting in general. This reality fosters resistance regarding goals and generates resistance to setting our New Year resolutions. Unfortunately, the sharp skepticism regarding goal setting sends us descending the vicious cycle of shattered dreams and mediocracy. It is these goals that push us forward. It is the momentum toward achieving goals that energize us and heightens our self-confidence. The cause of failing to realize our goals are not the goals themselves, but our lack of understanding that our goals and dreams are possible and require persistence to bring them into reality.
In September of 1962, John F. Kennedy gave his now-famous Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort. It is the speech in which he announced the nation’s resolution, or goal, to send a man to the Moon. In the closing words of his address, he stated, “We choose to go to the Moon.” This statement is an example of a spirit resolution, a firm emphasis on confidence that this goal that has set before us will happen. It expresses that the goal is not a mere desire, request, or an obligation, but a positive force of free-will and importance.
It will be difficult
As Kennedy’s address continues, he states, “…not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” The goal of landing a man on the Moon was the stretch goal of all stretch goals. NASA had come into being only four years prior, and we were amid the Mercury missions, which had only send men into space six times up to that point. The purpose of stretch goals is to set one’s mind to possibilities that are just beyond their current understanding and capability. It implies that learning, change, and facing uncertainty will be required to achieve success. The acknowledgment of the difficulty that lay ahead is essential so that you can properly equip and prepare yourself for the journey ahead.
Understand the why
Kennedy further stated in his address, “…because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” By offering the benefit, purpose, and outcome of achieving the goal, he made a case for support and engagement. He painted the picture of what the world would look like post-success. The goal wasn’t merely to land a man on the Moon to say that we had, but rather, to demonstrate our collective ability to unite and leverage our resources and skills toward delivering our wildest dreams. It was to express to the world that all things are possible when we set our minds to achieve the impossible. It elevates our thinking from the paralyzing grips of doubt into the liberating expression of the outer-limits of what humankind could be if only we choose it.
The Moon-shot address itself was an essential aspect of a skilled goal-setting discipline. This resolution was announced publicly before forty-thousand people. It was offered boldly with no guarantee that the public would embrace the goal, or that the effort would be successful. The dream of landing a man on the Moon and safely returning him to Earth was a stretch goal in its self. To commit to it in the remaining eight years, or less, of the decade, added the time-bound element of goal design that creates a sense of urgency. Regardless of the political risk involved in offering such a bold goal, announcing it publicly created accountability for his administration, NASA, and those who supported the cause. Accountability is the fuel that will drive you to follow through when the struggle gets unbearable and discouraging. It provides the urgency which keeps the effort top of mind.
In July of 1969, when Neil Armstrong leaped from the Apollo Lunar Module unto the powdery surface of the Moon, the world celebrated. The achievement was televised and lauded as the crowning achievement of modern man. Ticker-tape parades, state dinners, and the astronauts were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon their safe return to Earth. Celebrating success is as important as designing your goals. It provides positive reinforcement for a job well done. The celebration offers those who supported you with a return for their investment. The celebration also re-energizes you from a long journey; it provides the opportunity to reflect upon your growth and encourages you to consider what may lay beyond.
Just do it
While it may be tempting to shrug off the notion of setting New Year resolutions, I encourage you to take the occasion to view it as an opportunity to establish a stretch goal. A goal that will result in learning, growth, and the elimination of “I can’t” from your vocabulary. Acknowledge the difficult challenge that lay ahead. Announce that goal publicly to those closest to you and dig into making it happen. Have your best year yet.