As we were ascending the mountains of Park City on the chair lift, my husband eagerly announced that since the New Year is approaching, he’d like for us to talk about our 2009 goals. Suddenly instead of seeing the snow-laden evergreens and aspens, I was seeing all the things I intended to do, be, and have before turning forty this next year. Owning that house in San Francisco with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, finally having those toned arms just like the woman on our refrigerator, figuring out how I can contribute more to others, including my twelve nieces and nephews in California, Washington, Florida, and Wisconsin, and learning how to write, save, and savor more.
As we reached the top of the lift, we prepared ourselves to get off the lift gracefully—board up, no clothing connecting to the chair, and visualizing an easy descent off the lift. As I successfully glided off the steep ledge, I couldn’t help but remember the first time I attempted this on a snowboard. As I lay on the ground with my nose in the snow, regretting that I didn’t put on my padded shorts that morning, the lift operator stopped the lift and ran to my side to make sure I was okay. I was fine and quickly decided that my new goal was to conquer the chairlift descent on a snowboard. I accomplished this goal quickly—only after a few more falls.
Why can’t all goals be this easy to accomplish? There are seemingly easy goals to accomplish, like getting off the lift successfully but then there are those bigger, longer term, daunting goals that we never quite seem to accomplish year over year. We cut and paste the same goal from our 2008 life planning worksheet onto the new 2009 worksheet. I have accomplished a lot in my “almost forty” years, but a goal around having more effective financial systems has made the cut to my goal list every New Year’s day.
I think there is a cost and payoff to every action, especially with our goals. We think it’s costing us not to accomplish our goals, but in reality, there’s a huge payoff. As my friend often says when I’m complaining about minor issues in my life, “You need to climb bigger mountains!” Once you lose weight, get your finances in order, or finally write that book, you’re going to have to climb bigger mountains. For example, when I finally get a better financial system, I will have to focus more on investing and learning more about topics that don’t necessarily interest me. I will know exactly what’s in my budget so it will also make it a little more difficult to buy those cute, new gray suede boots. My friend, who has been trying to lose weight for years, realized that she hides behind her weight. If she loses it, she will have to confront other issues about her own self-esteem and confidence that were merely secondary issues to her extra weight.
If we truly commit to our goals, we’re also committing to climbing bigger mountains. When we realize that climbing those mountains will ultimately take us to the bigger vision we have for ourselves, it will be easier to confront the fears and anxieties that will appear along the way. I have learned several lessons over the years about “goal climbing.” Since I’ve been snowboarding for the past two weeks, I couldn’t resist integrating the mountains and snow into these lessons.
Get up again after you fall. Even when my knees, butt, and calves hurt, I strap my board back on, eager to improve next time. I try to understand what I didn’t do or did do so I can improve next time. I may focus on just one thing to improve, like keeping my knees bent. Action: When you haven’t accomplished something, take a step back and figure out what you could’ve done differently. Perhaps the goal is too big and you need to break it down into smaller steps. I finally broke down my financial project into five major areas, each of which is one project. Since every project has manageable steps that clearly lead me to my end goal, I’m more excited about mastering this area in 2009.
Choose black when you can. For those of you have boarded or skied, you know that the black runs are the most difficult ones. I don’t believe in pushing myself too hard on the slopes or anything for that matter, since I know that is also when mistakes and injuries can happen. However, I also know that I can’t get better on the slopes unless I stretch myself and do something more challenging every once and awhile. Someone once told me that comfortable was a nice word for boredom. When my husband recently asked if we can do the black run instead of the crowded blue run, I said, “Yes” even though my mind was screaming, “No!” I didn’t look graceful and even slid down the hill during certain parts, but I did make a few turns on the ice and more importantly, I stretched myself to get out of my comfort zone. Action: What can you do differently with your goal to stretch a little more? I am carving out a little time each day to spend time on my finances—not just “when I get to it.”
Take Snowdancer after the black run. While it’s good to stretch, it’s also good to build confidence. Snowdancer is a groomed run I recently experienced that makes me feel like I’m a snowboard racer. I pass everyone on the hill (okay, they’re mostly kids who are just learning, but still!) and I get a good rhythm going on my board. I feel good. I feel confident. I practice my form to get me ready to stretch again on another run (but maybe not until the next day). Action: What are actions that you can take toward a goal that are easy to do and would create enough confidence and momentum to tackle the harder parts about your goal?
Get good gear. My sister used to lead outdoor leadership adventures. She used to say that there is no bad weather, just bad gear. My husband built upon this theory by noting that I board better now with a cuter pair of snowboard pants, a new helmet, and a new pair of boots (leopard patterned). While I resisted both theories at first, I now agree with both of them. During a recent blizzard in the Rockies, my husband and I had the mountain to ourselves. I was warm, comfortable, and styling in my new gear. Action: What “gear” do you need to ensure your goal will be accomplished? I bought quick books online so I can now access my finances anywhere and also give my bookkeeper easy access.
Be instinctively positive: The blizzard was in full force, and while most people complained and stayed inside, my husband and I were excited to have the slopes to ourselves. We had some of the best powder we’ve ever experienced and it turned out to be our best day of the vacation. Action: What’s the biggest complaint you have about your goals and how can you turn that into something positive? When I realized how much time I was spending on my finances, I knew that I would likely be more successful in hiring a bookkeeper whose strength is in dealing with numbers and worksheets. Realizing this has given me a renewed energy to find a competent bookkeeper and more importantly, a partner in helping me create a clean financial system.
Know when to rest. We were staying at a condo at the base of the mountain. We’d already paid for a season pass. It was a beautiful day. Yet I didn’t want to board that day. I wanted to write, read, cozy up near the fireplace, watch a movie, and maybe even take a nap. “But I am at the base of the mountain, I have a season pass, and it’s a beautiful day!” screamed my internal voice. I stopped, took a deep breath, and realized that while one of my goals was to get better at snowboarding this vacation, another goal was to rest and relax. I wanted to do nothing. I stayed home that day and was ready to race down the mountain the next morning. Action: Make sure you take the time to find time for renewal in between accomplishing your goals. Reward yourself, listen to yourself, and take a nap. You probably have earned it.
Focus on the spaces, not the trees: Our snowboard instructor was from Australia. With that great Australian accent, he shouted at the top of the mountain, “Figure out your first few turns, stick to your vision, and then focus on the spaces between the trees versus the trees!” That was easy for him to say as we all started down the steep slope trying to figure out how to not hit a tree. Isn’t this true with our goals too? We focus so much on what we don’t want—we want to stop eating ice cream and French fries, we don’t want to sleep in as late, we don’t want to spend as much. Yet, it’s more important to focus on what we do want. When we focus and can feel what we want, we start to attract more of it. Action: Define what success looks like after you’ve accomplished your goal and put it in a positive, affirming statement.
Have fun with your New Year’s goals. Pick bigger mountains. As I was cruising down the mountain on my last run of my vacation, a fellow boarder yelled “Rock on!” I think I will. I think you should, too.