Monday, December 31, 2007

What Do You Want to Have Happen?

Illustration from My Picture Book of Songs
Dalton, Ashton, Young

Here's a list of my 2008 resolutions. (Just kidding. I'm only going to list 2,007.)

I've never actually made that many resolutions, but it seems like I've broken even more. Usually before February! That was before I discovered a better way to set goals. I call it the WDYWTHH System. Throughout my planners, calendars and journals I scribble that code whenever I organize a project, or target an objective. It stands for What do you want to have happen?

This magic concept has enabled me to accomplish what I set out to do, and helped eliminate the guilt and discouragement I used to experience if I didn't reach my goals. For example, in the olden days I might have written:
  1. Lose ten pounds and a size by March 1st.
  2. Run on the treadmill every day for 30 minutes.
  3. Invite all the kids for dinner once a month to celebrate birthdays.
  4. Organize all my recipes into a giant family scrapbook for Mother's Day.
  5. Never gossip.
Opposition in all things struck in many forms. I'd get the flu on January 17th. Eight days without exercise. (One down.) We'd go on vacation February 3rd. Five days of restaurants. (Three to go.) Law school, busy season, new babies...what's the point? The birthday people can't even come! By then, since I'd already broken several of my promises, I'd decide to tear up the whole list. I'd never lose ten pounds by March 1st, while having birthday parties and trying out recipes. Who was I kidding?

With WDYWTHH as my strategy, I give myself a purpose plus some wiggle room. Instead of the inevitable list, I ask myself what I want to have happen, and that becomes my resolution. Why do I want to run on the treadmill? What is the difference between sharing news and gossiping? What's my reasoning? My resolutions end up looking like this:
  1. Eat healthy, and dress the body I have. If I like myself, I'll take care of myself.
  2. Stay active. Forgive myself for not being eighteen any more. Enjoy all the things my body still lets me do.
  3. Communicate love and support to my family whenever I can, by whatever means I can. Rejoice in the fact that they are conscientious, capable, contributing adults. Strengthen my family by respecting their responsibilities.
  4. Start a keepsake cookbook. Savor the process. Delight in the memories. Learn new computer techniques. It will be a treasure whenever I finish it. Then I will decide how to present it.
  5. Keep in touch with friends and family, and keep them informed about loved ones. Be positive and sensitive, thoughtful and tactful when speaking of others.
If I set myself up for success, I can see progress. I can also change direction if circumstances dictate without feeling inadequate, and have what I want to have happen happen in a different way. I use this formula to plan family activities, trips, furniture arrangement, gift works for everything!

When I plan a party, instead of thinking "What would be fun?" I list what I want to have happen, and then decide on the way to accomplish it. Do I want the kids to interact with the adults? Maybe a baseball game or a big puzzle. For a shot of self-esteem, I have a talent show. Do I want the kids to entertain themselves while the parents visit? A box of dress-ups and a full length mirror in the bedroom will keep them occupied. It's just a different way of thinking and it helps me recognize what my goal actually is.

Peer pressure goals always fail for me. Those are the goals set by someone else. "I'll pay you $5 for every pound you lose." "Let's all read ten classics this year." It doesn't work unless I want to accomplish something enough to think of it myself. I know lots of people accomplish things when they join forces, but I rebel under that kind of pressure. When a friend and I decided to walk together every morning, I started to resent her whenever she called. ("Doesn't she get it? I was up all night with sick kids! Why does she expect me to keep her company?") I know, I know.

For the past several years I have written a Mission Statement. I start it out by saying "My life has meaning, purpose and direction because..." and then I elaborate on that. I continue with "I am dedicated to..." and "I find joy in..." I list "Qualities I value and want to develop" and "Things I would like people to say about me." The final section is "If I could do anything I want this year, I would..." Then I sign and date it. I read my mission statement a few times a year and write an "addendum" with any changes, and then I sign and date it again. It keeps me focused in a loose, positive way.

So, what do you want to have happen in 2008? Do you set goals, or make resolutions? What works for you? Is January 1st a time of revelry or reflection?

Well, it's almost midnight, and I feel like a snack. I'm glad I didn't make any rash statements about giving up sugar or anything! See you next year!


kenju said...

I don't make resolutions, since I know there is little chance of keeping them. I'd like to lose weight again, but you have to watch what you eat for that to happen. Not likely here....LOL

Happy New Year!

gab said...

WWOD? What would Oma do? My mantra for living.

Rebecca said...

Happy New Year (only a few days late) Marty! I like the mission statement idea...might have to adopt it, if you don't mind...