By Marguerite Jill Dye
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”—Henry David Thoreau
The Winter Solstice and the New Year are especially auspicious times to conceive and set life goals and intentions. “Solstice” in Latin means “sun set still” and refers to the darkness before light returns. The Winter Solstice ushers us through the longest, darkest night of the year. It’s a time of reflection and setting objectives that will incubate as the darkness yields to the new cycle of the sun. This magical era gives us hope as rays of light warm fallow ground. Seeds awaken and unfold as fragile sprouts that grow vibrant and strong.
A simple way to begin to examine our values, dreams, and intentions is by gathering pictures, words, and ideas to create a collage: a vision board. How do you want to live your life, with intention and joy as your aim? What matters to you most of all? Family, career, growth, or friends? What is your purpose? What do you love most to do whenever you can? What would your ideal life look like? Consider where you’d most like to live. How do you wish to spend your days? Are you committed to improving your health? Setting fitness goals and an exercise routine, even if it’s solely isometric, can help determine your body’s future, delaying or avoiding that slippery slope.
In “The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting,” Michael Hyatt offers five principles:
l. Five to seven goals are sufficient. You can memorize them and they won’t overwhelm.
2. Set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. S: Be as specific as you can. M: Goals must be measurable to quantify their results. A: Start each goal with an action verb (like to “build” or “write”). R: Make goals realistic but also a challenge and a bit of a stretch. T: Goals should always be time-bound.
3. Write your goals down to set intention and kickstart them into motion.
4. Michael suggests reviewing goals often and asking, “What’s the next step that I need to take to move closer toward this goal?”
5. Once you’ve determined just what your goals are, keep them to yourself or share them selectively with someone else who’s committed to helping you achieve them.
The tradition of setting Winter Solstice or New Year’s intentions gains power by putting them in writing. Did you know that writing a detailed account of one’s goals increases the likelihood that they’ll be attained by 48 percent? Setting the intention, once again, by lighting a candle or saying a prayer, keeping the paper in a special container and placing it in a place of power, gives the intentions yet more momentum. In feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, the location for goals is in the back center of each room and dwelling, straight ahead and directly across from the door to the room or the home’s front entranceway. A living plant in the goal area is another way to enhance feng shui. It’s often surprising to reread intentions after a year has passed, but some folks are certain reading goals often gives them more power to manifest.
Success.com gives us “5 Ways to Become the Person You Aspire to Be.” 1. We must be honest with ourselves about our passions and who we really are. 2. Having a vision of our dreams gives us the blueprint to our future. 3. Persevere and never give up when setbacks and challenges arise. 4. Avoid naysayers and self-doubt purveyors. Overcome your own self-limiting beliefs. 5. Believe in yourself and your power to manifest your goal, your intention, your dream.
I confess, I’m a procrastinator, and I’m darned good at it. But procrastination is not a helpful trait. It diminishes happiness and fulfillment in life. When we work toward our goals and make progress, a cycle of progress called subjective wellbeing, or SWB, is produced. Our positive feelings motivate the behaviors that help us advance and stay on task.
In “Goal Progress and Happiness” in Psychologytoday.com, Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D, recommends beginning the day with the toughest tasks because “priming the pump” helps him get started, then the momentum is easier to build up. If the task isn’t something we want to do, we drag our feet, but need to claim it. Recognizing its value in some way makes it easier to get it done. Then we can proceed to the goal-related tasks that enhance our SWB and joie de vivre.
I learned about Jon Butcher’s system of creating a “Lifebook” through the Mindvalley Academy, “the Ultimate Personal Growth University.” A Lifebook is a detailed vision of what one values and wants in life: the beliefs, outcomes and steps to make one’s dreams and intentions come true. The categories of one’s life to investigate and explore are: physical, intellectual, emotional, character, spirituality, romance, parenting, social, career, finances, quality of life, and life vision. Through decades of study and feedback, Butcher determined that the best measure of “success” is determined by those who curate and plan their own lives according to their values and desires. Instead of defining success by wealth or progress in one’s career, it’s important to consider happiness and fulfillment, relationships, health, and other aspects of our lives.
In “The 3 Key Ideas from Aristotle That Will Help You Flourish” by Charlie Gilkey, I discovered that our questions are nothing new under the sun. “What does it mean to be happy and to live a good life? How do we focus on what matters most and live up to our own potential? Why do some people succeed while others barely get by?” Aristotle and other philosophers, religious leaders, and spiritual teachers throughout the millennia also pondered these questions.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” To better our lives and manifest our dreams, we identify our deepest values and develop the character traits that best reflect them.
What virtues do you choose to exemplify? Which actions will you change into habits to help you realize your life goals? What are your aspirations, and how do you wish to transform yourself?
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.