Setting: Process for Releasing the Past and Supercharging
by Patrick J. Harbula
article was written as to inspire powerful transformation
at the time of the new year, but can be applied at any moment
were your new year’s resolutions last year (if you made any)?
Did you follow through on your resolutions the last time you
made them? Would you like a process for increasing the effectiveness
of your intentions and your ability to use the new year as
a springboard to create greater success and fulfillment? I
have used the formula below in various forms with phenomenal
results in achieving my own goals, corporate consulting, life
coaching, and as a manager and director for over 15 years
in the publishing industry.
Most people have set new year’s resolutions at some time or
other in their lives. Many have given up on this cultural
tradition because the resolutions didn’t work . . . or more
accurately, because of lack of follow through on the part
of the resolution maker. The new gym membership was used three
times per week in January, once per week in February, and
no times per week in March or beyond—a pattern that matches
the trends in health club new member usage. The diet, which
began right after January first, lasted a few weeks, or maybe
just a few days. The decision to quit smoking almost worked
for a whole day.
The number one reason for failure in achieving resolutions
or goals is a lack of commitment and follow through, but there
is a subtle problem with the whole notion of new year’s resolutions.
The number one definition for “resolution” in the American
Heritage dictionary is “The state or quality of being resolute;
firm determination.” Having determination toward a particular
goal is important, but it generally takes a number of other
factors to succeed. Another definition cited in the same dictionary
is “An explanation, as a problem or puzzle, solution.” This
seems to characterize how many people approach resolutions—to
get over or eliminate a problem or some unwanted behavior.
When we try to eliminate the negative, we give it power by
focusing our attention on what we don’t want. What we focus
on is what we tend to get more of. Have you ever made a commitment
to not do some behavior like giving up eating too much and
found that you instantly started wanting to eat more—and probably
did? It’s like the proverbial “Don’t think about a pink elephant.”
It’s virtually impossible.
To increase success in resolutions, we must focus on what
we want rather than what we don’t want, which is exactly what
is done in goal setting. A simple re-framing of the resolution
can set us in the right direction. If I am resolute to quit
smoking, I am actually creating an image in my mind of smoking
(or at best of resisting smoking) every time I affirm that
“I won’t smoke.” If I reframe my intention as one of becoming
smoke free and focus on how healthy I will be as a result,
I am creating an image in my mind of a life without smoking.
The unconscious mind does not hear the word “not” because
it receives an image of the subject of a statement regardless
of whether a negative accompanies it. Rather than focusing
on eating less unhealthy food or large portions, focus on
eating small portions of healthy food and how good you will
feel as a result.
Another reason resolutions can be less effective than goal
setting is that they are so easily broken. Many people have
become so resolved to the breaking of their resolutions that
the unconscious resolution becomes “resolutions don’t work.”
If I start out an intention with a “firm determination” and
I slip up, then my determination wavers. If I didn’t succeed
in the beginning with all my will power behind it, how will
I ever succeed now that I have already missed the mark? In
goal setting, I set a realistic goal and a practical plan
for how to arrive at its fulfillment. I build into my plan
how I will respond to difficulties or even failures, learn
from my mistakes, and carry on toward the completed goal.
In truth, my resolution is simply the first step in achieving
Using the new year as a springboard toward new successes is
and excellent strategy and can be used to focus and empower
setting and achieving goals. Below is a formula for goal setting
and actualization that has worked for countless individuals
and corporations I have consulted with. This exercise can
be done with a group, a partner, or on one’s own. You can
also use this formula as a ceremony. Every year for the last
13 years on new year’s eve I have performed a more elaborate
version involving various ceremonial elements, as described
in my book The Magic of the Soul. You can sit quietly
by yourself or with a partner or group, light candles, sing
songs or chants, or include prayers if you want to add a spiritual
component to this process.
REFLECTING ON 2005
Reflect on the things in your life for which you are grateful
including personal talents, accomplishments, relationships,
opportunities, freedoms, possessions, and so on. Give special
attention to the accomplishments and gifts you have realized
in 2005 and write them down on a piece of paper or input them
on a computer. Reflecting on what we have accomplished and
gained helps to begin the resolution process from a perspective
of success and gratitude, which for most people, gets us excited
about accomplishing our intentions for the future. Most people
and groups are amazed at what has been accomplished in the
past after thoughtful assessment.
GOALS FOR 2006
Focus on the important goals you have for your life in 2006
including relationship, health, financial, business, personal
growth etc. Write (or input) each goal and put a realistic
date for accomplishment next to it. Listing all of your goals
will help you with achieving the more difficult ones, perhaps
those you have failed at in past resolutions. As you chart
the progress of all your goals throughout the year, you will
increase your confidence in your ability to achieve results
by fully acknowledging the minor goals you achieve, thus increasing
your resolve to achieve those goals you have found most difficult
in the past. It is not important at this point I the exercise
to know how you will accomplish the goal but simply to commit
to achieving it. Leave space in your document for adding action
items for each goal.
BRAINSTORMING THE ACTION PLAN
Brainstorm ideas for how to accomplish the goals you have
written down. Begin by simply allowing ideas to come into
your head. If you are doing this exercise with a partner or
group, voice your ideas. The reason for beginning this process
as a brainstorming session is to allow the opportunity for
new ideas to emerge. Write down the ideas as they come up.
In brainstorming, no idea is a bad one. In fact the more bizarre
the answers the more opportunity is created for really great
outside-the-box ideas. Once you have completed the brainstorming
process, transfer those ideas that you will use (the practical
ones as opposed to the bizarre) to the corresponding goal
or goals on your goal list. Fill in any additional action
steps for any goals still needing them.
WHO I MUST BECOME
Elaborate on the personal growth factor of your action plan.
What are the qualities and strengths that you must develop
to succeed at your plan and how will you develop them? What
are the weaknesses that you will overcome or minimize to increase
your success? Write these down as well.
TIPS FOR FOLLOW THROUGH AND SUCCESS
1. Use visual cues to keep yourself on track. Place your goals
list with action items where you can see it regularly. Update
it as you take your action steps and achieve your goals.
2. Reward yourself whenever you achieve a goal or action item.
Celebrate your successes by sharing them with others. Have
dinner or lunch out specifically to reward yourself for important
accomplishments. Make time to do the things that you enjoy
and connect them to the accomplishment of the small steps
3. Create a support system. Especially with goals or resolutions
that have been tried and failed before, communicate them to
others. Enlist support from others. Get a friend to join the
gym and go together; Become smoke free with a friend and support
each other to success; Create a weekly or daily communication
with someone else who is focusing on achieving specific goals--share
your ongoing goals, plans, failures, successes, and commitments,
thereby creating a system of accountability.
4. Use visualization and affirmation to enhance your efforts.
Regularly sit down and close your eyes and visualize your
accomplished goals. The power of the imagination cannot be
overestimated. Studies have shown that people who visualize
success are more likely to achieve it in reality. Also create
affirmations to support the images of your success. Everyone
has negative self-talk that comes into play when they are
trying to accomplish a goal. The greater the goal, the more
intense is the negative self-talk. Catch yourself in negative
self-talk and replace it with positive reinforcement or affirmations
that convey the opposite message of the negative self-talk.
5. Journal your successes. Acquire a journal or notebook that
is dedicated to journaling about your success and ongoing
planning. Writing in it each morning or evening is an excellent
way to keep you motivated toward your goals and resolutions.
Once you have succeeded at this process, you will move into
the next year with greater confidence and ability for achieving
your goals. Imagine how actualized your life will be ten years
from now having implemented this strategy for a decade. Imagine
your life in 20 years. Have a happy an prosperous year in
2006 and increasingly fulfilling life each and every year.
Oaks, CA 91360