Tallying your achievements may make you happier
Published 1:43 pm, Monday, October 7, 2013
I love lists. I'm not embarrassed to admit it. Without a to-do list to keep me focused, I would likely wander around aimlessly, unsure where to start. After all, life can be daunting.
But with each item I scratch from my list, I find I become a little happier. I feel empowered. In fact, when I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed, I sometimes add simple things like "clean kitchen counters" or "make beds" to my list. The sense of accomplishment I feel from taking my pen and crossing off those mundane tasks breeds confidence, and it makes me feel like life is not insurmountable -- like I can chip away at the mountain of minutia, one tiny piece at a time.
Apparently, my behavior is not as bizarre as I thought. As a matter of fact, some therapists and life coaches say recording that you've succeeded at something -- regardless of how small that success may appear to the outside observer -- can make us happy.
"You should celebrate when you reach each goal," said Shelton resident Monica Leggett, who calls herself a "goal accelerator for business and life." "With my coaching, we always start each call with `What was a win for the week?' When I lost 40 pounds, every Monday morning I wrote down my measurements. I could see the progress, and that was exciting. A lot of people like to make a list. If there are steps to a certain project, they like to write them down and be able to cross them off once they've gotten there."
Leggett suggested mapping out real, actionable steps that will take you toward your goal, so you can easily chart your progress. "If you want to be in a new job by next year, break it down," she said. "What are the things you're going to need to do? I need to talk to so-and-so. I need to take this class. I need to redo my resume. And you'll need to put it in order and set up a deadline." As you complete each task, cross it off your list. Completion of each task can make us feel better about ourselves because it proves to us that we're in control of our own destiny and competent enough to achieve our goals.
Some coaches agree that definitive time frames are important. "Get a cup of tea and a blank notebook, and write down your goals for one year, five and for the rest of your life," said Connie Cusick of Fairfield, a life and business coach who is chief executive officer of the consulting firm, Connie Cusick International. "What do you want your life to look like?"
Cusick said she keeps a vision board at her home, and suggests many of her clients do the same. She tries to tailor each program to what will best inspire that individual. "I always keep a vision board with things that I love and things that motivate and inspire me, because I want to see it every day," she said. "You want to see why you're working, or why you're making a change. It's got to be right in front of you. My vision board is full of photographs, inspirational quotes, places I want to go, really cool looks and the home I want. I'm really more of a visual person. If you're more of a creative person, you may want a vision board."
But regardless of how your goals are documented, it's easier to chart your progress if they're very specific. A goal of "lose 10 pounds by Nov. 1" is much easier to track than the broader goal of "lose weight." How can you tell if you achieved the latter? How can you be happy about getting there if you never established a destination?
Some say the act of writing down a goal solidifies and hones the idea, and ingrains it in your mind. "Just as breathing exercises help integrate body and mind, writing is a kind of psycho-neural muscular activity which helps bridge and integrate the conscious and subconscious minds. Writing distills, crystallizes, and clarifies thought and helps break the whole into parts," writes Steven Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Opinions may vary on how a goal should be recorded, and sometimes what works for one person is not appropriate for another. But whether it's written in sparkle glue on a fluorescent poster on your wall; depicted in a photo stuck on a vision board; entered in a journal or penned on a Post-it note stuck to your computer, regularly checking your progress is key. With each success you record, it can heighten your sense of satisfaction -- it can make you happier. "Seeing the progress is important," said Cusick. "If you don't see progress, then you can think (your efforts) don't matter. But people create the lives they want."