New Year…new you. New Year…new goals. We are inundated with messages about the necessity of goal setting. But I’m not feeling it…at all. The forced nature of this cultural observance holds no appeal for me. And yet I know that writing my vision down enables me to run with it. How do we maintain focus without being violent to ourselves or others?
“Violent?” you may ask.
Yes, you read that correctly…violent.
According to the World Health Organization, violence is defined as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”. The emphasis added is mine.
Let’s break this down.
Each and every one of us has power. Most often our power is exerted through the innumerable choices we make each day about what we think, say and do. These choices shape the direction of our lives and also impact our family, friends, co-workers, and students. When I choose to be late for work, my co-worker has to pick up the slack. If I choose to submit my report on time, it decreases the anxiety of my team.
It is often easier for us to comprehend the effect of our thoughts, words and actions on the people around us than on ourselves. However, our internal dialogue is one of the most powerful conversations we have. I choose how I talk to myself, either positively or negatively.
Repetitive negative thinking can lead to increased anxiety and depression; positive self-talk leads to improved outcomes in a variety of areas, including sports and public speaking. What we say to ourselves matters. With our words, we can either build ourselves up or tear ourselves down.
Oxford Languages defines goal as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”
Many of our New Year’s resolutions are related to things we don’t like about ourselves, such as the need to lose weight. Negative self-talk underlies these goals. If we dig deep enough, we may uncover the truth that we are upset, angry, or disappointed with ourselves. Our goals, therefore, become a tool for punishing ourselves for not being good enough. We think that a lifestyle of self-deprivation will help us like ourselves more. Do you see the violence in that?
What if we transformed the practice of goal setting from one of lack and punishment to abundance and gratitude? What if my goals are sparked by curiosity rather than shame?
Let’s start with the premise of improvement not perfection.
For example, instead of saying to myself, I want to lose fifteen pounds by June so I can feel good about myself in my bathing suit this summer, I can say I want to become healthy and strong so I can live a long and satisfying life with my family.
“What does this have to do with my professional goals?” you may be asking.
The way we talk to ourselves personally is often the way we talk to ourselves professionally. If we want to be more effective, then we must take time to acknowledge and celebrate our own achievements, no matter how small. Build on the little wins.
As educators…community leaders…the way we talk to ourselves overflows to our colleagues and students.
Reframing our goal setting enables us to empower ourselves and others instead of shame. It is an invitation to Courage, Compassion and Connection.
What is my goal this year? To speak life to myself and everyone around me.
About the author
Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.