New year ideal time for fresh start

By Val Leveson

Annual milestone can be used to assess the past 12 months and to re-evaluate your goals in work and life

In creating new goals, it pays to reassess the old ones. Photo / Thinkstock
In creating new goals, it pays to reassess the old ones. Photo / Thinkstock

The new year is the opportunity for assessing the past 12 months and making a fresh start - it's good to use January as a time to re-evaluate your career, your habits, everything.

The co-founder of the Professionelle Charitable Foundation, strategic change consultant and executive coach Galia Barhava-Monteith, says one of the key aspects of creating new goals is letting go of old ones that may be holding you back.

"Sometimes if you compare yourself with your old goals, you can come to the conclusion that you've failed, that you're not good enough.

"It's better to be realistic about your life. When did you make those goals? Before you had a disabled child that needed a lot of time? Before you had health problems?"

Barhava-Monteith tells of her own story. "I became ill and realised I had to concentrate on getting well, that became my goal. I realised I had to look at my workload and professional goals in order to make that happen.

"I needed to find a new energy and I have. I spoke with my co-founder of Professionelle and we decided that we wanted the organisation to carry on even at a time when we could no longer run it. So we decided to turn it into a charitable trust.

"We used good goal-setting techniques. We were specific about what we wanted to achieve, we understood why we wanted it achieved and looked at the essence of what we wanted to create.

"We put a board in place comprising successful businesswomen, a successful businessman and a younger one too and so we were looking to having different input.

"We also found corporate partners, our first being Simpson Grierson quickly followed by Air New Zealand. We found someone, executive coach Jayne Muller, to start to take over much of what I used to do.

"The thing about goals is you need to clarify what you want, have clear drivers and have your goals fit with your motivation and values - have goals that are authentic to you," she says. "I was motivated to concentrate on regaining my health - and so I had to reset my goals."

New Year is a good time to make these decisions. Auckland-based counsellor and counselling supervisor Kaaren Frater-Mathieson says: "I think a new year marks a natural crossing of a new threshold. It's like the beginning of another chapter in our life story.

"Many of us have spent the year rushing through each day, so by the end of the year it's not uncommon to feel pretty worn out, and to long for the following year to be a better one.

"A new year is often a time when we can slow down enough to take stock of our life - to step back from the habitual flow of days, and to find perspective."

She says it's invaluable to look back at the past year and decide what you want to continue and what you want to change. "To better ourselves, to transform what limits us, and to yearn to follow a deeper dream are natural and healthy longings.

"We're hard-wired to change and grow. A new year can heighten our creative energy to change, because it offers a ritual chance of a fresh beginning. At the same time, in our desire to change something about ourselves or our lives, we can easily lose sight of appreciating who we are already, and what makes up our life.

"So in looking back over the past year it's important to harvest the fruit and the learnings - to be able to appreciate what's been meaningful about the year, and what you have valued in your own self and others."

Galia Barhava-Monteith. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Galia Barhava-Monteith. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Barhava-Monteith says not all goals are created equal. "According to positive psychology, most people's ultimate goal is wellbeing and having a meaningful life. It's about looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs - health, basic income comes first."

She says the most meaningful goals are ones that are in line with a person's skills and expertise. "And it's also important for your goal to be an autonomous one - one that speaks to who you are. Don't aim to become a lawyer because it's expected by your parents, become one because you want to become one."

She says connectedness with others is another important goal. "Creating meaningful relationships is part of achieving happiness."

Barhava-Monteith suggests having subgoals and timeframes for your goals. "Be clear about the goal. Mine was for Professionelle to eventually go on without my co-founder and me.

"My personal goal was to get better and get off medication. I have achieved that. It's been about going to the gym, getting help to change my metabolic rate. I've dropped 10 years. I drink less coffee and more water and ensure I do as much exercise as I need. It's about looking at goals in a positive way. My goal was to get healthy, not to get less sick."

As she's recovered her health, Barhava-Monteith has started to focus on new career goals. "In my work life I'm a strategist and psychologist. I have used those skills separately and haven't consciously combined them. I am now bringing them together.

"People have told me that one of my strengths is being able to make complex things accessible. This works well for my strategy side. It's important when making goals to really reflect on feedback and to acknowledge it, it can help you realise what your true strengths are.

"So with listening to feedback, I realised I enjoy strategy and bringing my skills in psychology and strategy together would be very authentic to me and could be powerful for the clients. So I've developed a new approach to strategy consulting combining the two. I'm happiest combining all my skills, so that's what I'm doing."

Even tough feedback should be seen as a gift. "It can really strengthen connection with the other person if you allow it to," she says.

To create new goals you do have to let go of the old ones, Barhava-Monteith says. "If you have a sick child, for example, your goals could change. Holding on to old goals that are no longer workable just leads to a lot of frustration and pain."

She suggests that before you create new goals, reassess the old ones. Write them down in a list, notice why they didn't happen. Were they unrealistic? Did they not have a good timeline? Were they not authentic to you? Then take the list of those goals that didn't work and held you back and symbolically get rid of it. "Maybe burn the list, or bury it. Symbolically and literally let it go."

Frater-Mathieson's advice on making new goals is: "Firstly, I think it's important to take time to reflect and inhabit the bigger picture of your life.

"Take a pen in hand and ask yourself, what are your deepest dreams? What matters most to you? What values do you like to draw on to support and encourage you? What patterns of behaviour tend to limit you? What do you like about yourself and appreciate about your life already?

"Keep writing down your reflections and responses until you may even be surprised by what you have written. Often positive change occurs naturally when we deepen our appreciation of who we are already.

"Once you have that benchmark of appreciation of all the little things that make up your life, it's easier to find that creative and focused energy to make the changes you want to make.

"You could start with two goals - one goal could be linked to a pattern of behaviour that's limiting you, such as drinking too much, or getting irritated too often, and then break this down into small new behaviours, such as stopping and breathing yourself out of all that irritability, each time you feel the urge to react.

"The other goal could be linked to a deeper dream ... [perhaps] there is an artist or a traveller in you that longs to be heard. Again, start with small steps. Each time you take a tiny step and turn it into a daily pattern, then those bigger steps become smaller."


Managing your goals

• Before making new goals, reassess the old ones and throw out the ones that have become unrealistic.

• All goals are not created equal, they should be in line with a person's skills and expertise. Set goals that YOU want to happen, not for anyone else.

• Set time limits on goals.

• Divide goals up into manageable sub-goals, but always with an awareness of what you're trying to achieve.

• Reflect on what your dreams are, what you want to achieve and what may be limiting you from meeting your goals.

- NZ Herald

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