Cathy Madavan shares how she plans ahead in order to embrace a new season
A new year is full of new opportunities and beginnings. But that can be accompanied by new pressure to set ourselves all kinds of gloriously unrealistic goals, half of which will be in the bin by time the baubles get put away! Or is that just me? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good goal, and every January I like to reflect on the past year and plan ahead where possible. For many of us (myself included) this year will involve a lot of ‘embracing the new’. So, facing forwards, here are five things that will hopefully help as we step into this new season.
1. Consider your ‘why’
Knowing why something matters to you fills up your motivation tank. If you know why you have chosen a certain goal, you will value it, resource it and prioritise it. Your how always follows your why. So, why are you exercising more regularly, or learning a new skill, for example? Ideally, it’s not just something you ‘ought to do’ but something you ‘want to do’. Honestly, there are days when studying for a master’s degree feels like a bonkers goal, but when I remember why I am doing it, my head gets back into gear. You have passions that are significant to you, so remember why you’re leaning in – and write that down to keep to hand as a motivator.
2. Don’t let the start stop you
I’ve often heard it said: “If you want God to guide your footsteps, you need to be willing to move your feet!” Let’s be honest, it can be hard to get started sometimes (cue endless procrastination). If we are struggling to start, it’s often about addressing our fears. Perhaps it is an empty page that needs the first words written, or maybe it is a comfort zone that needs leaving or a genuine concern that needs addressing. The fact is, you won’t ever know whether you can do it until you get going. So commit to starting – you might surprise yourself!
3. Do the next right thing
I love Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Wouldn’t you just love to know the entire path ahead? But, in reality, it’s often just the next step that God illuminates. So prayerfully consider what your next right step might be. This is how we create momentum; breaking down a journey, a step at a time. And, before you know it, the path becomes clearer as a result. So, what one thing could you do today? Have a conversation? Take an online exercise class? Engage in a piece of research? What will keep you moving in the right direction?
4. Failure is permitted. Perfection is not
Have you ever set yourself a totally ridiculous target and then promptly failed? I empathise. But this boom-and-bust mentality means we feel rubbish after our first bout of enthusiasm wanes, and we often abort mission as a result. Whether it’s exercise, spiritual disciplines, recycling or investing in a new project, progress is always more important than perfection. Yes, dream big and set bold plans, but also be realistic. Sometimes things take longer or are more complicated than we imagined. And who is ever brilliant at anything to start with anyway? Failing is part of our learning and mediocrity is often good enough; nobody asked you to be perfect, so give yourself some grace.
5. Accountability means stickability
This African proverb always rings true to me: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I know I am way more likely to stick at anything if I’ve told somebody else about it. This doesn’t mean I need someone to nag me, but I do need encouragement, creative ideas and the odd gentle prod to keep going. And let’s not forget, it is much more fun celebrating your success and meaningful milestones along the way with others - so make sure you celebrate in style!