Ah, it’s December. That time of year when our thoughts shift from the thankfulness of Thanksgiving to the resolutions of the New Year. That’s right, we’re stuck right smack in the middle of gratitude and goals. But what if these two things didn’t have to be annual events? What if we didn’t concentrate on what we’re thankful for just over Thanksgiving dinner, but instead incorporated these feelings of gratitude into our daily living? And what if, instead of committing to improving our lives only at New Year resolution time, we set goals and took action on them every day in the upcoming year?

Gratitude and goals don’t have to be annual events. Instead, feeling grateful and making progress on our goals can be habits we incorporate into our daily life throughout the entire year. When we make the choice to feel grateful about where we are, while striving to create something more, our lives are filled with greater joy and purpose.

The benefits of gratitude.

This past month, I have made a concerted effort to keep my mind focused on gratitude. In these final weeks before Christmas, this has created a foundation of joy that is carrying me through my hectic holiday schedule. It is easy to turn on the news and feel awful about the economy and the bad-news story of the day. But it is so much more rewarding to feel grateful and seek out the good that is already present in my life.

If you’re feeling frazzled by the season (or the economy or anything else is weighing heavy on your mind right now) consider making a commitment to recognize and record what you’re grateful for. This doesn’t have to be complicated. You could jot down your thoughts in a designated gratitude notebook each night before bed. My husband has a polished rock in his pocket that says “thanks.” Each time he sees it or feels it when digging for keys or coins, it’s a reminder to pause and be grateful for something happening right at that moment. You could create a small gratitude photo album or make gratitude part of a daily phone call or email chat with a friend or loved-one.

gratitude stones

I’ve used several approaches for capturing gratitude through the years. Regardless of the method I choose, one thing remains constant: the benefits of seeking out things to appreciate each and every day has been a very powerful experience. When I know that each day before bed, I will document what I’m grateful for, my point of focus throughout the entire day changes. Instead of noticing (and ultimately being bothered by) the little annoyances in life, I notice and appreciate the little joys in life. I notice how beautiful partially frozen pampas grass looks in the late afternoon sun. I notice how the squirrels busily collect food for the winter while I write. I notice that my husband has cleaned the carpet and my son wants to snuggle just a while longer. It is these little things that make life richer.

The benefits of gratitude have been documented by others as well. In fact, according to an article in the November 2008 issue of Real Simple magazine, expressing gratitude gives you a sense of control plus it can improve your health and raise your self-esteem—all good stuff.

Start feeling grateful now!

As I mentioned above, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Grab a notebook and just set aside five minutes a day jotting down what you’re grateful for—the big things, the small things and anything in between. Sometimes my gratitude is as simple as “I’m grateful to be going to bed now!” and even this feels good. Keep it simple, get started, and see how your attitude and level of happiness changes over the days and weeks ahead.

Can gratitude and goals co-exist in the same life?

I think so. Being grateful about your life and where you are right now doesn’t mean you don’t want to grow and create change in your life. If you’re like me, you love to create change, learn new things and improve life for yourself and your loved-ones. Creating these new things, or accomplishing your goals, is even more possible when you start with a foundation of gratitude. Instead of feeling frustrated that you haven’t already accomplished every goal on your list, you’ll feel happy about where you are while eagerly anticipating the journey ahead. In a nutshell, being grateful for all you have now sets the stage for realizing your goals in the future.

The benefits of goals.

I habitually set goals…for every area of my life. They’re not always in writing or formal, but before I do just about anything, I have a desired outcome in mind. When I go to my son’s basketball game, I want to enjoy the experience, take photos and simply drink it all in. When I work with a client, my goal is to work efficiently and effectively and help her achieve her goals for that session. Goals help you think through what you want out of a situation. Whether it’s a meeting, a project or your life…if you enter into a situation with purpose and a predetermined idea of what constitutes a good outcome, your chance of being satisfied with the end result skyrockets.

Goals give you purpose and perspective. And, they help you find meaning in turbulent times. When you have your eye on the prize, it’s easier to drown-out the background noise such as bad news on the T.V. or the naysayer who isn’t supporting your new direction. You have purpose. You have clarity about what you want. And you’re inspired to take action and make it happen.

Start setting goals now!

Guess what? You don’t have to wait until January to start improving your life…you can start now. Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead, start by answering this question: If my life were ideal in every way, what would it be like? Then, really let yourself answer that question. What is it that you want? Write down whatever comes to mind. Simply let it flow.

From the perspective of your ideal life, pick a place to start. Is it to organize your home? Eat healthier or exercise more? Once you have you starting point in mind, decide on a single action step to move yourself in the direction of your goal. You don’t have to figure out every single step before you begin. Just pick a single step to take. If your goal is to organize your home, for example, pick a room and then, one small area in that room. If your goal is to eat healthier, identify a new healthier food to incorporate into your diet. In other words, swap-out your current afternoon snack for an apple. The key is this: you don’t have to completely organize your home overnight or totally revamp your eating habits today. Simply identify one step to take in the direction of your goal and then, do it!

Create a life you love.

As you make your way through the rest of December, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, remember goals and gratitude. It is our daily choices about what to give our attention to and how to spend our time that creates our lives. Choose gratitude and goals and you’ll find yourself creating (and living) a life you love.

If you would like more information on goal-setting and how to create the life of your dreams, join my online class How to Achieve Your Goals and Create a Life You Love. This fun, action-oriented online course will help you clarify your goals and take action on them, with the support and encouragement of an online community. Sign-up today, and make this your best year yet!

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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