I don’t normally do the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing, as in my opinion, it’s just another way to procrastinate. It’s like saying, “I’ll start that diet on Monday,” which really means, “Yay, I have an excuse to eat like crap for four days since I’m starting a DIET next week, which will fix everything bad I’ve done to my body in the form of sugar, fat, and sitting on my you-know-what.”
But I have to admit, around this time of year, I do start to get those thoughts about the previous year, sort of summing it up and thinking about all the things I’ve done well or not as well, and all the things I’d like to do differently. The passing of the old year and welcoming the new is a good place to take stock and set some goals, not to delay the start, but just to say, “Hey, this is what I want to do in the coming year.”
Most resolutions fail, and fail before the end of January. Why? The reason is that people often set large resolutions with no clear idea how they’ll get there. For instance, weight loss is one of the most chosen goals. People want to lose weight and go on a super-strict diet and exercise regimen for awhile, then stop. Unless you are being paid millions of dollars for a movie and have a personal trainer, it’s just not realistic that you’re going to lose 20 (or 50) pounds without planning for it.
So how to make resolutions successful?
1. Set smaller, attainable goals. For instance, if your resolution is to lose weight, break it into smaller steps. Start slowly and build good habits. Studies show that slower weight loss is more likely to last longer than rapid weight loss. The reason for this is that a healthier lifestyle becomes a maintainable habit, not just something that you drive yourself crazy doing until real life sets back in. Any positive change will become a habit. The Tortoise and the Hare taught us this lesson: slow and steady wins the race. Remember, your resolutions are for the whole year, so you can take the whole year to make positive changes.
2. Make your goals concrete. When we set goals, sometimes they’re vague, like “I want to be happier.” What does that even mean to you? Sit down and make a list of what makes you happy, and then figure out how to have more of that. If relaxing makes you happy, figure out how to take more vacations. If spending time with friends makes you happy, set a coffee date with a friend. Concrete goals make it easier to stay on track.
3. Set measurable goals. You’ll be more likely to stick to goals if you can measure them. In the last example, don’t just say, “I’ll go out for coffee more often with friends.” Say, “I’ll meet with a friend once a month for coffee.” You’re more likely to do things that you can measure. Plus, if you can measure something, it makes it easier to be accountable.
4. Set a manageable number of goals. Don’t sit down on New Year’s Eve and decide that you’re going to remake your whole life. Set 2-5 reasonable goals, things that you can stick with. After all, if your goals become too easy, you can set new ones later in the year. There’s no law that says you can only set goals for the new year.
5. Write it down. Don’t count on your memory. Write down what you want to accomplish, and the steps you want to take to accomplish your goals.
6. Failure is okay. I really believe that failure is just success that hasn’t happened yet. Everyone fails. JK Rowling was rejected by numerous publishing houses. Thomas Edison made many lightbulbs that didn’t work. The only difference between someone who “fails” and someone who “succeeds” is how many times you’re willing to try. If you fall off whatever wagon you’re on, get back up and start again.
“There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.”