I Hate Resolutions.
I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t in quite a few years. I have changes I want to make, some of which line up with the new year, but certainly not all. Not only that, but I’m not telling anyone what my year’s goals are anyways.
Peter Gollwitzer et. al. put out a study in 2012 about how sharing goals with your social circle actually makes it more likely for you to fail (PDF link). There are two reasons for this – first, if people celebrate your goal before you complete it, you get the social validation and sense of accomplishment, even if you haven’t done a damn thing. Second, if you fall behind on your goals even slightly, you feel more pressure to catch up because you feel that all eyes are on you (even if everyone forgot right after liking your Facebook post.
I’ve fallen into that trap. Hell, this past November I said I was working on NaNoWriMo… and promptly gave up after one day. To be fair, I should have known better since I was in the last month of wedding planning, but I’m an optimist. I’ve done this before as well – telling people I’m going to lose weight, only to stay where I was; Telling people I’m going to start exercising only to later modify my definition of exercise to be “Walk to kitchen, lift popcorn bowl, return to couch.”
One thing I will share though is how I’ve helped myself achieve goals before and hope to in the future.
Break Them Down
Year goals are overwhelming. Even goals for the month may be. I’ve found that if I set a goal for the year, then I need to break it down into months, weeks, and even days.
Want to lose weight this year? Awesome! Your goal may be “Lose 50 pounds by the end of the year” but that’s not only broad, but doesn’t even show you where to start. You gotta break that shit down. Maybe your goal for January will be “Figure out what form of calorie counting works for me.” Your first week goal might be “Research dieting methods, and choose one that is healthy.” January 1st’s goal might just be “Keep within my calorie limit” and the 2nd may be “Exercise 15 minutes.” Keep it slow, keep it manageable. Do it one day at a time. Your day goals are a subset of your week goals. Your week goals are a subset of the month, your months are a subset of the year. Plan your month’s broad goals at the end of the previous month, plan your week’s broad goals on the Saturday before, and plan your day’s goal before you go to bed. It sounds like a lot of planning but really, all you’re doing is taking it one day at a time, but still being able to look back at the big picture and reminding yourself where you should be going.
One at a Time
You might have 3, 5, or 10 goals for the year. A big mistake is to try and change everything all at once. If you fail one, you’re far more likely to give up on the rest. So, start one at a time.
Most goals people set won’t take a full year to finish. If you have goals that build on each other, get one started and get the habit in place, then work up to the next. If you want to lose weight, spend three months getting into gear with calorie counting, then maybe in April start adding exercise to your routine. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Accept That You Won’t Do Them All
Yeah! It’s the beginning of the year! This time I will DO IT. Everything will get in place and the world is mine!
Isn’t that what you said last year, too?
It’s probably not your last year on earth. Most of your goals aren’t going to be life-or-death. So plan on failing some of them.
If you’re an optimistic planner, you might have a dozen or more goals. That’s fantastic! Just remember, you have only so much time in the day, and the year. You might get to only two, and that’s okay. You know why? Because you got a whole two goals accomplished! The other ones can still be done next year.
If you’re a conservative planner, maybe just make one goal, and stick to it. If you reach that goal, only then add a new one, so that you don’t feel like you have an unfinished list at the end of the year.
Whichever way you go, the point is to not feel as though your list is the end-all-be-all. Life is unpredictable, don’t feel like you can predict everything you can do.
Don’t Tell Anyone!
Okay, that’s a little extreme. Just, don’t announce everything. As I pointed out at the beginning, it won’t help. Instead, maybe tell people what you’re doing after you reach some mini goals. Tell your friends after you lost 5 pounds, don’t say you have 45 more to go. Tell your friends that you’ve run a 5k, don’t promise to run a marathon by the end of the year. Talk about your accomplishments, not your wishes.
I’m no life coach or professional. Hell, I don’t follow all that all the time. But when I have, I’ve found that they’ve helped me tremendously.