New Year’s resolutions are often based on unrealistic expectations. And that is why many of us fail at them. And then, to make matters worse, fear of failing again keeps us from another try.
Imagine your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthy. On January 1, you are motivated to purge your kitchen of anything unhealthy. You quit most carbs cold turkey, you give up much of your caffeine, and you enthusiastically create new menus around fresh vegetables and organic foods.
Where do you think your healthy eating resolution will be by March? I guarantee you’d be back to old habits, your motivation gone and your resolution forgotten.
Goal-setting, instead, works like this. You have a long-term goal of eating healthy. You start with something easy — let’s say you’ll eat a salad or fresh, organic vegetables once a week. Once you’ve built that habit in a couple of months, you increase that to twice a week. At the same time, you choose one unhealthy favorite and relegate it to a treat. (Will it be doughnuts? Sugary drinks? Potato chips? Your choice!)
Once you’ve achieved that, you move on to something else, caffeine perhaps. If the doughnuts or potato chips end back on your “menu” more often than you’d hoped, you choose something different instead.
If you keep going on this path, day in and day out, where do you think you’ll be by the end of the year? Well on your way to a healthier lifestyle. The difference in this goal-setting process is that you’ve followed small, measurable goals, something a vague New Year’s resolution doesn’t typically offer.
So let’s put a “twist” on the resolution tradition with this simple exercise that you can probably get done in an hour:
- Ask yourself: What are some of the things you’ve achieved in 2017? Make a list that includes accomplishments related to your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Small or big, it doesn’t matter. Just keep writing until you have at least a short list for each of the three categories.
- Next, organize your list. Go through each category and classify each goal as big or small. Start a new list divided into columns. Put the big goals at the top of each column (like a “header”) and underneath them add in any of the related small goals as a bullet list.
- Last, take the goals that are left and add them to new columns—big goals as headers, small goals as bullets (it’s OK if the bullets don’t have “headers” yet).
Once you’ve got this done, first, feel good! Then, use it as a springboard. Choose a header that doesn’t already have a lot of bulletpoints. What easy or small steps can you take next toward that big goal, i.e. the header? Start a new 2018 list of goals with the same header, or use a different color to fill in the new possibilities.
After doing this for all the columns that have a header, go through the bulletpoints that are orphan. Can you think of a big goal they could lead to? Make a header based on that, and then you’re ready to write down some new ideas under that newly identified goal.
That’s it! You should “walk out” of this exercise with a new, actionable list of small goals for 2018. Not only are you ready to build on the success of this year but you’ve achieved the first step toward reaching your goals: You wrote them down.
Oh, and by the way, you can now cross “making New Year’s resolutions” off your to-do list. You’ll never look at them the same way.
Have a safe celebration this New Year’s Eve. Stay strong!