It’s that time of year again. With a champagne glass or a decadent dessert by your side, you declare your New Year’s resolution. Lofty and potentially life changing, you are inspired to turn a new leaf this year. However, if you are like 75% of us, your resolution is broken quickly, which leaves you feeling despondent and in an even worse place than you started.
This is dismaying and it begs the question, “Should we even make resolutions?” Despite the high fail rate, I think they can be both life changing and helpful. I think we just aren’t very good at making realistic goals. In fact, I’ve found it extremely helpful to spend a few hours every couple of months looking at my life and reorganizing, rethinking, and preplanning, when needed. So often we simply go through life getting done what we have too, but not doing what we really want too. When you take a step back to evaluate, it can give you perspective.
I’ve found planning goals (a term I prefer to resolutions) very helpful in helping me rebalance my life and learn new skills. If you are interested in making resolutions that actually stick, here are a few tips that I’ve found very helpful.
Make your goal specific
If your goal is simply, “Try to eat healthier this year”, it’s much too vague and general. How are going to know if you fulfilled your goal? What does “eating healthy” really look like? A much better goal would be to make a specific plan, such as “My goal is to eat a large salad every day” or “My goal is to eat 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables everyday”.
That’s getting better. But I find those goals even a little to vague and general. I like to make it even more specific, such as “Find 3 new recipes for making a vegetable side that the whole family likes”. It’s certainly not grandiose, but it’s a goal I can look at and say, “I can do that”. It also has a clear finishing line, that is, I know when I’ve accomplished it. That sense of victory once accomplished helps motivate me to make new goals, and accomplish those too.
Make it realistic
A good partner to making specific goals is making realistic goals. Don’t set up yourself for failure by setting your goals impossibly high. Make them doable. Make them something you know you can actually accomplish. It’s nice to make huge, awe-inspiring goals, but it’s not nice to feel like a failure when you don’t reach your goal by even a quarter. Make it realistic, and you have a much higher chance of accomplishing it.
Make each goal step by step
Another thing I have found helpful is making my goals step-by-step. Let me give you example. Let’s say I want to add more vegetables in my diet. Well, my first goal for January might be something along the lines of “Find 3 vegetable side recipes the family likes” and “Make a large dinner salad once a week for the family”. Once I have accomplished those specific, realistic goals for the month of January, I can move on to new goals in February.
Failing isn’t failing
Part of the way you can assure success is actually by not being too hard on yourself. If your goal is to cut back on sugar, and you fudge on the resolution and eat a slice of cake, don’t let it discourage you. Consider is a slight setback, and get back on track. You aren’t going to be perfect and if your resolution demands perfection, you are going to fail. So, whether your goal is cutting something out, or adding something in, don’t let setbacks discourage you from getting back on track. Failing once, isn’t failing your goal. Give yourself grace.
Don’t make a goal for a year
If you set up your goal deadline for a really long time in the future, you aren’t going to feel any urgency to get it done. That’s why I prefer making goals specific for each month. One great example is Crystal's list here. She has a doable goal for each month. They have clear deadlines in a timely fashion.
It’s more fun and keeps your accountable to partner with someone with similar goals. If you want to exercise more, it’s ideal to have an exercise partner. If you want to eat better, it’s encouraging to have a friend who has the same goal. But even if you don’t have those types of friends in “real life”, even online accountability can be helpful. That’s part of the reason I host a New Year Resolution Carnival each year. It allows people to share their goals in a public forum. Even simply stating them to someone else can give a sense of accountability and motivation. My husband and I have made goals together, which allows us some accountability as well.
In the end, when I make step-by-step goals that are both realistic and specific, allowing myself to be imperfect but with accountability of some kind, I have found I accomplish much more than I ever would have without New Year Resolutions.
For more information:
New Year resolutions doomed to failure (sounds completely dismal, but has good tips for making your chances of success higher)