Lose weight. Exercise more. Get organized. Save money. Travel.
Sound familiar? They are some of the most common resolutions set every year – and most often abandoned before February rolls around. Research by Strava that looked at over 800 million user-logged activities suggests that January 19th is the most common quitting day.
You may have seen some of the memes around the mocking of resolutions: “I only have one resolution – and that’s to make no resolutions,” or “I don’t call them New Year’s resolutions. I prefer the term ‘casual promises I make to myself that I am under no legal obligation to fulfill.'”
Or, you might have seen the messages that say “There is no need to set resolutions, because you are already ‘enough’ – no improvement needed.” Of course you are. Your worth does not change, but that doesn’t mean there is no longer a need or room for improvement.
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
If, unlike Alice, you do know the direction you want to go, setting goals can help you get there. There are a myriad of ways to set goals/make resolutions that you won’t abandon before February.
Some sources advise that you not set your sights too high and create SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Other sources recommend you shoot for the moon and go after BHAGs – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. These goals are real stretch goals that may take a decade or more to achieve. Maybe, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, you won’t even see them achieved in your lifetime, but they are still goals worth pursuing.
Or, there are CLEAR goals. CLEAR goals are Collaborative (goals encourage people to work together), Limited (limited in scope and duration), Emotional (a goal that you have an emotional connection to and one that taps into your energy, passion and purpose), Appreciable (goals are broken into small chunks so they can be accomplished quickly and successfully) and finally, Refinable (goals should not be rigid but adaptable to life’s shifting circumstances).
To help you achieve your goals, there are all manner of journals, large and small, hard-bound or digital, streamlined or filled with quotes and encouragement before you even start. There are vision boards, words of the year, manifesting and online apps that send you reminders and affirmations. Analysis paralysis has probably set in right about now.
So which one is the “right” way to set goals? I’ve tried them all and my answer is like many others: the one that works for you. Adapt, adapt, adapt is the name of the game. I remember first hearing about a morning “power hour” – an hour devoted to getting yourself ready for the day with exercise, devotion time, journaling, reading, etc. I laughed myself breathless. With a house full of growing children, I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself. But, as the kids started sleeping through the night, I could start getting up at a regular time and take maybe 10 or 15 minutes getting set up for the day.
There are some general pieces of advice on how to reach these resolutions. Write your goals down – and keep them in a place you see often but not too often so they stay fresh. Chunk your goals down into small, easy-to-accomplish steps. Habit stack, or tie your new goals to old habits. Make it easy to succeed. Want to lose weight? Get rid of the junk food in your pantry, or put it on the top shelf of a different room. Want to journal consistently? Set a short time limit (say 10 minutes) and then stop. Ten minutes a day is doable. An hour or more to data dump may not be possible. There are lots of ways to make things easier on yourself.
Speaking of dumping, dump perfectionism. It’s not possible to achieve anyway, so give yourself some grace when you eat that doughnut even if you’re trying to avoid them, or you miss a day of reading. One of the top reasons people quit on their New Year’s resolutions is because they miss a day and feel like they’ve blown it. Just go at it again the next day. And be flexible. For example, “reading” doesn’t have to mean a hardcover book in your hands. Lots of people find joy in listening to books.
In the end, it’s not about the tools, the tricks or the tips that work for other people. It’s about what works for you, in the stage you’re in, at the speed that’s right for you. Often, we overestimate what we can do in a day or a week, but we underestimate what we can do in a year. 15 minutes a day is 91 hours in a year. That’s a lot of reading or journal writing or meditation or whatever it is you are working on.
So happy goal setting this week, and indeed anytime you want/need a reset. I’m cheering for you.
Holly Richardson’s big (and maybe only) goal for 2022 is to finish her PhD. It’s one of the biggest stretch goals she’s ever made. Many tears have been shed, but the finish line is in sight…