It’s that time of year again, where the calendar flips over and you have a blank slate. It’s time to write some goals and get things done! This will be our year! But…wait. What happened to last year’s resolutions? And the year before that?
Many times, we have the best intentions and want to change our lives for the better. Do you want to go to the gym every week to become healthier? Imagine Matt, who is all excited about starting off the new year strong and consistently go to the gym three times a week. It’s tough at the beginning, his first session on the treadmill ends within 10 minutes out-of-breath with sweat drenching his shirt. But, from then on, every session gets better; he feels more lightweight, can go for longer distances, and he can see progress in the mirror. But after a few weeks of consistent exercise, he decides to skip one day because he was behind at work. Then another, when some friends called him out for beers. Fast forward a few months, and he’s back to becoming unhealthy again. Nearing Christmas, he thinks back and is disappointed that his new year’s resolutions petered out for another year.
Why is it so hard to keep new year’s resolutions?
I will tell you 3 possible reasons why you fail to keep your resolutions, and how to try and combat these traps.
1. Your resolutions are not SMART!
SMART goals can greatly increase your chances of accomplishing your goals by giving you a clear plan to execute. This type of goal setting is used widely in both professional and personal settings and stands for:
Specific: Well defined and unambiguous
Measurable: Quantitative method to measure your progress
Achievable: Goal is attainable and reasonable
Realistic: Within reach and you can set aside enough time and energy to complete it
Timely: Clearly defined timeline for when to accomplish the goal
Setting your goal with these attributes in mind will give you a clear goal that can be measurable (e.g. Lose 10 pounds vs. Lose weight). Thinking about how achievable and realistic a goal is can stop you from biting more than you can chew, and developing anxiety when thinking about the lack of progress of your resolution. You should set aside enough time and energy in your schedule to make the goal a reality. Lastly, timeliness gives you a schedule to follow in order to accomplish the goal.
As an example, here is an un-SMART goal:
I want to lose weight, so I will start exercising in the new year.
S – Unspecific. When you feel unmotivated, it’s very easy to call a “cheat day”, which can then turn into a “cheat year”
M -How much weight would you need to lose to feel accomplished?
A – When will this goal be achieved?
R – Unsure if realistic, depending on how much time can be set aside for exercise.
T – There’s no deadline! If there is little progress, you can easily push the deadline to lose weight to another few months indefinitely
Instead of a vague goal, you can turn it into a SMART goal:
I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of June. To do this, I will go to the gym two times a week and limit my fast-food to one time a week.
S – There is a clear, specific goal of 10 pounds
M – You can easily track your progress towards the 10 pound mark. You can do a progress report in March to see if you are in-line with 5 pounds.
A – Achievable and not overly optimistic
R – Realistic with time to be set aside specifically for exercise
T – Timeboxed, so no inclination to push deadlines to an indefinite future.
2. Juggling too many balls at once
Another reason that you may be struggling with goals is that you have too many things on your plate. There’s a lot to handle you’re juggling family, friends, work, obligations, and passion projects. Something usually falls into the cracks, and it’s a fine line to balance aspects of your life that you prioritize.
The same thing can happen with resolutions. If you want to exercise, while taking a photography class, all while applying to new jobs to further your career, AND keeping all your relationships afloat, something’s gotta give.
I try to keep 1-3 big goals that align with my values.
One of my constant goals, especially this year, is to learn new things. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day that you forget there is much more to explore. I’m a software engineer by trade, but I want to do more than stare at a computer 40+ hours a week and talking to fellow engineers about technology. This is why I wanted to start this blog and learn about self-improvement and content creation, hopefully helping others along the way.
So, do you have one resolution, or do you have ten?
If you have more than one, list them on a piece of paper and prioritize them. Write a number in terms of importance, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
Once that’s done, cross out everything except the first one to three items on your list. It may be harsh, but if you don’t get laser-focused on the big things in your life, you are bound to drop the ball on all of them.
3. No Accountability
Sometimes, we need an extra push from someone to remind us of our goals. Like the quote “It takes a village to raise a child”, our habits, successes, and stories are influenced by those around us. Even the most diligent of us need a gentle nudge to keep us accountable for our goals.
One way to keep accountable is to have an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who you can tell your goals to, knowing that they will be in full support of you.
Pull in a friend, a family member, or a coworker and tell them your new year’s resolution. Tell them to periodically check up on you, maybe every two weeks, to see how your progress is. This will give yourself an extra incentive to not let things slide. In return, you can let them share their goal, and regularly check in too!
Start Small, Stay Strong
I’ve given you three things to keep in mind when creating your future goals.
- Keep your goals SMART!
- Limit yourself to 1-3 goals at a time
- Get an accountability partner
I hope that will help you in realising your goals for the new year. Just remember that a little progress is better than no progress at all. When starting, if you feel overwhelmed and scared that you’ll fail again, keep your goals SMALL. Gradual progress is a good thing. Don’t be too hard on yourself and forgive yourself for setbacks. That will help alleviate any built-up stress you have of overcoming your challenges.
Now go out there, make this your best year yet in the new decade! What are your goals for 2020?