The changing of the year is traditionally a time to reflect on the past and make promises to ourselves about the immediate future. The immediate future: that new year that sneaks up on us and stares us down with a look that says, I dare you.
Sometimes we promise too much to and of ourselves, so we don’t achieve all we resolved to. And then our resolve weakens. . .and weakens. . . so we let our resolutions deflate and fall with a limp quiver.
How can this year be different?
Be realistic about and patient with what you aim to achieve.
Are you aiming too high? Are you trying to bypass the stars and shoot directly for the moon? Take an honest and critical look at your list of resolutions and put an asterisk next to the ones that you realize might be overly ambitious and will potentially set you up for unnecessary stress and disappointment.
So are you ready to revise your list and experience ongoing achievement?
It’s really quite simple but requires you to do something that seems to fly in the face of traditional New Year’s resolution making: to aim for the moon. But the point is to actually achieve planned improvements, not just to list them–right? So to better ensure achievement, resolve to make several small changes that will lead to one or two major improvements over time–maybe even in another year. But that’s okay; the best things are worth waiting for. The best way to stay motivated is to experience success; therefore, you should shoot for several small wins. Reaching one “star” will give you the motivation to continue shooting for the others and maybe even to “up the ante” by progressively building on these small successes–like a resolution snowball.
How do you find your stars?
To make sure your small resolutions lead to at least one major improvement, start with the ambitious goal in mind–but don’t write it on your resolution list! Next, break it down into its smaller, more manageable parts. To do this, ask yourself: “What will I need to do, what kind of changes will I need to make, for the single major change to occur?” Those smaller parts are your resolutions (not the pie-in-the-sky goals that taunt you throughout the year). Once you have the list of smaller, let’s say more cooperative, objectives, focus on these and keep that big mother they were born from out of your mind.
The goal is to set resolutions we can achieve, not to set ourselves up for failure.
I know this is easier said than done. I struggle with it all the time at work. I focus on, and inevitably stress over, the big project that is due in two or three months. I focus only on the finished product and immediately feel paralyzed and unsure of how I’m going to get it done. But once I take a deep breath and start focusing on the smaller tasks involved in the project, my stress abates, and I work more productively and successfully. This way, I experience ongoing achievement of several small objectives that naturally lead to the achievement of the major goal. Throughout this process, which inevitably begins with an immediate but short-lived feeling of overwhelm, my focus is on the small daily or weekly tasks—which is a much more manageable and productive way to achieve the end goal.
Your goal might be to lose 30 pounds this new year. What does it take to do this? Think about what your eating and exercise habits are like now and make small changes to those. One small change, like replacing some of your carbohydrates with more protein or vegetables, can make a major difference. I talked to a woman several years ago who lost 20 pounds simply by replacing sodas with water. I say “simply,” but I know that’s a major achievement for people who are used to drinking several a day. This was a difficult change for her to make, but it’s a single change that led to major weight loss success.
Whatever your ambitious resolutions are, consider increasing your chances of success by choosing one (or two) for this year and making it achievable by dissecting it into its smaller parts. Shoot for these “stars” instead. When you reach them, you will eventually find yourself sitting atop your “moon.”
What is your advice for setting achievable New Year’s resolutions?
Do you have an overly ambitious resolution that you need help dissecting?