So it’s the end of January. How are your resolutions going? ‘Fess up – they’re not, are they? (Neither are some of mine. I’m no paragon. :D) You’re not alone. Many people’s big plans for the new year have fallen by the wayside by now. The gym is getting quiet again. Dry January got a little…damper than expected. The writing goals went a bit pear shaped in the face of those DVD box sets or great books you got for Christmas. But that doesn’t mean you have to forget about them. As we stare down the barrel of February, let’s look at why resolutions fail and how to revive them.
Problem: Trying to do everything at once
It’s easy to forget you have twelve months to live up to these resolutions. Too often people try to do everything right now. Make all the changes. Work on all the new projects. By the time they get to the middle of January they’re burned out already.
Solution: Spread them out a bit for goodness sakes!
Tackle one lifestyle change and/or one project at a time. Let a lifestyle change bed in before trying the next. Focus on one or two projects so you can see real progress on them, instead of taking little bites out of all of them. The others will still be waiting for you later.
Problem: The resolutions are too vague
Tell ya what, let’s kick the word “resolutions” out of here right now. Resolutions are usually woolly stuff like “lose weight” or “read more”. They don’t give you something concrete to aim for and to measure your progress against.
Solution: Get specific.
Not “lose weight” but “lose 10lbs” or “fit into those jeans again”. Not “read more”, but “read 50 books”, or “read for an hour every day”. And set a deadline. Basically make it a goal, not a resolution. See way more about setting goals here: Eye on the Prize
Problem: You didn’t make a plan
You made the resolution. Maybe you went out shopping for running clothes and joined a gym. Or you bought “How To Finally Stop Only Talking About It and Write Your Damn Novel” (This book does not in fact exist, but maybe it should.) But now you’re just kind of dithering and doing a little bit, but not sure if you’re doing anything useful. Because you have no plan and a goal without a plan is just a wish.
Solution: Well, duh. Maybe a plan would help?
Figure out exactly what you want to achieve (as per point 2) and figure out what you need to do to get there. Break it down into tasks and stages. Work out a time frame. Research resources to help, whether they are books or smartphone apps or whatever. Maybe you need a challenge or program or some other kind of structure to keep you going. Whether it’s a writing word count challenge, or Couch to 5K, or Walking to Rivendell, or something you come up with on your own. Include regular reviews of progress in your plan.
Problem: Unrealistic Expectations
What, you haven’t lost 20lbs by now and can’t run a four minute mile? Better just give up and go back to the couch eh? There’s that Game of Thrones box set you got at Christmas waiting for you…
Solution: Be realistic.
This stuff is all going to take time. If you aim to read 100 books, you won’t have read them all by January 31st. Setting unrealistic goals can be a way to give yourself an excuse to give up. Look at what you can achieve and work towards that. If there’s something you want to work towards that may take more than a year to go – like go from couch potato to marathon ready – then keep the multi-year goal and break it down into stages. Make this year’s goal to complete that first step.
Problem: you don’t really want to do them
In the end if your goal isn’t something you actually care about achieving, you’ll probably fail. If you’re only doing it because other people say that’s what you should do, you’ll have no real motivation. Now that doesn’t include stuff that’s going to be hard, and probably not much fun – like dieting and exercising – but that you do really want to achieve. Any resolutions or projects you don’t really care about achieving will fail. They’ll be like those objectives you get imposed on you at work, that you’re convinced are only to make your boss look good.
Solution: Figure out what you really want, make that your goal and make your plan.
Bonus problem: you never made any resolutions.
Solution: It’s not too late. Make some. Every day is the start of a new year.