Do you like making New Year’s resolutions this time of year? Or, are you in the camp that says they’re a waste of time? As someone that loves making goals and seeing them through, I’m honestly somewhere in the middle. I don’t think every resolution is a worthy one, but I also think that the process of self reflection is underrated!
I’ve had some years where my resolutions went fabulous (my 2009 resolution was to start a blog) and I’ve also had years that my resolutions were forgotten by mid-March. Today, I thought I’d share some of my tips and thoughts for what to consider when penning your resolutions.
Tip #1: Make sure the goals are yours.
Chances are, your Facebook feed is starting to fill with friends sharing challenges like these:
- 12 Week Weight Loss Challenge (may or may not include a “buy in”)
- Project 365 (take a picture every day for a year)
- Run 1,000 miles next year
- Save $10 every week for a year
I am easily moved by my friends’ enthusiasm for challenges and goals like these and can very quickly mistake that for my own interest, if I’m not careful. However, I’d really caution you about adopting other people’s goals without careful thought. Some of these require big commitments and may or may not align with what matters most to you. For instance, I’ve decided I’d like to run a 6:30 mile (or faster) in 2016. That’s a much more meaningful goal to me than making sure I’ve hit an arbitrary number of miles next year or completed a 365-day running streak.
Tip #2: Make a reasonable number of goals.
There are so many things we’d like to change and improve on, it can sometimes be overwhelming. We want to declutter, lose weight, eat more vegetables, go to church more regularly, read more, travel more, build a savings account, learn to garden, learn a new language…
But I’ve found I’m less likely to meet any resolutions if there are too many on my list. Last night, I divided a piece of paper into several categories:
- Fun/Self Improvement
For each category, I brainstormed many items that would serve as possible goals. Today I’ll review my list and parse out the goals that stand out the most to me. I may choose one goal from each category, or focus on a couple goals from a single category. This isn’t to say that other goals don’t have value – it may just be that they take a back seat this year (or won’t be a top priority). I’d rather set 3-5 goals and make progress on those than set 10-15 and make progress on none.
Tip #3: Make your goals specific and achievable.
“Get more healthy” is a terrible goal. Not because we shouldn’t strive to be healthier, but because this goal is far too vague. How about replacing it with one of the following?
- Commit to working out 3 times per week
- Track food intake consistently this year
- Read one book a month on living healthy
- Adopt a habit of weekly meal planning
I find a goal that is specific is more likely to reached than one that’s more philosophical in nature.
For 2015, I wanted to serve others more. Kind of vague, right? So the specific goal I came up with was to find someone to serve for at least one hour per week. I can honestly say that this ended up being a completely realistic and helpful goal for me. Making it a weekly challenge forced me to think regularly about serving others and keeping it realistic (one hour) made it achievable. While I wasn’t perfect about doing this every week, I can say that more weeks than not I met my goal and many weeks I well exceeded the hour minimum I set for myself. I encourage you to find a way to make your goals measurable, specific, but also achievable. As the months clip by, you should feel you’re gaining momentum and building on success – not failing. Think about what you can do to give yourself some success early on.
Tip #4: Review your goals periodically.
What good is a goal if you’re not going to reflect on it from time to time? Think about sharing your goal with a friend who can help hold you accountable. Or plastering your new goals somewhere where you’ll find them often. Spend some time journaling about the progress you’re making on your goal. Break it apart to different areas of focus throughout the months of the year.
If you find your goal was too lofty, it’d be better to course correct and make adjustments than ditch it altogether. You might realize by May that your goal to save $5,000 isn’t going to happen because you had unexpected house repairs to make. But adjusting the goal to saving $3,000 by year-end would be better than scrapping the goal after all. (Because, $3,000, people!) I have had to adjust some of my financial and fitness goals in 2015 because life happens and I realized part way in they were too ambitious for what I could reasonably achieve in a year’s time. This doesn’t make me a failure or they were bad goals! It may just mean I need to reset my expectations and extend the deadlines.
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