On January 1 of every year (okay, let’s be honest — I have four boys, so let’s say within the first month or so of the new year), my family sits down to create our New Year’s Resolutions. My motivation comes from an inspiring quote that I heard. Basically, if we don’t make goals, we will reach the end of our lives and regret not reaching our full potential.
In the words of the Cheshire Cat and Alice in Wonderland:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Goals for getting through the chaos.
I lack control of much of the chaos in my life, thanks to those four boys. However, setting goals helps me pinpoint where to apply my limited energy, focus, and resources. In the end, I hope that my small, dedicated efforts add up to a satisfying life that I am a full participant in creating. After 15 years of new year’s resolutions, we’ve had a mixture of crashing and burning, mixed with some success.
Tips for making resolutions.
So, without further ado, here are a few tips that may help you in your goal setting.
Stretch, don’t stress.
Change is more likely to be achievable when the goal is within reach. For example, you should apply a reasonable amount of effort rather than force a massive lifestyle change. If a goal is stressing you out before you even take the first step, ask yourself what would it look like to feel like it’s stretching you instead of stressing you.
We always want to say things like, “I want to go to the gym every day this year”. Instead, we could say, “I want to find a physical activity my partner and I can do together on weekends.”
One bite at a time.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is what I tell kids when they get overwhelmed with the enormity of the number of steps ahead of them. Then I get the typical disgusted response, “why would I eat an elephant?” The point is, instead of getting stuck on how to accomplish each and every step of your goal, just start with the first step.
Instead of worrying that you can’t pay off your entire credit card this year, focus on making a list of your income and expenses this week. Then you can figure out how much money you have to begin paying it off.
Quit using the “S” word.
Go for growth, not guilt. Quit using the “S” word—you know what I’m talking about: “Should”. Resolutions can actually be enjoyable if you don’t let guilt sneak it’s way in to tell you what you should do. If you’re setting a goal because the outcome is socially expected, someone is telling you to do it, or your own guilt is nagging it’s finger at you, you can expect to fail. On the other hand, if you do something because you actually want to, then chances for success are much higher. Become the person you want to be, not the person others tell you you should be.
Progress over perfection.
Aim for progress instead of perfection. Chances are you will not become the concert pianist, be wildly rich, or have the conflict-free relationship your goal hopes for. But does your success need to be dependent on fully reaching every aspect of your goal? Or can it be simply success if you tried and improved? Progress always has its ups and downs, hopefully overall with more ups than not. So what if you improve in your goal but never quite get to that pinnacle of success? When you are demanding perfection and total achievement, you’ll likely just wind up bitter. But if your goal is to progress closer to a goal, then every little step is a cause of celebration. No more “failed” resolutions so long as you make some effort toward the goal and can honestly say you are closer to it than before you tried.
Be true to yourself.
To thine own self be true. Make your goals fit you as a unique individual and with your personal values. Just because fitness goals may be the trend around you, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that loving yourself can come in another form. For example, self-care, individual or relationship therapy (shameless plug), practicing mindfulness, or just asking for help as needed. You get to be a creator of your life, and no one else gets to decide exactly what that looks like except for you. So, why not let your goals match your priorities and values? If you need help clarifying what you personally value, try listing what’s most important to you, or do a “Value Card Sort” activity.
Build on the positive.
If you need help brainstorming ideas for goals, first ask yourself, “What am I already good at?” then “What do I want to get better at?”, and finally “What do I want to learn or change in my life?”. From there, you can narrow down your ideas to just a few things to get you started on a journey of a lifetime.
So there you go, have a comfortable moment alone or with family to sit down and shape the direction of your growth this year. And cheers to a New Year (goodbye 2020!), new goals, and a new YOU!