I love a New Year resolution. They give us something to aim for and help us maintain focus as we work toward them. As you start to tick them off, it builds your motivation to keep working towards the other resolutions you’ve made. At least that’s the idea.
But I hate setting my resolutions on New Year’s Eve along with the rest of the world.
The last day of the second full week in January is widely referred to as ‘Quitters Day’, and no, it’s not because this is when most people ditch smoking. This is when most people give up on achieving the resolutions they made on Dec 31st/Jan 1st.
By then, enthusiasm and motivation have ebbed away. Instead of reviewing the resolutions, they get ditched and people often slide back into the comfortable familiar.
By taking your time to think about your resolutions and goals for the coming year, this day could instead be the one when you’ve finally settled on the goals that really matter to you.
When I’ve determined what’s important for the year ahead, I write my resolutions in colourful fonts and stick them on my kitchen cupboard. This is where I’m guaranteed to see them each morning. There are a couple of reasons to do this.
The hectic festive season
As December slips away and Christmas looms, most people’s attention is focused on tying up the loose ends of their year.
For me, that means meeting deadlines, putting things in place for a smooth return to work after a week or so off, and making sure clients know I’ll be unavailable.
Any spare moments are spent sorting gifts for friends and family, preparing for Christmas day, wrapping presents, writing cards, and all the other stuff that comes with making this dark time of year cheery.
There’s a LOT to do.
So much so, that contemplating your wins, losses, and could do betters is done in a fleeting manner — if at all. Many of us simply don’t have the headspace to come up with considered and useful resolutions for the year ahead pre-Christmas and New Year. We can only do so much — energy and time are finite.
Setting goals is a process
Setting a goal to get fit, stop smoking, build your business, save more, or pay off debt are all well and good. Thing is, you’re setting yourself up to fail if you don’t think these through.
Let’s say your goal is to ‘get fit’.
What do you mean by fit? Do you want to be a rippling muscle person at the end of the year, or just able to take the stairs to your office without breaking out in a sweat and arriving like a panting maniac? How are you going to do it? When are you going to do it? Why are you doing it? Most importantly, how will you feel once you reach that ‘get fit’ goal?
It might sound like I’m overcomplicating such a common resolution, but research tells us that thought-through goals are the most likely to be achieved.
This year, try taking a new approach to your resolutions. Use them as a chance to improve a whole range of life quality aspects. Make your goals varied, trackable, and interesting enough to keep your attention and motivation throughout the coming months.
Time to reflect
At the end of this year, take some time to reflect on what has been.
For many of us, this year has been full of ups and downs. Be kind to yourself when looking back. Remember that you made it to here. That’s a win in and of itself.
I’ll look back at the highlights, achievements and the moments that didn’t quite go as planned. Consider the ways in which you’ve grown. The stuff you enjoyed but didn’t think you would, and the stuff you endured but thought you’d enjoy.
Reflection aids goal setting. It helps you prioritise things and set realistic targets.
When you do this, ask yourself some gentle questions. A few ‘why did it work/not work?’ a couple of ‘how could it have been different?’ and a sprinkling of ‘what does this mean for my future?’ By gently inquiring, you can tease out the things that really matter to you. Goals are personal pursuits.
Shaunta Grimes wrote a really good piece about this. She uses a visualisation technique for figuring out your perfect day as well as a break-it-down-to-manageable-bits method that helps her to look at various aspects of her life and set measurable, realistic and achievable goals for each.
For me, there’s no point trying to reflect on the year in November so I can set goals at the end of December — I’m still working towards the goals I set last January!
Books, reading, learning
As a writer, reading and continued learning are really important. Continuing to add to your skill-set, improve the way you put words together, and learning more about the topics you enjoy are crucial to keep growing with your creative endeavours. Reading and online learning is one of the obvious ways to do this.
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is when you’ll find lots of reading lists online. Online courses also tend to have their post-Christmas and New Year sales as the new year revs up. So, adding these to your goals for the next 12 months can be tricky if you swore them in at the end of the year with a glass of champers.
My resolutions often include a reading list, personal and professional development goals. Checking out what’s available course-wise online is one of the ways to spot topics for new or deeper learning. Browsing other people’s reading suggestions always provides ideas for your own.
These resources aren’t as abundant in November and early December, so it’s difficult to use them for your goal setting.
Getting creative with your goals
When you’ve taken the time to reflect, pondered your wins, losses, and could do betters it’s then — and only then — that you should take time to sit down and write down the goals that matter and will make a difference to you.
Breathing an alcohol-drenched resolution to the person next to you at midnight isn’t going to cut it. Neither is a headache induced resolution on January 1st.
Make yourself accountable for your goals by being considerate in setting them. I make them attractive and visible to the people you care about. Pull out some coloured pens and pencils, find inspiring images, and write your resolutions in fancy fonts.
This year I’ll be giving some of my resolutions deadlines too. I might even add some inspiring quotes.
Once all the flurry of the festive season has died down, there’s some quiet time to do this. Time to think, create, and daydream about where your goals will take you. There’s room to get motivated about them now the million-and-one things to do for the holiday season have been done.
Instead of giving up on your New Year resolutions in mid-January, why not try re-setting them for the year ahead? Give them a little thought, have an honest and sober look at the year that’s past. Take time to celebrate your wins. Look for inspiration in other people’s lists and suggestions. Think about the why, how and what of each goal you want to reach. Set clear targets for achieving what you really want. You just might do more than you thought possible!