What usually happens to your resolve in the New Year? Does it disappear before the pine needles are even vacuumed? Do you spend more energy on excuses than on execution? Can you even remember your intention by Valentine’s day?
Try something different this year. Take some time to think through your plan before jumping into action. Here are some guidelines that can help.
Imagine a vital, successful, and grateful you five years in the future looking back and beaming with pride at your foresight. What are you grateful for? What seeds that you planted are now flourishing? What are you looking forward to this year? What are you glad you started five years ago?
Year in Review
Where have you been over the past year? Look at all aspects of your life–- work, recreation, friends and family, your environment. What made you happy? What successes can you build on? What were the qualities that made them successful?
Now make a list of all the goals you can think of. Remember the rules of brainstorming — all ideas count, repetition is okay, no judgment, repetition is okay, keep going when you come to a lull. You can prime the pump with the old standbys — eat better, get more exercise, floss regularly, then add some wild ones — try skydiving, learn to tap dance. Go for at least 26.
Take a look at the list and ask yourself which ones matter and to whom. Is it something you really care about or is there a big should attached to it? Whose voice is telling you it’s important?
Now take only the goals you care about and structure them with a “so that” phrase —
I will __________ so that __________.
This is a critical step. It’s the rationale that gives you motivation. I will eat better so that I have more energy. I will eat better so that I don’t have to take blood pressure medication. It also checks the appropriateness of the goal. Will doing this really give me that? I will eat better so that my partner will get off my case.
What is your underlying rationale, and is it the ultimate one? I want to get a new job so that I can make more money? And then so what? I want to make more money so that I can feel good about myself.
If you honestly identify the “so what” you can create goals that accomplish your actual purpose.
Realistic and Measurable
It’s a whole lot more inspiring to achieve a goal and set a new one then to fail again because you’ve set the bar too high.
Don’t say you’ll get to the gym every day if you know that’s next to impossible. Start smaller — I’ll get to the gym three times a week for a month. I’ll walk in the door and get a locker. Every day for a month I’ll set aside time to do my daily journaling and I’ll reward myself if I do five days out of seven. Then keep track. Count them. Put a gold star on your calendar. Make a grid and put check marks. At the end of the time period stop and evaluate?
If you’ve set realistic goals and measured them you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and valuable information about how to maintain your success or make any necessary adjustments to your plan.
Final Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions
Don’t just put another paving stone on that road to hell. Turn those good intentions into accomplishments in the new year. On behalf of your downstream self we thank you.