The last few decades have borne witness to many amazing changes in our lifestyles. We have seen the advent of greener homes and powered whole cities with renewables energy. We have witnessed better environmental laws, a remarkable shift in consumer awareness and our understanding of numerous topics across the world stage has broadened. A few constants have survived however, and one such constant is the widely held concept of making New Year’s resolutions.
Now New Year resolutions are traditional in the sense that most of us were encouraged to start making them as youngsters. They are in most ways peculiar to each one of us as pertains our personal lives and they are essentially those promises or proclamations we make to ourselves as one year ends; promises we strive to hold true or live by as the new year begins. They are supposed to guide our steps and personal choices in the year because more often than not, they stem from tough lessons imparted by the improper choices we made the year before.
The problem with new year’s resolutions though is one entrenched in reality; especially as a core part of our realities as humans is our fallibility. Put differently, to be human is in most ways synonymous with the inherent ability to make mistakes (or be wrong from time to time) and as long as we live, this isn’t going to change.
This often means that we are still prone to making poor or improper choices into the new year, despite our very noble new year resolutions and because of the seriousness with which we made these promises to ourselves and our loved ones we tend to spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for deviating from them and not enough time getting our asses back on track. This failure can be very discouraging and often undermines future efforts to change our lives for the better. It leads many of us to believe that we do not possess the necessary willpower to overcome bad habits.
As if failure isn’t as much part of being human as success.
In fact, according to this report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions don’t live to see the light of day by the second week of February. With just eight percent of resolution-makers actually following through, it’s clear that the odds are not in our favor. I used to make New Year’s resolutions but I very quickly found that my enthusiasm and effort slowly wanes as the days go by. Thankfully, I have found an alternative approach and it’s surprisingly simple.
First off, acknowledging that you will make mistakes is key. This way, you are less likely to beat yourself up. Understanding the path to change and improvement is never linear and there will be steps backward in your commitment to move forward. Reflecting on what you’ve learned and putting systems in place to minimise these occurrences is vital in achieving your goals.
New Year’s resolutions are noble while often being vague and unattainable. Instead of making lofty personal proclamations for the year, a better alternative is to reflect on the previous year with gratitude for the progress you’ve made and then decide what you would like to achieve in any aspect of your life in the new year. Then plot out small actionable steps to take you from where you are to where you need to be. Remember to make these goals “SMART”: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. So, instead of a generic New Year’s resolution to “lose weight”, sit down, draw up a chart and make your decision more focussed.
- Be specific– How much weight do you want to lose and why?
- Make it measurable– Will you track this each week? Or each fortnight?
- Is it achievable?– Don’t set yourself up for failure; make the goal attainable. If you want to lose 20 kilograms for the year, understand that this requires an overhaul of your eating and fitness habits. Are you prepared to commit the time and energy to do this? Do you have the time and energy to do this? Be honest.
- Is it relevant?– Committing to going to the gym three times a week is clearly relevant to achieving your weight loss goal, but other decisions you make may not be.
- Have you made your goal time-based?– Setting timelines and celebrating when you achieve your goal is crucial. If you plan to lose 20 kilograms over the year, this works out to shedding 1.6 kilograms a month. Is this doable given the competing demands on your time? Think it’s too easy and want to revise the timeline? Giving yourself a deadline will help in focussing your energies.
Realistically speaking, setting out your goals in this way makes more sense, not just because short-term goals are more easily attainable but also because as accomplish smaller tasks, you also build up self-esteem, raising the bar as you move forward. For instance, resolving to ‘save money’ in the New Year might get you nowhere if you don’t break it down to the tenets of setting up a budget and sticking to it.
Today is as good a day as any to consider what you’re looking to achieve in 2020 and plan it out as set out above. Spread out these little steps through the first quarter of this year and act on them with your eyes on the end goal you desire. And don’t forget to make time to celebrate when you do achieve your goals!
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Feature image by Jonathan Chng.