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No, I don’t think resolutions are stupid. But I do think that goals might be a better word to use. I do think less planning and more New Year’s is perhaps my favorite time of year; the desire for change and the resolve to commit is palpable. Usually, I focus on what I want and blindly write my resolutions (or goals) with that focus in mind, whether it be a fixation on something material, or something bigger that’s not materialistic, whatever.
This year, I actually sat down at my desk and had a think before I started writing stuff down. I went through 3 sheets of paper, crossing stuff out, scribbling over things, reading things out loud. I felt like I do when I edit my mom’s writing for her business.
I took my time this year because, looking over the list I wrote around this time last year made me realize something.
Specific “resolutions”, especially for long-term goals, don’t work.
At least not for me. You could say that I lacked commitment and willpower, and perhaps that is true to a certain extent, depending on how you choose to think about it. But the longer I stared at the old list, a flag started to go up.
Every goal I had on that list, save for two, were broad. I didn’t tell myself how I was going to achieve those goals; I just said I would do it. The other two goals, I told myself how I was going to do those things and when I was going to do them.
The fact that I achieved every goal I set for myself in 2013 save for the 2 that were specific to a T, drove home a few great points.
We are human.
Yes, some people thrive on structure (and I’m on of them), but we also have to give ourselves room to move around and explore. As time passes, our feelings change, as do our circumstances and our goals.
So many people treat New Year’s resolutions as binding, as if they were written in blood on the Rosetta Stone. I used to do that. I would make resolutions like, “I’m going to do yoga and pilates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and go running on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” I would keep to that for a few weeks, and then when I didn’t feel like doing running or doing pilates (depending on which day it was), I wouldn’t do it, and then I would beat myself up for not sticking to my plan. And then days became weeks, weeks became months, yeah you get my drift.
Creating open, broad resolutions, not just on New Year’s, but every day, gave me that flexibility.
One of the goals I wrote last year was “work on improving myself.”
I didn’t tell myself the specifics of how I was going to do it. I just left it open. And the universe (or God, or whatever higher power you want to believe exists) gave me those opportunities.
It’s great to be specific, to tell the universe exactly what you want and when you want it by, because for the majority of the time, it works. But for those of us who beat ourselves up if we slip the tiniest bit off the bandwagon, which might not always be the case.
There Are Multiple Ways to Do Something
To use my goal of “work on improving myself” as an example, I didn’t use specifics because I knew that I would beat myself up if I didn’t do the specific things I listed. I simply focused on improving myself in some way. Whether it was stepping away from social media and/or reality television for a week, or reading a book instead of watching Netflix, I focused on a larger goal of making myself better in some way instead of saying, “I’m going to do pilates for an hour.” You feel good about yourself when you take baby steps to help achieve big long-term goals.
Understand How You Work and Work Around It
Goals are fantastic, but you have to be aware of your limits and how you function. If you know for a fact that you can’t get through a full hour workout without stopping, then don’t. Break it down into little chunks that are manageable. Take 10 minutes 6 times a day to exercise with the resources you have available, and work your way up to building your endurance if a full hour-long workout seems intimidating. If you try to tell yourself that you’re going to do something when you really don’t want to, and you overstretch yourself, than you’re most likely going to put yourself through unnecessary torture.
Many of us are growing up in the face of instant gratification. The overwhelming presence of the Internet is the first example that comes to mind. We click on a page and snarl in frustration when it doesn’t load within the next few seconds.
We can’t always get what we want. High expectations are good in many ways, but there is the danger of setting them too high. Advertising plays on that tendency in some of us and advertises things that promise results. We go out and get the thing, convinced that it’ll deliver. And sometimes it does. But that isn’t always the case. Being realistic about goals helps to avoid that trap.
Know That it’s OK to Change Your Mind
Seriously. Don’t let your goals put you in a straitjacket. If you find yourself changing your mind, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just go with it. You may find that simply changing your focus may bring you full circle and help you achieve your original intention.
What sorts of tips do you keep in mind when setting goals for yourself?