New Year, new you? No chance, no change?
Every New Year our attention is drawn to personal change, which we translate, into intention in the form of resolutions. So why do they fizzle out? What’s the problem? Yes, we start with good intention and take action, but the problem is that, more often than not, we simply don’t have a well-thought out action plan. We need a well-defined target, not a fuzzy vague ‘over there somewhere’. New Year’s resolutions simply don’t work for a number of very good reasons. So, let’s begin by looking at six common problems with them, and how to put them right:
‘Losing’, ‘giving up’, ‘cutting out’ and ‘cutting down’ all have negative connotations. However, we tend to respond better to positively stated goals, such as ‘aiming for a target weight’ or ‘increasing healthy foods‘ or ‘increasing variety in foods‘ and ‘boosting energy levels‘.
Classic New Year’s Resolutions are always rather vague and wishy washy. So, it’s difficult to reach a target that’s not clearly defined. So once, you’ve got your positively worded direction, it’s best to get specific. What exactly are you going to do to hit your target. What are the behaviours? Target specific actions, such as drinking seven glasses of water and going to the gym three times a week for 45 minutes each time.
In order to measure your progress you need to make your goals measurable. Ask yourself lots of ‘how’ questions, such as ‘how much’, ‘how many’, and how often’. Just doing something ‘more often’ is vague and immeasurable. Also build up to your target so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Build steady progress into your routine, and where possible break larger goals down into smaller milestones.
Each year we psych ourselves up for the new year. It feels so now or never. Of course we need goals that are going to stretch us or else we’d soon get bored. However, it’s pointless setting impossible goals. Our goals need to be achievable. Are your goals within your capabilities?
It’s common to tackle too many things at once or over-plan every minute of your day. Be realistic and pick one thing at a time to work on. That way you build your confidence.
If you goal is your ‘preferred end state’ then you need a ‘preferred end date’. Putting a time scale on it helps with motivation. It provided a sense of ‘urgency’ about the goal.
The SMARTER approach to New Year’s Resolutions is to set SMARTER goals:
- Enthusiastically (positively) worded
Goal-setting is not a one shot deal. It’s a process. If you find your progress is slower than expected or you find yourself not hitting those milestones when expected, then GO BACK AND REVIEW! It’s only failure if you fail to use the feedback. Have a look to see if your goals really are realistic and achievable for your person circumstances. If you need to, make changes are try again. Don’t wait until next New Year’s day. . . get right back to it straight away.
Saying ‘No’ to New Year’s resolutions and using SMARTER as well as other goal-setting tools and techniques (such as PAR and GO-FLOW) means that instead of vague statements of wishful thinking, you will have concrete, action plans to channel your resources. So make your final resolution to ditch resolutions and start setting goals. . . not just once a year when you’re caught up in the New Year fever. . .but any time you want to take charge and make changes. . . positive lasting change!
[Adapted from ‘Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It!‘]
- Is New Year’s Day The Best Time To Make Life Changing Resolutions?
- Other personal development and goal-setting posts on PsyCentral.
- Book: Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It
- Useful recommended resources on PsyStore.