2017 officially begins tomorrow! I can’t help but feel a bit excited when a new year is about to begin. I used to get caught up in the pressure of making so many goals and resolutions that I’d wind up having this LONG list of vague and unrealistic goals for the year. Some examples of past “New Year’s Resolutions?”
Eliminate my debt! Lose weight! Be more patient! Travel!
While these are all great things to want to accomplish, they weren’t going to be achieved. Why? A few reasons. Listed above are dreams, not goals. There is nothing that really ties them to me other than the fact that they were things I wanted to achieve or do…at some point.
The first thing we need to do if we want to ensure that your resolutions fail after the first month or so is to make a vague list of things we think we might want to accomplish or worse, a list of things we think others would want us to accomplish. In your mid- to late-twenties? I can bet that on at least some of these lists we’d find “get married, have kids.” Not that there is anything wrong with this, but if it’s not something we’re sure we even want, how can we expect to be motivated to pursue it?
Between Christmas and New Years, we feel this insane pressure to make all of these resolutions so that when people ask us what they are, we have an answer. And that is easy. We make this long list of random things we think we might want to accomplish this year, use them to answer the inevitable questions, and get on with our day. Chances are, this list is abandoned by March and long forgotten by the summer.
I made a list…and never finished a single thing.
I used to keep these lists, because I had the very best intentions of going back and looking at what I had accomplished in a year. It was frightening how little was actually finished. Sure, there would be a few things that I had made “progress” on, but it often wasn’t intentional.
It’s FUN to make a list of things we want to do though, isn’t it? To sit down with a blank piece of paper (or blank computer screen) and stream off all of these things. Writing a list in and of itself feels like we are accomplishing something. We get that same rush of accomplishment as if we had actually crossed off one of those resolutions. If we make the list, we feel like we’ve already done something great.
Now is the time of year when we are surrounded by messages to be better.
In an of itself, making goals is great. It gives us some direction and motivation for the year. But to think that we are not good enough as is and to make goals to try and “be better” this coming year is setting us up for failure. And it’s setting us up for yet another year filled with negative messages toward ourselves.
There is a better way. And it comes from a place of self-love, not self-hate.
My Strategies for New Years Resolutions
Be careful with how you word a resolution. Rather than saying “I need to lose weight” try “I want to get stronger” or “I want to improve at my sport.” All of these essentially lead to the same thing, but by changing the wording around, it becomes about something external versus internal.
Make it about you, not others. I used to make resolutions that involved other people. Reduce OUR debt, be better parents, etc. But making resolutions that involve other people often wind up with you and the other person (or people) involved feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Keep the resolutions to things that you and you alone have control over.
Change behaviours, not outcomes. Tying into the strategy above, we have control over our behaviours, but we don’t have control over the outcomes. We cannot predict how those around us are going to react. If we can 100% own our behaviours, than the outcomes ultimately don’t matter as much. We’ve done all that we can.
Make it tangible, make it measurable. If there is one thing I’ve learned about resolutions, it’s to not fall into the trap of setting a resolution that you have no way of checking progress on. Reducing debt? That is 100% a measurable goal. Be more patient? It could be, but it could also very easily not be measurable. How will you know if you’re more patient at the beginning of the year versus the end? Tracking this is going to be different for everyone, but one way of doing it is to have a journal that you can track moments where you find yourself practicing more patience and times when you weren’t as patient as you could have been.