For most people, New Year’s resolutions are merely lies they tell themselves in order to feel good about the coming year. Don’t be like them! Stop the cycle of excitement, failure, and disappointment. There are ways to make resolutions that stick, and we will teach you the six most effective.
Disclaimer: This advice is NOT for the self-delusional, that is, people that are totally unrealistic with their goals. The guidelines that follow work well for those who apply them. They won’t work for those who set resolutions merely to fuel their self-delusion that they are doing something with their lives.
Self-delusion can feel good, it can help you neglect the harsh reality; but it isn’t a strategy that will work long term. If you want success, uncover the excuses that are holding you back. If you aren’t happy with an area of your life, complaining won’t help and ignoring reality will just prolong your misery.
Self-sabotage through poorly defined goals is an all too common occurrence. After reading this article you’ll know exactly how to avoid this trap.
Below are six approaches to setting resolutions you can actually feel excited about and are more likely to achieve.
“I want to speak Japanese” is vague and not very inspiring. What does it exactly mean to “speak Japanese”? Define a specific objective, such as: “Be able to speak and understand Japanese well enough to have a five minute conversation with a native speaker”. Such a specific goal is will require you to focus on learning and it isn’t as daunting as “learn Japanese” or “speak Japanese”. It’s measurable and you will be able to get excited about the outcome.
Another favourite resolution and equally as vague is “I want to get fit”. Again, this is not specific enough to mean anything. Ask yourself, “What would it mean if I achieved [insert goal]?” and “What will the evidence be that I have achieved this goal?” Questions like these force you to focus on tangible outcomes rather than undefined wishes.
Focus on “Doing”
A useful way to be more specific is to convert every “being” goal into a measurable “doing” goal. Generally there are three types of goals: Being, Doing and Having. Doing goals are self-explanatory — “I want to surf the big waves in Hawaii” is an example. Being goals are more nebulous.
“I want to be proficient on the guitar” isn’t really a goal.
“Play a 10 minute set of rock songs in front of my friends” is a goal you can really get behind.
Remember that “being” is really an outcome of “doing”. Being fit is the result of working out and eating good quality food.
Small, Early Wins
Make sure that you set some small steps that you can cross off the list at the start of your goal pursuit. Early wins are highly motivating. Casinos use this principle every day to make sure people keep spending money. If you have an early win on a slot machine you’re more likely to stick around and spend more money.
Create momentum early on by stacking daily and weekly “wins” one after the other and you’ll feel the exhilaration to keep going.
“Quantified self” is the buzz term thrown around these days for what is really just tracking progress towards goals. Recording your daily efforts is a great way to ensure you are always able to make measurable progress towards your goals. Gathering objective data can help you realize what is working and what might need to change.
Above all though, it is fantastic to be able to see your progress right in front of you. Nothing is more motivating than seeing tangible evidence of your success.
There are several mobile phone apps out there to help you track your progress towards goals. Perhaps one of the better apps out there for Android and Apple devices is Lift. The app allows you to input your goals, timelines and helps you plan the necessary daily activities. Like Lift, various apps offer features to track your goals and chart your progress. It’s up to you to stay dedicated to using them!
Raise the Stakes
It is one thing to make a silent resolution to yourself, but if you’re really committed, tell someone else about it. Research shows conclusively that we are more likely to achieve what we set out to do by making our intentions public. You don’t need to tell the whole world (although social media can often be useful). Tell someone close to you who will keep you honest and on track. Now, you’re accountable for making it happen and you’ll feel a lot more internal motivation to achieve it.
Finally — Don’t Try to Do Too Much
Focus is a powerful thing. People who want to achieve goals but repeatedly fail to make progress are often trying to do too much. Your time, attention, energy and interest can only go so far. By pursuing only two or three goals at any one time you make sure your effort is focused like a laser beam!
For instance, you might want to be able to deadlift 350lbs, learn basic Spanish, make some extra money, learn guitar and build a shed in your backyard. Some of these are doable alongside other goals but trying to do all of them at once is a recipe for failure. Instead, prioritize, and figure out what you most want to accomplish first.
Sometimes simplifying and planning to achieve small things is better than over-reaching. People who are generally regarded as successful have a single-minded focus about achieving one thing. Just remember that whatever you want should contribute to the well-being of your life and shouldn’t negatively impact yourself and those around you.
Make productive use of your time and be sure to take responsibility for your life and you can’t go wrong. Let’s make this year really count!