A new year symbolizes a new beginning and a fresh start at making life choices. New Year’s Day is the most common time to begin a positive change, but all too often, no matter how well we’re doing at the start, our motivation begins to fade and resolutions that we were so passionate about at the beginning of the month fall victim to our busy, everyday lives. When a resolution fails we might blame ourselves for not sticking to our plan, but it isn’t necessarily us that sabotage our efforts, it’s the plan of action itself.
Most of the time, New Year’s resolutions consist of a vague concept: getting into shape, losing weight, kicking a bad habit or being happier in life. The first problem lies here. What exactly is meant by these goals? Does losing weight mean ten, twenty or fifty pounds? And what method should be used? This is an example of a poorly set goal. There isn’t enough specification as to the preferred outcome, so achieving this goal would be left to abstraction.
New Year’s resolutions also fail because they are, more often than not, long-term goals. For example, getting into shape isn’t likely to happen all in the first week. These goals may span out over months, or even years in some cases. And when little progress is made after the first two weeks, our impatient selves are prone to dropping out of our own goal. This is why short-term goals are usually more successful than long-term ones. Short-term goals are also more specific than long-term ones because they imply a certain outcome in a certain amount of time. Progress is easier to track with short-term goals, which keeps our motivation high and our spirits up with it.
Goals don’t always have to be set in January. Month-long goals are easier to attain than lengthier ones, so why not set a new goal every month? Rather than setting a long-term goal to lose x number of pounds, why not break that massive goal into smaller ones to reduce the pressure. In a weight loss goal, for example, month one’s goal might be to drink eight glasses of water a day (your body will retain water weight unless it knows that it will be replenished adequately). Month two to try out twenty healthy recipes. Month three to join a yoga or other fitness class, and so on. With this method, there’s more perceived progress in a shorter period of time, and the larger goal comes closer and closer with every smaller goal.
image: Felix Montino (Creative Commons – BY)