by Ryan O.
Let’s face it: Every year, we have a new year’s resolution, which is some promise to ourselves to make ourselves better whether it’s hitting the gym, making more money, finding love, or going somewhere that requires using a passport. We’re good for the first few weeks (and some of us are lucky to last the first few days), but beyond that point, we resort to more convenient habits and celebrate that we’ve kept a different way of life for less than a month.
But what IF you wanted to be serious about your New Year’s Resolution? Here are some practical tips to keep in mind. Let’s not use arbitrary words like “lacking discipline” or “not being good enough” because those words didn’t mean anything other than making us feel horrible about our inadequacies.
We are more than adequate. We just need pointers in the right direction.
Let’s start here:
1. Declare a few of your goals and be as specific as possible, including why you are doing them.
So here’s an example of a typical resolution that is destined to fail:
NOT GOOD: I want to lose about 10 lbs. or so because I ought to since everyone else is making a resolution and it would be kind of good for me.
This tells me that you were ok with making a resolution because everyone else is doing it rather than having your own personalized goal that suits you. If you want to be supportive of others, that’s fine, but if you are setting yourself to compete with everyone else that is doing the same thing, you’ll feel miserable if you don’t have the same progress they do and will end up quitting this anyway.
OK: I want to lose about 10 lbs. so I can be healthy.
This statement tells me that you have a solid reason, but this is still a very vague statement. As one horrible, insulting joke goes, “Do you want to know how to cut off ten pounds of ugly fat? Cut off your head!” There are different ways to lose ten pounds, but here it doesn’t define how to lose it, or even what “healthy” is. There are plenty of people with bigger frames that dance regularly, do marathons, and compete at the Olympics: All of that are considered signs of a healthy person.
So if you want to reduce your frame because “you want to feel more confident in your appearance,” then say so. Giving yourself goals of labels of things that you ought to strive for are traditionally not good motivators because you are fueling yourself with what others think of you, not coming from a place of what you want for you.
GOOD: I want to lose about 10 lbs. so I can fit into some of my better-looking clothes.
This resolution is a bit better because there is a solid motivation that is personal. There is also an actual measurement: being able to fit into older clothes is a specific and satisfying goal. What’s nice about this resolution is that it is a bit more flexible: You can lose six lbs. and still accomplish this goal. Or you are well on your way so you can extend this goal if you need to.
BETTER: I want to go from an Extra Large to a Large in my clothes and will go on a Keto diet and start working out.
This resolution is even better because not only is it more specific, but it mentions the process by which you can attain your goal. And it emphasizes more than one activity, which can help formulate a plan to achieve the goal, whether it is weight loss or any goal that you have in mind.
BEST: I want to go from an Extra Large to a Large in my clothes, will go on a Keto diet, start working out at least three times a week so I can take new pictures of myself in my new look.
This is the best type of resolution: A clearly stated goal, a process to achieve that goal, and a personal motivation of why this goal is important to you.
NOTE: We did not put into the resolution any negative values or reinforcement. Because in the end, completing these goals are not signaling if you are good enough to accomplish them. This goal is only the destination on your map. Now we go through the process.
2. Plan the course of how you will achieve your goal.
Let’s switch goals for this example. Let’s say that your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in six months because it is something that you’ve always wanted to do. This is a fine goal. But what about the process?
NOT GOOD: I’m going to write every day until I get 50,000 words.
If this is your goal, then you have explained the obvious. This process is also so vague that it can mean that you can write the words “I hit my head on the desk, and it hurts” 5,000 times and get the result that fits your goal. Your objective is not the same as your progress. So let’s figure out how to make this process more manageable and again, less vague.
OK: I’m going to divide 50,000 words by six months. That’s 8,333 words per month. I’m going to write 8,333 words per month.
As logical as this is, this goal is ONLY ok. This goal has been broken down to make the huge goal more manageable, but it still doesn’t address anything about the process. It’s like saying that driving on the way from San Francisco to New York in a few days; we’re going to stop at Denver and Chicago. But it doesn’t account for how much gas it will take to get there, if this is an easy route, or driving those distances are realistic with the need for sleep and rest stops.
GOOD: First week, I’m going to sketch an outline. Rest of the month, work on the first Act. Work on the other two acts once I see how the first Act turns out.
This process is now reframing how to achieve the goal. Instead of going for a big number that sounds impressive but has no context quite yet, it is taking some structure from the writing process. The best part about this is that an outline is the plan for your overall path of writing and a using a Three Act narrative is a framework that is suitable for writing a novel. The more tools you use and acknowledge in your process, the more realistic completing your goal will become.
BETTER: First couple of days, I’m going to sketch an outline. In the first week, see how long it takes to write my first chapter. Based on this, calculate how long it will take to write the rest of the first act and then figure out long it will take to complete the rest of the book, which should all be completed in six months.
Notice how we’ve changed up how long we have given ourselves to complete an outline from a week to two days. Traditionally, if we give ourselves a huge amount of time to complete a task, we will most likely finish the work towards the last minute. So if we give ourselves less time, we are more likely to get started right away.
This process also uses a personal metric to see what is realistic for you to complete a section of writing and using that to calculate how long this will take to complete over a period of time. While some are motivated by a numeric goal of words to type, this goal fits a person’s expected output and therefore, it is more realistic to complete.
BEST: First couple of days, I’m going to sketch an outline. In the first week, see how long it takes to write my first chapter. Based on this, calculate how long it will take to complete the rest of the book, proofread and edit in time to submit for the novel writing contest in September.
In my experience, this is the best goal because you have an independent deadline that is part of your commitment. It is one thing to write for personal pride, but it is another if you have some external motivation that is fixed. It also allows you to plan backward from this goal and portion your word count and acts based on this target. This also includes all of the parts that are important about the process so that all you need to do is follow the instructions until your objective is complete.
3. Readjust and re-examine your goal as needed.
Just because you made a declaration for a change doesn’t mean that it must be set in stone. Once you are on your way, you may want to correct your course based on learning new information. You don’t want to trap yourself with an immutable goal that isn’t flexible based on what is right for you. It’s a goal that you have set out for yourself; you have the power to change it.
Let’s say that your goal is to fly somewhere to Europe and you found that the cost of a roundtrip ticket is nearly $2000. But as you save for your trip, the price of the ticket changes to $3000 due to the demands of the season.
You could give up, or you could spin this into a different perspective. At some point, the price of the trip will come down in the off-season. Or you can find a different place to fly to. You can expand your options and fly into a cheaper place and take a train into your destination.
Your goals can change as a result of changes in life. Don’t feel guilty about making those revisions.
4. Get rid of the idea that once you break your resolution that you can never go back to it.
We treat these resolutions like glass vases, once we break it, we can never go back to it, and all we can do is abandon it and sweep it under the rug. But resolutions should be resolving a new habit, not a single action. And habits take time to cultivate so you shouldn’t punish yourself because you failed to do something ONCE.
Let’s say that you wanted to quit smoking, but you decided to quit cold turkey and give it up completely. But you underestimated the withdrawal symptoms and the only way to relax you is with a cigarette, and you smoke.
At this point, you have a decision to make: You can decide that this one instance has defined you, you broke your resolution, and you are incapable of making this habit stick… OR you can say that you had a need and need to adjust your process to cut down to a single cigarette a day. Then a few cigarettes a week.
5. Get people who support your new habit or goal, not sabotage it.
Just because this is a goal that is personal doesn’t mean that you can’t use the assistance of your friends. Sometimes a friend can keep you accountable, but other times they might be there just to listen through your challenges. Getting outside support for your changes is not, and has never been considered, cheating.
But what if your circle of friends harasses you for that goal? And they joke about how you’ve started a business or a podcast, but it never went anywhere? Those are not the people that should be supporting you, even if they are a large part of your social circle.
Find one person that you can relay your thoughts to like a sounding board if you are comfortable with that. Tell them how excited you are to do these things. There’s no substitute for genuine enthusiasm to fuel your dreams…
But at the same time, enthusiasm is only fuel. You still need to drive that engine to action. So tell them about your progress and what continues to make you excited about your new prospect. If you need criticism to keep you honest, be sure that’s what you need to keep you motivated. If you want just praise and someone to listen to your thoughts, be very direct in knowing what you want out of your support.
Now that you have a strategy in place let’s go make things happen in 2019!