OK, it’s the last day of the year…
and you all have a huge list of resolutions, right? And by next week, well…
It’s way harder to develop habits that we think, or to deny ingrained habits cold turkey. And often, we set ourselves up for failure with ridiculous resolutions that no one could ever keep. Even though you might have great intentions, a better alternative might be to develop new goals for the future..
Goals are better than resolutions because:
Rigid vs. Fluid:
Resolutions stay the same: “I will go to bed by 10pm.” “I will stop eating junk.” “I will go to the gym five times a week.” If these are somewhat big changes, it may feel like a huge change with no buildup. Goals, however, can be tackled in steps, beginning with baby steps and increasing in difficulty as you become more accustomed to the change. This makes goals more realistic for lasting change.
Sense of Accomplishment vs. Sense of Failure:
Goals give you a direction to aspire to, but with the baby steps you may be taking toward your goal, you can still feel like you’ve accomplished something and are on the right track, which will, in turn, keep you moving in the right direction. Once you’ve broken a rigid resolution, however, it’s easier to feel like a failure and give up
The Scope of the Change:
Resolutions are usually a means to a goal, but if you find a resolution too difficult to stick to, it’s usually dropped and forgotten. With goals, if you find a planned change too difficult to carry out, you can drop that plan, but pick a different new behavior to try that will still lead to the same end result, and not lose sight of the goal. For example, imagine you want to get in the habit of exercising to be in better shape. You might make a resolution to go to the gym five times a week. But if you find that you just hate the gym, you probably won’t stick to your resolution, and you’ll be no closer to your goal. However, if you make ‘getting more exercise’ the goal, you may drop the gym, but switch to walking through your neighborhood each morning, and still meet your goal.
Now that you know some of why resolutions often fail and goals are a more realistic route, here are some tips for setting goals you can get behind:
~Keep your future in mind.
~Think in terms of broad changes rather than specific behaviors.
For instance, resolving to develop A Stress Management Practice gives more room for growth and change than “Do Yoga Every Morning”. While you’ll want to put your broad goals into specific behaviors, deciding to Develop a Stress Management Practice gives you room to experiment, and allows you to change course if you find that Yoga isn’t working for you.
~Think in terms of what you’d like to add to your life, rather than what you’d like to take away.
For example, instead of making the goal to “Eat Less Unhealthy Food”, focus on trying to “Eat More Healthy Food”. You may subconsciously feel more deprived if you think of taking something away rather than adding something good, and if you replace unhealthy food in your diet with healthy food, the same goal is accomplished. Also, it’s usually easier to add a behavior than to stop a behavior.
Once you have your goals set, keep them in the forefront of your mind. Keep them listed in your day-planner, have them as part of your screen saver, or post-it them in prominent places around your house for a while. Reward yourself with something small for continuing to stick with it, until you make enough progress toward your goals that the progress becomes its own reward. And remember that change doesn’t come overnight, but as you work toward developing what is important to you, the change will come, and it will be lasting. Remember this, and enjoy building the life you were meant to live!
Tomorrow, a new year starts. Are you living the life you pictured a few years back? If not, it might be time to drop resolutions and start working on some goals. Because goals really work. All other animals besides humans are directed entirely by impulse written into their genetic code. But as humans, if we don’t like the story of our life thus far, we can rip up the script and write a completely new one.
Ask anyone who has achieved great success in life—there was a turning point, a time when they made a clear and resolute decision that from that moment forward, their life would never be the same. They drew a figurative line in the sand and separated the patterns of their past from their new vision of themselves and the life they were committed to leading. Some make that turning point at age 15, some not until they’re 50; some do it several times throughout their lives and some never at all. This year, this month, this day, this moment. What you have accomplished so far is only a fraction of what’s truly possible for you. You are far more powerful, capable and gifted than you allow yourself to be. The only thing separating you from your grandest vision of your life is courage. Muster the courage to declare that right now, this year is your turning point. Yep!