New Years Resolutions, A Tweak At A Time
Breathe life into what you want to accomplish. The more you do that, the more you will find meaning, commitment and focus in your efforts.
The New Year traditionally and metaphorically symbolizes a new beginning and a fresh start. Starting the New Year with a renewed sense of hope and optimism can be motivating and energizing.
CBC radio asked to interview me about New Year’s (NY’s) Resolutions. This request got me thinking about how I personally set goals and how as a coach I help my clients realize their own goals. The essence of my work is helping people feel happier and more satisfied about their life. The achievement of goals is a key component of what makes people happier in their lives, personally and professionally.
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. It turns out a lot of people don’t either. As I see it, resolutions at any time of the year are useful. But if you appreciate having a start date and use the time leading up to January 1st to strategize on how to succeed, I say GO FOR IT!
Almost everyone I polled about NY’s Resolutions through my Coach Minda FB page, via Linkedin and via email, replied that while they don’t specifically make NY Resolutions they do engage in setting goals throughout the year with plans to achieve them.
While there is agreement that setting goals is good thing, the process and approach is highly individualized.
Many of my clients tend to opt for smaller, on-going, incremental goals that they assess and tweak over time. Looking ahead into the New Year, they might focus on where they fell short – the missed opportunities and regrets and bad habits they would like to give up. Others focus on what went really well, the relationships, qualities, strengths and habits they want to cultivate and strengthen.
A few referred to this process as:
-A personal end of the year review
-Taking a personal inventory
What is in a goal?
New Year’s Resolutions and goals in general tend to focus on lifestyle changes, e.g., eating healthier, losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, drinking less or saving money and work related goals such as improving time management skills, achieving life-work balance or procrastinating less.
If you want to come up with a goal or two, ask yourself:
- What would make me feel happier, more satisfied, or more pleased with myself?
- What am I not doing that is keeping me from feeling better about myself?
Goals can refer to:
- A change in habits (I am going to turn off all devices an hour before bed),
- A specific action/step you will take over a specified time frame (I am going to clean out the garage this weekend or over the next two weekends)
- Multiple actions/steps over a longer time frame (lose weight, learn a new sport, become more effective with my time, be less anxious)
Goals have a few key components:
- Time frame (anything from a week to years)
- Complexity (a few actions to many actions, steps and tasks)
- Challenge (amount of effort/output required, degree of risk)
- Investment (the degree to which you feel a strong commitment or motivation to act on the goal)
Here is an example of a recent goal that demonstrates the interplay of these components.
Goal: Write a blog (this one actually)
- Time frame: Approximately one week
- Complexity: Low (in terms of actions – need to write)
- Challenge: Very High (I have to work very hard, requires a lot of effort and takes me a lot of time)
- Investment: High (commitment and motivation to follow through)
Breathing life into goals
A goal written on a piece of paper has no impact. These are forgettable, uninspiring and impossible to realize goals. For a goal to come alive, you must break your goal into chunks, made up of very specific tasks or actions (small steps are much more manageable), and you must make progress every day or at least every week, incrementally, because success comes one step at a time, not all at once in a rush.
You need to make an effort to do something every day to support your goals and reinforce your focus by referring back to your goals. Ask yourself: Is this action in support of my goals?
Breathe life into what you want to accomplish. The more you do that, the more you will find meaning, commitment and focus in your efforts. Be realistic. Envision the steps required to move forward.
Some people are hard-core – they are well prepared, determined and committed to making a change or achieving some measurable result and have specific actions and steps to take within a pre-determined time frame.
Hard core means:
- Single-minded in the pursuit of their achievements
- Disciplined and in the habit of working hard to get what they want
- Oriented towards a long-term goal such as completing an ironman competition, climbing Kilimanjaro, or saving money for a house
The rest of us inch our way towards change, making gradual refinements over time. Maybe we are not hard core, i.e., very disciplined, determined, single-minded and resolute but we can still make progress on things that are important to us.
Taking the small steps that add up to something you want to achieve requires motivation, discipline and vision to succeed. You need a mindset to want things to be different and a readiness to change.
Goal-oriented people who are focused on accomplishment and achievement have varying degrees of commitment, motivation, engagement and stick to- it-ness. Some goals are harder to reach. Some obstacles are harder to overcome. Discipline and motivation ebbs and flows. The drive to succeed can change. Focus wanes.
Making headway on our goals requires that we keep them front and centre and do something daily/weekly to make progress. It is too easy otherwise to forget what we are even trying to achieve.
Ultimately, we achieve our own goals on our own. We also benefit from support along the way.
- If you are interested in becoming more skilful in a sport or a creative pursuit, you need teachers who can provide you with feedback and focus
- If you want to become financially more independent, there is a lot to learn from a financial advisor
- If you need a boost having an exercise buddy is motivating
Of course, too, a lot of support can be gained from self-study: reading, listening to podcasts or speaking to others who have been successful in similar areas of interest.
There is a puzzling dynamic at work for some people who:
- Have tried many times and failed at achieving their goals
- Routinely undermine their own success
- Are paralyzed by inaction
- Feel defeated and have lost interest in trying anymore
Don’t give up. Seek professional support or a good friend you can buddy up with.
Changing behavior is not easy
Changing behavior is not easy, at all. It took me weeks to get into a habit of drinking water and a few summers to build up the confidence, stamina and endurance to bike up to the summit of Mount Royal in Montreal.
As a way to build up energy towards making goals, start by reading up on the subject of interest (exercise, diet, finances, procrastination, you name it), reflect on the benefits, and consider the long-term consequences of not making a change. Think hard about WHY you want to make this change or WHY you want to accomplish a particular goal. Talk to people you admire and have already achieved what you want.
Set realistic goals
You might want to lose 15 or 50 pounds, but the key is translating that into a series of smaller and highly doable goals. For example, start with any of the ideas below and gradually add others:
- Take healthy lunches to work
- Climb stairs at work or in the metro/subway
- Plan and prepare meals so you don’t come home starving and eat everything in sight
- Stop buying junk food
- Learn how to relax so when feeling stressed, eating isn’t the first impulse
- Work with a therapist or a coach
Change via the tweak
- Change is not an all or nothing proposition. Small and frequent, or little and often, can result in significant changes for the better.
- Recognize when you are slipping back into old ways or not making any progress
- Slipping up or losing momentum is part of the human conditions, so make adjustments and keep on.
I wish you a New Year filled with health, love, joy, fun and success in all your endeavours.