That’s right people, we are almost half way through 2017.
Now some of you mightn’t have bothered with New Years resolutions; I can certainly understand the sentiment. It’s just a day of the year, nothing special, you can vow to change at any point in time – or maybe you just don’t believe in them, maybe after many failed resolutions year after year you’ve simply given up.
But many of you are sitting there, dumbfounded, realizing the year is half gone and you aren’t nearly half way to your goal, perhaps you haven’t even started. Other’s have given up entirely on their resolutions, recently or months ago, in the realization they simply aren’t getting anywhere.
A lucky (or more likely, devoted) few of you are entirely unfazed by reaching this midpoint, secure and happy in the knowledge that actually, you’re doing just fine. This post is for you guys, but feel free to follow along.
No, I’m here to tell the rest of you that that’s because you’re doing it wrong.
… I mean maybe… Maybe you’re doing it wrong; I don’t know you, I don’t know what promises you made. But my point is, that the culture of New Year’s Resolutions (NYR’s) – and it is a culture – is misleading and setting you up for failure.
In my experience, there are two ideas around your NYR’s that are steering you wrong. Address and counter these, and you might actually make some progress.
Go big or go home
In the writing community, you’ll often hear this from an author at the beginning of each year: “this will be the year. This year, I will finish writing this book.”
Gods’ know I’ve done it – time and time again; every year begins with this idea, that I will reach my ultimate goal and it shall be glorious.
And every year, I have failed. Every, single, time. Any guesses why? It’s in the title. “Go big or go home”. Writing a novel – and many other goals, lose 20-30 kg’s, etc – are massive endeavours.
It’s too broad, to say, “at some point over the next 365 days, I will complete this project / goal.” I don’t know why it took me so long to realize we need to go smaller – perhaps because it simply isn’t the way with new years resolutions; I’ve never heard a friend say “my resolution is to save $5 a week.” or “this year I’m going to focus on getting one chore done every day instead of doing everything once every few weeks.” You tell your friends this and you’ll get a raised eyebrow, maybe a small nod of the head with a weird kind of grimace/smile thing going on. Because, when you put it like that, it’s such a small thing to do – you have the entire year, and this is all you’re aiming for?
But this is why it’s important. $5 a week is small, but at the end of the year you have $260 saved up (I know, not a hell of a lot in this economy, but you get the idea).
No, these “finish project X sometime in the next 365 days” resolutions simply don’t work. Think back to your school days. I don’t know about you, but we had to set goals every year. And you know what we did next? We made steps to achieve them.
Yes, people, the key to success is sub-goals. I will not complete a novel some time in the next 365 days, no, I will sit down and write at least three times a week. This is the amendment I have made to my goal – as well as any other aspects that tie into my writing; if I don’t read then I can’t write – okay, read 12 books this year, I will read one book per month; my writing suffers when I’m busy with uni work – okay then, I lightened my study load by dropping a paper to free up my time.
This means that I have many goals this year, and while not all of them are going to be achieved, it is the combination of these things which has seen more progress in my novel so far this year than it has had across the past 2 years.
For once, I really believe I might finish my book this year.
So make your stepping stones; break down your goal into bits and work up from there.
Generalizations and Vague Ideas
“I wanna do more exercise”; “I’m going to eat healthier”; “I’ll write more”.
What do these have in common? They are all incredibly vague. The reason you still unfit in December, the reason you still spend you money on fast food, and the reason you’re lucky to have progressed a couple chapters in your book, is that you didn’t set a target. You’ve set yourself up for failure – what’s the threshold of success? What is “eating healthier” and what is “more”?
This can tie in with sub-goals or stepping stones, but the key here is specificity. You need to define what “more” is, and set targets and boundaries.
Try instead: I am going to gym three times a week. I will cook home meals at least 5 nights a week and/or I will not eat fast-food more than once a week/month. I will write at least 500 words a day.
This has defined your threshold for success. The other important thing it’s done is set up an allowance for slip-ups.
This means that grounds for failure are re-evaluated and shifted. If I say I want to write more, and after two months I haven’t, then I feel I’ve already failed. By saying “500 words every day”, I’ve adjusted this to be a daily goal which I can either meet or miss, every day. There is of course still the potential for two months to slip by where I haven’t put this into play, but it still feels like a much easier task to pick up and start on at any point in time, as opposed to “write more” which is an extended, long-term concept that doesn’t apply to any given day.
So there we have it; two big reasons why you can’t meet your goals and how to overcome them. I know this seems like elementary stuff once you’ve got your head around it, but that’s probably why these concepts are so often overlooked. We forget sometimes that actually, the tedious things they make us do in school actually have merit and use.
So go forth, enlightened followers, and re-evaluate your goals this year. Make adjustments, where necessary, and hopefully you will find that you’ve just made your life a hell of a lot easier. Of course, you’re still going to need to summon some kind of motivation, determination, or devotion on your own, but fingers crossed that the task seems just a little bit more manageable now.