You either love ’em or you hate ’em. Those pesky resolutions that everyone makes and talks about for at least 3 weeks: the week before New Year’s Eve and 2 weeks post New Year’s Day. By the third week in January, motivation is often fading and resolve starts to dwindle. Before the end of the first month, many have packed up their resolutions along with the holiday decorations. And, by February, a pre-resolution routine has resumed.
Resolutions get a lot of hype this time of year. January 1 offers an obvious starting point to step off in a new direction. I think it’s the draw of the blank slate that comes with a new calendar. No one ever talks about resolutions in July, and who’s ever heard of “Labor Day Resolutions”? Looking ahead to a new year is like gazing across a field of fresh fallen snow; it appears clean and pure, flush with opportunity to pick a new path and start anew. Like many, I had often set New Year’s resolutions, only to break them a couple of months down the road. Sometimes, I’d lose motivation. Sometimes, I’d lose focus. Sometimes, I just plain out forgot that I had resolved to __________. And always, I mentally beat myself up for “breaking a resolution.” It was an unhealthy cycle. Many years ago, I tried a little experiment with myself; I didn’t set a single resolution when the new year came. I thought, “This is ridiculous. You are a goal setter and you know that to achieve goals requires discipline and routine. Set goals, not resolutions, then set your routine.”
It worked. I’ve not set, nor broken, a single “resolution” in over 15 years. However, I have set and met a lot of goals. Each January, I look at the big picture and ask myself “Where do I want to be and what do I want to change/have/have done one year from today?” This may or may not be done by January 1. Sometimes, I spend the first week, or two, of January refining my goals for the year ahead. I then break my “big goals” down into monthly goals, and incorporate those goals into my daily routine. It’s not about the resolutions, it’s about the routine. That’s where success is found.
In thinking about this post, I “Googled” the “Top 10 Resolutions for 2012.” Not surprisingly, there was a plethora of lists that came up, from resolutions for foodies to resolutions for auto-junkies to those for the NBA. I found lists on personal blog sites, commercial blog sites, and even mainstream media sites. Sprinkled in between were the lists of what I call the “generic (popular) resolutions”; those that all of us could choose at least one from the list as our own. Among the most popular were:
- Quit Smoking
- Lose weight
- Save money
- Reduce debt
- Spend more time with the people I love
- Take a vacation
- Eat healthier
- Stop/reduce alcohol
- Manage stress
- Get a better job
- Go back to school
The above list includes fabulous intentions, but as the old proverb states, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In other words, nothing happens without a plan and simply wanting something will not make it so. Resolutions offer a good place to start, but that’s all they are is a starting point. It’s the daily routine, the “baby steps”, that bring about change and help us meet our goals. We may resolve to quit smoking, or lose weight, or save money, but these things don’t just magically happen because we’ve uttered the words “I resolve to _________ this year.” Without a plan, our resolutions can never get off the ground to become reality. This is where most people get stuck.
Setting goals or resolutions is the easy part. We tell anyone who’ll listen what we do or don’t want in the new year, but we rarely tell them how we plan to get there. Figuring out “the how” is often the bigger challenge. How do you quit smoking after 20 years or lose 50 pounds when you’ve tried everything? The first step is to go inside. Begin by asking yourself, “How bad do I really want this, and why?” Answer honestly. If you don’t really care about your weight, or quitting smoking, or saving money, or you’re doing it because someone else has said you should, it’s likely not going to happen regardless of how many people you announce your resolution to.
The next step is to establish a plan and begin a new routine. Be open to using outside resources. This website offers useful links for some of the most common resolutions. Additionally, I’ve used many books over the years to learn effective goal setting. My favorite is still The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. There are many other books and websites that are available, and I regularly search out new books and websites that support me in my goal setting/achieving efforts. I encourage you to do the same.
Now’s the time to share. After you have looked inside and set a plan, share your goals with others as your are comfortable. Write your goals out and post them so you see them often. Studies have shown accountability aids success.
I’ve long told my children that dreams are merely goals with the planning behind them. Resolutions are no different. Like so many others, last week I began listing out my goals for 2012. This week, I’ll be “road-mapping” my plan; setting out my monthly goals and breaking them down into daily routines, my “baby steps”, so that come December 31, 2012, I can look back on my year and know that, even if I don’t meet every goal I set, I took steps in the right direction. Accomplishing goals always begins and ends with a single step, but no one else can take that step for me, or you. As the old song goes, “Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door” and now’s the time to start walking….
What goals to you resolve to meet this year? And, are you ready to take the first step?