New Year Goals- The New Way (revised)
In this post, I am sharing an article I wrote a few years ago. It has been slightly edited but left as close to the original as possible. Having just read it I am fascinated by how my thoughts, beliefs and perspectives have changed. Nothing remains.
It is a representation of my thoughts three years back. In the end, I will write a short dot point summary to reflect my shifting perspectives, thoughts and feelings. Setting New Years Resolutions is a subject we can all relate to, so I hope by reading it you gain some value.
Here it is.
I have always been one to set new year’s resolutions. My mother still has archived New Year’s Resolution lists that I wrote years ago. So many unachieved goals. In reviewing these records, it’s startling how year after year the same goals appear.
It is not an uncommon practice. I think it’s become kind of a tradition in the West. It’s all about finishing the year off with a bang before starting the New Year charged and motivated to make some real positive changes. We set goals because we desire to change and why not? Change is good!
However, I think resolution lists are nowadays a bit of a novelty. I’ve heard some bizarre ones. Like these goals. To eat only foods that are black. To avoid taking baths whenever possible to save water. To shower less and use more deodorant. Have less sleep. Have more sleep. To cull my Facebook friends list. There are more, and I am sure some have merit.
What typically happens after a few days, weeks, months, as it always did with me, is that we forget our list and slide back into our old routines and behaviours. Every year I wrote my resolution list again, and every year my resolutions turned into the opposite of my intent, read less, drink more, achieve nothing, perhaps you can relate.
Eventually, we stop writing the lists. The act of setting resolutions becomes a novelty, as I believe it has in society. Let’s do it for a bit of fun – see who fails the fastest. But why do we fail?
There are many different reasons why we fail. Here are a few. We set unrealistic goals. We don’t understand how to change habits and behaviours. We get busy and distracted by other matters – work or family. We’re overwhelmed. It’s too hard. It’s easier to follow the conventional path and stick to what we know. Probably the most critical reason why we fail is that we haven’t connected to why we want to do it.
We must ask ourselves “Why?”
Recently when I was speaking with a friend of mine he mentioned that he wanted to change is routine. The goal was to wake up a couple of hours earlier with the intention to work on a few additional side projects. He felt he didn’t have the time to give them the attention they deserved and had been putting them off for too long. A sound plan.
The problem was that he loved his sleep. He said to me, “I’m a big fan of sleep.” He once blamed his dislike for waking up early as being “lazy,” which I felt was a bit unfair. I said to him, “Mate, who cares if you like to sleep in? You’re a night owl!”
I went on to suggest that I’m a morning person and for that reason, I don’t find it overly challenging to wake up early. Come nightfall I’m useless. I lack the brain capacity for any creative or highly technical thought. My discipline and motivation wane. I argued, “We’re all different. Some of us are night people, and some are morning folk. Who cares?”
However, he was adamant about giving it a go, “I’ve got to get started on these projects.” My reply, “I understand. First, ask yourself this question, why? What is it that you hope to achieve and why’s it so important?” I went on to explain the situation, “You struggle to get up early on the best of days so to get up two hours earlier will be painful. I do not doubt that you can do it but you must be clear on why you’re doing it. Make sense?”
He agreed. He explained to me his goals and why they were important. He sounded convicted. From that, I told him, “Well, you’ve got absolutely no reason not to wake up early tomorrow. When that alarm clock sounds and you hit the snooze button, don’t fall back to sleep. Remember why you set it in the first place. That should give you the drive you need to get out of bed.”
It’s too early to measure how well he’s done however the valuable lesson I’ve discovered in setting goals is that if we don’t know why, if there is not an undeniable reason for doing it, then that is the first reason why we are likely to fail. We must understand why it’s so important to us to set and achieve any goal.
There are various mythologies for setting New Year goals. One that you may be familiar with is the creation and use of a vision board. Popularised by the book, The Secret. If you are unsure what they are, then do a Google search, and you’ll find all you need to know.
Creating a vision board has been a great help. Halfway through the year, I found myself slowing. I felt I was lagging behind in achieving my goals. What I felt was a little burnt out, some fatigue, some stress and I’ll admit, I let things slip. Old behaviours crept back in, new behaviours faded. So I took a holiday to recoup.
After finishing a great holiday, clear and charged, I revisited my Vision Board. It was a great reminder of what I set out to achieve this year. It once again became my motivation. I think if you stick it somewhere that you are likely to see it every day, it can be some healthy motivation.
Another tactic I heard on the James Altucher podcast is to operate your day in themes. Instead of using to-do-lists you commit to doing something every day aligned with your new focus. It’s a more straightforward and a slightly less demanding way of working towards your goals.
For example, let’s say you have a goal to lose some kilos or run a marathon, or perhaps you just want to exercise for 30 minutes each day. The theme for all these is health. So, every day make that a focus. At the start of the day ask yourself, what healthy activities am I going to do today. And at the end of each day check in with yourself. Did you do something aligned with that focus? It’s a relaxed approach but as they say, different things for different folk.
Burnout is real! It occurs when we overload ourselves. Take things too seriously. Put to much pressure on ourselves to achieve everything. If there is no balance, no downtime, we stress, and in that state, we are more prone to throwing in the towel. Crash and burn! Be realistic about your goals, pick two or three of the most important ones and know why they are so, and go for it.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Bill Gates
When we stay focused on we are aiming for we are more likely to hit the target just as a race car driver that focuses on the pole when sliding out of control will more likely run into it. Keep your resolutions close to you and on top of mind. Keep reminding yourself why.
The final point I’d like to make is that when we focus on the positives we remain positive. We will fail, and we will come off track, but beating ourselves up about it is not the solution. Instead, we should think of how well we’ve done. Focus on the positives and more positive is what we receive.
The person who always worries about never having enough money seems to forever be without money. The one who stresses about bills coming in never seems to be without bills. People who always talk about being ill usually are the first people to get sick. It’s the law of attraction. That which consumes the mind becomes our reality.
I am forever with goals, every one of them challenges me, however, as I continue to experiment with life and am continually amazed at the results.
My days revolve around themes now. Be healthy, be creative, learn something, and have fun. If I can lie in bed at the end of the day and feel met my daily themes to some degree, I feel content. These themes line up with many of the goals of my visionary board and so far so good. They bring pleasure and balance into my daily life.
- Sleep is fundamental, and you should sleep when and for how long works best for you. Sleeping is not cheating. Cheating is doing shit in life that is not important. Want help with this? Connect with me – let’s chat.
- My friend still is not a morning guy. If it doesn’t work for you, there is no benefit in following the crowd. It will likely be less sustainable, uncomfortable and therefore ineffective, and lead to failure. If you need to make time to work on those things you love, look at your current schedule and remove the unessential. Scrap the bullshit. Impossible? Connect with me – let’s chat.
- I no longer use vision boards. I don’t suggest they don’t work but the realisation I made is that many of the goals were not that important and for that reason I rarely achieved them. I have to swallow my own medicine – know your “why.” Most of the thing that cluttered my vision board were externally motivated selfish pleasure pursuits. They had no real value to me or alignment to what was important in my life. It was more a cause of the brainwashing I received from living aligned to the status quo.
- Set regular breaks in your yearly plan. Have downtime. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, annually. It’s critical and beneficial. You will achieve more.
- If you do wish to set New Year’s resolutions, start but cutting your list in half. Leave one, two or maybe three of the most critical goals on it.
- I still live by themes although slightly amended. I work under the six fundamental life principles that form what I call The Ultimate Life Map. Health, growth, relationships, expression, significance and contribution. How can I do something each day to improve in each of these areas that are in alignment with my core values?
Further Reading and Resources