How many New Year’s resolutions have you kept?
The new year is fast approaching and many people are preparing their goals – where do you see yourself in December 2018?
As you know, the setting of New Year’s resolutions is an age-old tradition, and one that is commonly practised. But, to use the frequently-cited statistic, only 8% of resolutions are actually seen through. So, why is it that so many fail?
Too many people are ‘doing it wrong’.
Well, most people set their big goals in one year and, when the next year begins, there’s this huge, daunting task in front of them, and… they don’t know where to start. That’s one reason.
Another is that people aren’t visualising; they aren’t visualising the process they need to submit themselves to, to reach their goals, and they aren’t visualising the outcome of this process. If they’re not focusing their attention on where they’re trying to get to – and how great that’s going to be – they’re not creating the necessary strong psychological associations in your brain. They need to instil in themselves the concept that hard work now, in pursuit of a goal, is going to lead to long-term benefits.
How to set SMART goals.
This acronym is a useful tool for goal-setting which has been adopted by schools and businesses worldwide.
S – specific
M – measurable
A – achievable
R – realistic
T – timescale
Specificity and precision when constructing your goals is key, because they’ll help you stick to them. As an example, “I want to have lost weight by next year” is a very flimsy goal that’s, quite frankly, just going to leave a person lost and confused about how to get there.
However, “I want to lose x lbs per month by following a strict caloric intake of y calories per day, and completing z hours of exercise per week” is a much more specific target which provides more clarity in terms of what needs to be done. With a goal like this, it is much easier to expand, elaborate, and evaluate what steps you need to take (e.g. “I’ll need to make meal plans and rearrange my schedule to allocate time for going to the gym”).
This second goal is also measurable; progress is broken down into measurable elements, which won’t leave you with a huge, daunting task to complete. This means you’re more likely to reach your goal – ‘chunking’ your strategy for success is essential for not falling victim to procrastination or laziness.
It’s necessary to add a timescale when you do this: “Sure, I want to lose a certain number of kilos by this time next year. So, I’ll divide this by 12 to work out how many I should lose per month, from which I can determine what to do per day.” This helps you assess your progress as you continue through the year – and, if a strategy isn’t working, change it!
Breaking down a goal like this also helps you to determine whether what you want is attainable. “Is it actually possible to lose x lbs per month? I’ll do the math and check.” Setting a sizeable goal for yourself can be wonderful – push yourself – but you must ensure the realism of your goal by breaking it down first. To quote Tony Robbins, most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in ten.
How to use visualisation to maintain motivation and keep yourself on track.
As touched upon before, visualising where your efforts are going to take you links the idea of putting in effort now with achieving your goals.
My 17-year-old daughter sat her GCSE exams this summer; in the months prior to the exam, her bedroom wall was adorned with photographs of Cambridge University, which she aspires to one-day attend. She used this to motivate herself through the periods of sluggishness.
This in itself is a simple but effective means of making your end-goal more tangible to you, which in turn makes it easier to walk towards. I personally recommend having an entire vision board, so here are some ideas of what you can put on it:
- Pictures of what you want and where you want to be
- Pictures and sticky notes relating to your strategy and how you want to get there
- String, or other methods of linking this all together in a meaningful way
Every time you look at your vision board your focus will be redirected towards your goals.
In short, visualising where you want to be is like creating a picture, and now you just need to colour it in by taking regular actions.
Vision boards are also a useful way to elaborate upon your strategy. One of the reasons why most New Year’s resolutions fail is that people don’t write them down – they don’t make it something physical that they’re committing to – so, I say, write it down in several places! And don’t be brief; elaborate and branch out and be specific about your strategy. Make a mind map.
You must design your strategy, and make it clear.
Now is the time that you’re making the decision to change your life so it’s crucial to have a strategy: a clear plan that could take you forward. Your strategy is the map leading to your success. Up until now you knew your destination – where you want to be – but now you need to decide how you’re going to get there. It’s crucial to plan your journey – have a clear idea of which route to take, what resources you might need, and where you’re going to get them from.
But be aware that obstacles will arise – unless you’re the star of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man – and it is crucial to not be disheartened if you’re not making the desired progress. Don’t let yourself use this as an excuse to give up, which is what most people do. Plan thoroughly in advance but don’t fear flexibility.
If a sat-nav encounters roadworks, it re-navigates and plots a different route. It doesn’t tell you to go back home.
So! Here’s how to get started with setting your New Year’s resolutions:
- Make a short list of targets that you want to achieve in 2018
- Jot them down in clear, positive terms – preferably in a planner (you should have one!), where you can work on perfecting them to the standards discussed in this article
- Determine how you will know when you have achieved these targets
- Visualise your success in sensory-specific terms
A note to end on.
Don’t wait for January 1st to make a change to your life. If you have a new aspiration in October, don’t wait two months; start working on it then and there. Humans have New Year’s resolutions because each year feels fresh and clean, but, in reality, our time on earth is linear rather than compartmentalised. Let each new day be a fresh start – one where you acknowledge your past as you work towards a better future.