I’m going to quit smoking this year!
I’m going to lose fifty pounds this year!
I’m going to stop telling my kids they’re failures this year!
Sorry, I went a little dark there…
If you’re not sure what this blog post is about yet, I guess I’ll spell it out for you.
New Year’s Resolutions!
Each year, millions of people around the world make grand New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions filled with hope, positivity, and thoughts of a bright and shiny new future!
But in the end, the vast majority of people fail miserably.
Okay, maybe miserably is a little harsh, not everyone fails miserably. Maybe you failed elegantly, or gracefully. Nonetheless, if you made a New Year’s resolution last year, there’s a damn good chance you didn’t achieve it.
Why do I say that so confidently, you ask?
Because, according to Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% of Americans who made a resolution felt they were successful in achieving their resolution last year.
Now, maybe you did achieve success with your resolution last year, and to you I say congratulations! (Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic…) If this is you and you’ve got it figured out already, go ahead and close this article and forget you ever opened it.
But, for the rest of you sorry sacks like myself, keep reading, because maybe together we can stick to one of our resolutions in 2018.
As I looked through the statistics on New Year’s resolutions for 2017 there were four main areas that the majority of Americans’ resolutions were based in, those being:
- Self-improvement or education
- Relationships and family
These are all areas where I’m sure all of us would like to improve in one way or another. These four areas, or a combination of some of them, are of great importance to the majority of Americans, as they should be.
That doesn’t mean that everyone’s resolution should be to look like The Rock, or get as rich as Bill Gates. It could be as simple as eating healthier to be sure you’re around for your grandkids, or stashing more money in your savings and eating out less.
Nonetheless, these are all very important things in people’s lives, and thus, making resolutions regarding them is not only a lot of pressure, but it can be incredibly difficult to make changes when you’ve been doing something a certain way for years, especially if it’s a vice or addiction you’re trying to break. Whatever your resolution is, it can’t be achieved with a snap of your fingers, or a cold turkey, all-or-nothing approach. Expecting as much is a great way to set yourself up for failure and disappointment.
So, why do people fail at their resolutions? There are lots of reasons, but an easy one to point to is that people don’t sit down and create a strategic, step-by-step plan to achieve their goals.
Here’s an example that’s something of a running joke as it concerns regular gym-goers. We all bitch and moan about the first of January, because we all know what’s about to happen. Our beloved sanctuary of iron, sweat, and treadmills suddenly becomes overrun with people who are gung-ho about their New Year’s resolution to get fit. They swarm into the gym, most the time not having much of a clue what to do, and work themselves into a bone-grinding state of exhaustion for the first few days of the new year, and eventually either give up, or they obtain an injury because they threw their body into the same high school weight room or cross country regimen they did when they were spry young teenagers.
Now, I know that sounded harsh, and in NO WAY am I saying someone with health and fitness goals should not come to the gym. (As many of my readers know, I was that guy not too long ago) Please, come! We want everyone to value your health and take the only body you get to its highest potential. Us regulars welcome you, hell, if you have questions, come up and ask us, we don’t mind! (Most of us don’t mind anyways, just avoid the guy with the lifting gloves who comes in and only does curls in the squat rack everyday…) We just don’t want to see you get hurt, and we don’t want to see you come to the gym for two weeks and then give up and pick up all your old habits.
That’s why if you have an important resolution that you really want to stick to this time, to affect true change in your life, you have to be strategic.
First off, be realistic with your resolution. That doesn’t mean you can’t maintain lofty goals, it just means be realistic with what could be achieved in one calendar year. Setting an impossible goal with a deadline is another great way to set yourself up to fail and give up altogether.
For example, my biggest, loftiest career goal, is to one day make my living as a full-time writer and novelist. This isn’t something that can typically be achieved quickly, it takes years of practice and dedication to the craft of writing. Sure, there are a handful of very young writers who get published and become successful at a young age, and while some of them may be dripping with talent, some of them may just have family with incredible editors and great connections, and suddenly a prodigy is born. (This is even more common in the music industry. I.e. – Singer Rebecca Black…cringe…)
For the vast majority of everyday people like myself, it takes a very long time and years of hard work, thus, I’m not going to set a resolution to become a full-time novelist by the end of 2018. Instead, I’ll choose something more realistic, something that’s a step in that direction, something to build off of.
Using the aforementioned analogy of getting in shape, if you haven’t been to the gym in a while, haven’t been eating great, and have packed on some unwanted pounds, you can set that goal of losing thirty pounds (or whatever realistic number that may be) in 2018. If you meet that goal by May, great! It doesn’t mean you just hang up your cross-trainers and kick your feet up, it just means you’re ahead of schedule.
Now, the question is, how do you reach that goal? Do you go in and work out for two hours a day every day of the first week of January?
First, you should do a little research. Consult with your physician, let them know what you want to do, get a physical, make sure your body is prepared for some changes. Next, speak with a fitness trainer. Many trainers offer a free or discounted first consultation, and for many, this information may be enough to get you off and started on your own. And if you can afford it, hire that trainer to develop a plan tailored to you and workout with you a couple times a week until you’re ready to do things on your own.
Finally, be smart, and don’t over-do it in the beginning. Maybe you start with going to the gym two or three times a week for the first few weeks, and you work on regaining your mobility and correcting imbalances in your body (that’s what I’m currently in the midst of actually, even as a seasoned gym-goer). You won’t get your desired progress immediately with this conservative approach, but if you’re in this for the long haul then that doesn’t matter, health and fitness is a long-game endeavor, not something you can expect instant gratification with.
That long-game approach is something that can be rolled over into almost any endeavor, not just fitness.
Now, I’m not telling you that you should do these exact things if your goals are fitness-related, the point is that if you have an important resolution, it’s important to be smart and set incremental goals to achieve that resolution, because if you try to do it all at once, there’s a damn good chance you’re going to give up by March (or earlier).
So, now I want to talk about my own failed resolution for 2017, and my resolutions for 2018.
My big resolution in 2017 was something Amber’s Mom, Rayna, suggested we do, given she has an interest in writing as well. It was a challenge called Write the Year, and the goal was to write for at least 30 minutes every day for the whole year.
I was on board and gung-ho about it in the beginning, and although I specifically remember not writing on the first of January last year, the first month or so Rayna and I both did pretty well.
But eventually, life happened, things began to taper off, we stopped updating each other on our progress, and by mid-year I had all but forgotten it had even been a resolution.
In reflection, I realized that setting a goal to write every single day was setting myself up for failure. I had been writing maybe once or twice a week before starting the challenge, and that, combined with trying to maintain all the stuff I was already doing in Amber’s and my busy and active lifestyle, was not the way to resolve to work on my craft more consistently. While I did write much more in 2017 than 2016, I failed in my resolution, and eventually chose to forget about it.
This year, I’ve adjusted my resolution to something much more attainable: Write at least four times per week. I didn’t set any time restrictions or page minimums, and in the beginning I’ll start out with two or three times a week and work up to the minimum of four, considering as it was I was already writing two or three times a week (or more) through much of last year, up until December when the Holidays happened and the wheels fell off for a bit.
And what does “writing” consist of as it relates to my resolution? This is just parking my ass in that chair at least four evenings each week, and trying to write. It could be writing a blog post, a piece of fiction I’m working on, or even homework for the Advanced Editing course I’m taking at WSU this semester. It’s just sitting down, continuing to work toward what I discussed in The Moonlighting Miner, and creating the writing habit.
To achieve this, another mini-resolution of mine and Amber’s is to heed the advice of Nate Green, and begin creating weekly schedules. So, instead of winging it and trying to make myself write on a wide-open night, I’ll schedule it. That way choosing between writing or watching Netflix isn’t even a question anymore, it’s just slated as that night’s activity. (Because 9 times out of 10 Netflix WILL win that battle)
Another sub-goal of my overarching resolution is to be nicer to myself, and not get down if I am struggling to keep up with my resolution. If a week goes by and I only sat down and wrote once, it’s not the end of the world. I can just look back, see what happened and why I failed that week, learn from it, and try again next week.
To wrap things up, here are the key takeaways on New Year’s resolutions:
- Be realistic: Don’t set yourself up to fail, and create a resolution that contributes to your long term goals
- Be strategic: Don’t burn yourself out, create a plan, and do your best to stick to it
- Play the long game: If you do hit bumps in the road, don’t beat yourself up, get back on that horse, and keep trying
Remember, without failure, not only have we not learned a valuable lesson, but when success is achieved, it doesn’t taste quite so sweet.