The start of the year always poses one question: what is your new year’s resolution?
We can all relate to it – the bombardment of questions on the run-up to the new year and the month-long interrogation of whether you’ve kept it or given up. Rarely will you find yourself in the middle of June, explaining to someone how far you’ve progressed with your resolution.
The problem with resolutions is that we expect them to fail, we expect to give up. Just like how January is the busiest month for gyms, only to dip back to normal levels once February rolls around, most of us give up on our goals for the year before the month is over. But there are things we can do to keep us on track.
Whether your resolution was about your personal or professional life, these helpful tips could be the secret to their longevity:
Change How You Think
One of the biggest obstacles is how you view resolutions. If you already think you’re going to fail, you will. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and one you will need to break in order to stick to your goals.
The idea of a new year’s resolution insinuates there is a deadline, and this can add pressure. Giving yourself a year to complete anything may seem like a long time, but for most of us, this makes us feel overwhelmed and lost. We won’t know where to start and end up procrastinating.
Instead of viewing it as something you must achieve in the next year, think of it as an ongoing goal. Something you can work on, even if it’s not completed in a year. Some things, realistically, can’t be done in that time frame, so it sets you up on a more relaxed foundation.
Start Big, Work Small
You can make your resolutions as big or as small as you’d like, as precise or abstract as you want. In the end, you still need to look at what steps you’ll need to take to get to where you want to be.
When you choose a resolution, try to imagine the small steps you can take to get there. This might mean choosing a resolution that seems much bigger than your initial goal. However, you can still do this with smaller goals by being S.M.A.R.T. See your resolution as the “big picture” and figure out how to get there using more detailed steps.
Now that you’ve seen the “big picture” of your resolution, you can use the idea of S.M.A.R.T goals to help you achieve them.
Breaking up a larger goal into smaller goals gives the illusion of it being more achievable because IT IS! S.M.A.R.T goals reduce the feeling of overwhelm, allow you to focus on one thing at a time and make your goals measurable. If you can measure your progress, it will give you a greater feeling of satisfaction and allow you to actively see how you are progressing. Much like diets, if you can’t see the progress, you’re unlikely to stay motivated.
Ideally, a new year’s resolution is to be completed in the current year. That being said, you have to be realistic when setting your goals. Putting deadlines too close together or expecting too much too quickly will lead to exhaustion, burnout and inevitably missing these deadlines. All of which can leave you feeling demotivated and like a failure.
Instead, take note of your abilities and start slow. Create a plan on how to achieve each step using S.M.A.R.T goals or something else entirely. As you progress, your capabilities will become more apparent, allowing you to adjust your plan as you go.
Don’t Forget Positive Reinforcement
B.F. Skinner developed the idea of positive reinforcement in his theory of operant conditioning. If you aren’t sure what that means, it is the act of rewarding a response or behaviour appropriately. On the opposite side of the scale would be negative reinforcement which uses punishment in place of rewards.
If you can’t see what I’m getting at, the crux of it is that you should reward yourself every time you complete a goal. The consistent positive reinforcements will provide you with dopamine hits that will keep you motivated and focused.
A Working Example:
Now that you’ve read these tips, it might be useful to provide an example of how to apply them. So, why not show you my own new year’s resolution:
In 2022, I would like to focus on bettering myself [the bigger picture]. That means, I’ll be looking at [smaller goals]:
- Developing my marketing skills
- Writing more, especially of my WIP
- Taking better care of my mental and physical health
- Doing more of what I love
- Getting out in nature
Now, I can break down each step into a S.M.A.R.T goal. For example:
- Taking better care of my mental and physical health
Take my physical health – to take better care of this, I need to eat healthier, become more active and be more aware of what my body is telling me. This is a smaller goal that can be broken down even further. Let’s just focus on one aspect:
S – Become more active.
M – Take a 30-minute walk every day for two weeks.
A – Take a 30-minute lunch to walk, allowing myself a break from the laptop in the day and stretch my muscles from sitting for hours.
R – Starting with a walk allows my body to get used to movement before I start increasing activity such as through the gym.
T – Do this for two weeks before progressing to more activity. I can adjust as I progress, whether that’s faster, slower, or just as expected.
When I have completed this goal, I can work on the next one to include more activity in my daily routine. I can also reward myself with a gym membership, a new gadget to help me become more active or something else entirely! It may only be one part of a larger goal, but it is something that seems both simple and attainable.
The above example shows how you don’t need to create a larger goal in order to follow the steps. But it can help you view different aspects or see your resolution from another perspective. Sometimes, what we think is a simple goal, can need more steps than anticipated.
Whether you start the new year with a very specific goal or a larger idea, being able to sit down, plan your progress and stay realistic will help keep you motivated, focused and, most importantly, it will keep it fun. A new year’s resolution should not be a drag, it should improve your life and/or business and help you enjoy your time more.
Whatever your resolution is, just remember – no matter whether you reach every goal or give up by January 31st, you have what you need to be who you want. Build your business, gain your independence or even find your soul mate, it’s all within your grasp.
Megan is a creative writing graduate and marketing assistant working with Hello My PA. When she’s not scrolling through social media, researching the latest marketing trends or binging the latest Netflix show, you can find her covered in sticky notes planning her next writing project.
Find Meg on Twitter and LinkedIn or visit Hello My PA.