How To Make New Year’s Resolutions For the Chronically Goal-Deficient

Oh, look at 2018, all shiny and brand new!

I’ve rarely made New Year’s Resolutions in the past. Why make crazy year-long promises you’re going to break by February? I didn’t get it.

But then I started thinking of them less as promises and more as goals.

See promises – things that you say you are going to do or not do – are easily broken, especially the hard-to-keep promises. And once you break them, why even bother anymore??? You’ve failed. You’ve lost. Move on.

Goals are a journey. I want to get to the end of 2018, look back and see how far I’ve come, not my many, many shortcomings. Focusing on your personal weaknesses is rarely helpful or encouraging. Seeing how you have grown as a person is.

But, see, I’m a little… goal-challenged.

When asked, my goals have, in the past, sounded like I’m stranded on a desert island:“To survive.” (Those were probably the years I had babies, LOL.)

Or so ambiguous that I have no idea if I met those goals or not: “To do better.” “To be healthier.” “To lose some weight.” Some? Really?

So, I asked my BFF Google “How to make New Year’s resolutions.” Seemed simple enough.

An article on the American Psychological Association (APA) website had some good tips: Start small, change one behavior at a time, talk about it, don’t beat yourself up, ask for support.

You lost me at “don’t beat yourself up”, APA. That’s, like, my THING.


Me vs. Me

But really, that’s what moms do, don’t we? Every little thing that goes wrong with our plans, our kids, our families, our spouses, we somehow manage to give ourselves such a brutal psychological beating that we have a hard time getting back up. Our spirits are completely KO’d. Well, some of us do this, at least. It’s not just me, right?   We need to stop this, it helps no one.

Deep breath. Okay, don’t beat myself up. Even over things I have control over. But especially the things I have little to no control over. Got it. 

Next, I found a lovely little article: Six Secrets of People Who Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions.

Secrets? Well, it’s on the interwebs now, so it’s no longer secret. Really now, spillin’ the beans to us plebs!

“Their resolutions revolve around small changes.” I think I heard that one before.

“They write their resolutions down every day.” Hold. The. Phone. Every day? 365 times? 366 on leap years? Whoah. Am I that committed? What if my goals are detailed and 10 pages long? Not me, though, obviously. My goals can currently fit on a fortune cookie paper, so what am I even complaining about?

“They have a strong ‘Why.’” Okay, this one is golden. Having a strong “why” will keep you on track way better than a surface “why.” A close friend of mine lost a lot of weight in 2017. A lot. But she wasn’t dieting to lose weight. She went on a super restrictive diet to heal her body. Her body had decided to completely rebel. She was swollen and in miserable pain. So, she went on a no oil, no sugar, whole foods vegan diet. She hated the food. Actually, if you ask her, she still hates the food. But she likes not being swollen and in pain. The weight loss is just an incredible perk. So, yeah, her “why” is incredibly strong, and that has translated into amazing goal-reaching awesomeness. To read her blog: https://reluctantveganweb.wordpress.com/

There were a couple of other “secrets” in the article and then:

“They make failure difficult.” This is good, too. Making failure difficult makes success easy. Umm, easier. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at it, it just means you put yourself in a situation that sets you up for success. The example was getting a dog to guarantee exercising more. ‘Cause that dog is gonna have to be walked every day. Meh, maybe not the best reason to take on a 10-15 year responsibility which involves picking up poop on the daily, but you get the picture. Make it harder to fail because your responsibilities demand that you succeed. Nice strategy.

This article does seem to be aimed more at corporate/business types, but that’s okay. We got a few things from it.

Then I found this gem:  How To Make New Years Resolutions based on Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type.

Do you know your type? I do, because they made me take it in college, because they felt I needed to know myself better. Turns out, I’m an INFP. Which means I’m an introverted idealist that only speaks when she has something on her mind and sometimes relies on her feelings a bit too much. Fair assessment.

According to the article, as an INFP, I should share more beauty with the world and make more friends. Got it. I’m not sure what that has to do with actual goal-setting but here you go:

Will you be my friend? (in a non-creepy way?)

Done! That was easy!! Oh wait, I still need actual goals. Moving on.

Here was an interesting article about what NOT to make your New Year’s Resolutions about:

  1. To be more positive
  2. To spend more time with family
  3. To improve relationships with friends or family
  4. To fall in love or find a relationship
  5. To get divorced or end a relationship
  6. To quit your current job
  7. To travel more
  8. To have a child
  9. To totally re-invent yourself
  10. To stop procrastinating
  11. To lose weight
  12. To quit smoking
  13. To be more outgoing or extroverted
  14. To manage stress better
  15. To stop arguing all the time

Good grief. Weight loss is at least half of the US populations’ goal. If it weren’t, the weight loss industry wouldn’t be so huge. And #12 should be every smoker’s goal. Sorry, smokers, it’s a stinky habit/addiction that’s not great for your health, and also an expensive one.

That was kind of unhelpful. It took out all the big contenders for me: Lose Weight, Stop Procrastinating, Stress management, Positivity. Be More Outgoing. What’s left for me to take on as actual goals or “resolutions” now?

But I get it, don’t make goals without clear-cut action steps or that rely too much on other people. I guess it wasn’t that unhelpful after all.

So, how do I wrap this up into something I can wrap my head around?

I have a few of my own ideas and now I’m going to write them down. This is what I’m telling myself. You can take whatever you want from this.

  1. Decide where you want to be at or what you want to accomplish by a certain date. Really think about it. Be specific. Be concrete. This is no time for half-committed, abstract idealisms.
  2. Determine what steps you need to take to make sure you get there. If you have to, write them in baby steps. Remember What About Bob?
  3. 3. Run them through the reality filter and make sure these aren’t impossible or dependent on factors out of your control. Make sure there is ample time to actually complete them. If there isn’t, RE-WRITE THEM. Oh, yes, I am cruel. This is for your own good. 4. Decide what you are going to do to set yourself up for success. For some, it’s an accountability partner. For others, it’s aligning your responsibilities with your goals. For still others, it’s getting a dog to take walks with.

  4. 5.Write down the edited steps on a piece of paper. Better yet, print them with a nice background; that’s lovely, too.

  5. 6. Attach the piece of paper to wall right in front of where you spend a lot of time each day. For me, that’s the wall in front of my desk. Maybe I will frame it. Because it has to last 365 days in my house. A loose piece of paper might not last more than 2 hours around these hooligans.

  6. 7. Also put action steps in your planner. You do own a planner, right?
  7. 8. Ahem. Buy or print out a planner.

  1. 9. Now put action steps into your planner with more details and deadlines to keep you on track. Remember, reality filter!
  2. 10. Actually follow the action steps. Or as Nike says, “Just do it!” Work at it. Don’t give up just ’cause it’s hard. Accomplishing difficult things is good for you. I tell my kids that all the time, but they don’t believe me yet. But it’s true.
  3. 11. Look back at the end of the year and instead of beating yourself up about it, use that information to make better, more realistic goals for the next year.

Wait a minute! Hold on!!! Scratch #11!! Except for the part about not beating yourself up, which we’ve already established as good, it just now occurred to me that #11 is complete bologna.  Besides, lists with only 10 items are tidier. #11 is like straight out of a self-help book that someone wrote in 5 days and sells for only $27 for the “next 15 minutes.”

Don’t wait until the end of the year. Don’t just make goals on January 1st. This is your life, and your life actually doesn’t follow the calendar. For example, most people die on a day other than December 31st. Just saying.

The calendar is only there to remind you that it is Monday, and you have a doctor’s appointment at 2:30 and it’s probably a good idea to get there on time. That it is Tuesday, and you set a deadline for yourself to finish XYZ by today. That it is a loved one’s birthday, so you should probably call them to remind them how special they are to you.

Life doesn’t happen on a calendar. Life happens and the calendar is a tool to help manage it, not a definition, not a limit, not a rule book. Don’t trap yourself into thinking that you can only change at the beginning of the year, that fresh starts are only for a set moment or day when it aligns with a piece of paper. Your only limit is the number of days God gives you. Or rather gifts you. While you have breath, every day is an opportunity. January 1st. June 16th. October 4th. Every single day that falls in between.

Goals are a journey, not instant coffee. Not fads. Not Yes or No. Not Pass or Fail. Not promises. Not things setting you up for failure. Goals are just there to guide your walk, focus and sometimes re-focus your intentions, help you learn, channel your energy, and get you to where you want to be. And goals change and morph and evolve and that’s a good thing. And if you think of it that way, in the end, you win, I win. WE WIN.

So let’s go make some well-thought goals, even if we need some extra time to figure them out. Even if it’s not January. And then let’s reach them.

Happy New Year!

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