January is synonymous with New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a new year, a clean slate….why not make some resolutions? Well, if your gym is like mine, it’ll be packed for the first few weeks of the New Year and then become a virtual ghost town by St. Patrick’s Day. Why does that seem to happen year after year? Because what sounds good in theory while we’re in our post turkey, holiday euphoric state of mind may not be what’s actually feasible. It’s so tempting to waste our time devising long lists of “resolutions” that represent little more than wish lists, and the unfortunate truth is that not achieving goals can be more humiliating and debilitating than not setting any in the first place! I’m a huge believer in goal setting, but I’ve seen firsthand how doing it the wrong way can level a huge blow to one’s ego and morale when they’re not achieved. So, here are my tips for setting New Year’s Resolutions….the right way.
Tip #1 – Avoid Fantasy Goals
Yes, it can be so tempting with the excitement of a brand new year to unconsciously assume we’ve developed super powers, but this inadvertent mental leap can lead to profound disappointment. Certainly, it’s great to have stretch goals – to reach for that gold ring that pushes us beyond last year’s achievements, but if the goal is completely unrealistic, you won’t be motivated to achieve it. Let’s face it – if you’re still trying to lose 20 pounds of “baby weight” and your “baby” is going into middle school this year, it’s probably not going to happen for you next year either. It might be smarter to opt for a larger dress size but also commit to a new exercise that you actually enjoy doing regularly and commit to doing it religiously as part of a small step towards a healthier lifestyle - a goal that’s not only more achievable but sustainable too.
Tip #2 – Remember that Shorter Lists are Better
Once you start listing, it’s so tempting to list absolutely every goal in every area of your life that you can conceive, but remember that even though it’s a new year, you will still only get 1,440 minutes each day. It’s much more motivating and satisfying long term to fully achieve four well defined specific goals, than to make little if any progress on most of your 14 goals. So strive for a few well defined goals in areas of your life where you truly want to focus in the coming year.
Tip #3 – Consider Stopping Something
When listing goals, we tend to think about what we will add or start doing, but oftentimes we need to think about what we can trim, reduce, or stop doing. Whether it’s a small annoying habit (e.g. interrupting your coworkers when they’re talking or checking email while you’re at the dinner table) or a life impacting problem (e.g. excessive drinking or spending), think about stopping it in the New Year. If stopping cold turkey won’t likely work, give yourself quarterly goals that allow you to cut back over time.
Tip #4 – Reward Success Along the Way
So often we focus so much on what we need to achieve in the New Year that we don’t really take time to celebrate what we accomplished in the previous year. Gratitude and self love is such an important part of the achievement process that’s often overlooked so it’s important to consider including goals that simply remind you to acknowledge/reward your incremental achievements. You might want to reward yourself with a spa visit every time you reach your monthly sales target or treat yourself to a walk to your favorite coffee shop after completing two weeks of yoga classes.
Resolutions sound great, but done poorly can be just another reminder of failure. A new year is an amazing opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and proactively decide how to focus your energy. The truth is that so many didn’t get to see this brand new year so what will you do with yours?
Dana Brownlee is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She is President of Professionalism Matters, Inc. a boutique professional development corporate training firm based in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on Linked In @ www.linkedin.com/in/danabrownlee and Twitter @DanaBrownlee.