Every year, the masses partake in the seemingly futile cliche of forgotten-by-February-resolutions. Though we hit the ground running—empirically evidenced by the massive amounts of new fitness memberships and the overcrowded gyms— it seems come March, we settle, once again, into the same old us of yesteryear.
And nothing changes. And then we simply add the same resolutions we’ve been making year after year to our resolution rollover list titled “Welp, maybe next year.”
However, the blame is not within the actual resolutions. I believe our intentions are pure and our desires valid. But it is usually the fleeting (or non-existent) execution. The action behind our beginning-of-the-year bucket lists pretty much end on the paper that we spared 10 minutes to scribble it down upon.
So how exactly do we become the epitome of a bestselling self-help book? The persistent manifestation of our January 1st conviction? Here are a few simple ideals to help us translate the typical new year bucket list into more of a progressive to-do list, replacing abstract and empty desires with methodical and tangible ones.
1. Break down goals into bitesized steps.
Frequently we give up on our desires because we bite off more than we can chew. That is not to say that our goals are too lofty, but simply that we tend to attempt to accomplish a long term vision within a limited reality. We envision the big picture without regard to each comprising paint stroke that makes up that big picture.
Naturally, we are very shortsighted beings, and thus, our shortsightedness can easily misperceive a worthwhile goal as unattainable simply because the result we are looking for is taking too long. When we set large goals without consideration of each minute step as a sub-goal, it is easy to feel incapable of accomplishing it. To combat this, break up the long term vision into short term goals that build towards that ultimate goal. Breaking that vision down into multiple, realistic, step by step points will allow you to achieve tangible check points that become progressively within your reach.
2. Set a realistic deadline for each step of your goal.
Expanding on the concept of making sub goals, it is also worthwhile to enforce deadlines upon each step. This tactic promotes a sense of accountability.
3. Make it a habit.
We always hit the ground running when the new year chimes. But we begin to lose that stamina rather quickly. We have trouble endearing these “new me’s” into our lifestyles because they don’t get a substantial chance to become part of the routine. Making a goal second nature eases the burden of change, as consistency is key to accomplishment. Find a rhythm that is relatively comfortable for you and implement the new ritualistic behavior accordingly. Setting aside the same time every day to employ this new activity will help your brain grow accustomed to it. Before you know it, a new habit will be as seamless within your day as brushing your teeth or eating lunch. So for example, instead of setting the broad goal of “lose weight” perhaps change your mindset to accommodate a more ritualistic behavior— “do a 7-minute workout before breakfast in the morning.”
4. Be Patient.
It can be discouraging when we don’t immediately see results from our efforts, which can make us feel that the overall resolution is too tiresome, time-consuming or even impossible. But often this sentiment is the result of a premature expectation, or in other words, impatience. A spirit of impatience is counterproductive to progress because impatience facilitates a hasty attitude and even a sense of entitlement, both of which affect work ethic and technique. I have caught myself on several occasions with this impatient spirit, where I have felt cheated by the lack of my supposed deserved results in relation to my own impression of energy spent. Each time I have found myself overcome with this hasty mindset, it was as if this self imposed burden of discouragement weighed heavily upon my shoulders, making the journey all the more cumbersome.
5. Be aware of inevitable obstacles and setbacks. Then be positive. Rarely in life are we fortunate to have a consistent journey of calm waves and smooth sailing. You don’t have to be pessimistic about the storms but simply knowledgeable of how to navigate them when they come. Strength is bred from struggle, which really should be encouraging, because from that struggle comes that change that we set out to achieve, and thus, those storms are really simply helping us glean the qualifications to step into those bigger shoes you have had your eye on.
6. Keep an open mind and positive mindset.
Open-mindedness distinguishes those who identify a setback as the point to give up and those who simply treat it as a hands-on trial and error, and thus a foundational point of reference for the rest of their journey. Be methodical but not inflexible. Allow room to improve and your strategy without compromising your objective.
7. Be extremely specific.
Thoroughness helps us organize and strategize our goals. An abstract intention like “travel” holds no candle to “go on a mediterranean road trip for three weeks in July.” The latter applies a sense of purpose, a time frame, and room for itemized planning. It invites this resolution into a potentially finite place in reality.
Take time to really schedule deadlines and strategize methods. Pull out your planners, your phone reminders, to-do lists and take the time to schedule in. Meditate on your goals when you wake up in the morning and then set your day up to work towards them.
9. Encourage Yourself.
In most cases, we are our own worst critics. It’s ok to be demanding of yourself but that does not necessarily translate to being hard on yourself. I have not only witnessed others, but also have fallen victim myself, to the discouraging bite of self-imposed criticism. Unfortunately this critical mindset can derail you from your ultimate goal by replacing your drive with dejection.
10. Keep the inspiration.
Write your vision somewhere you’ll look at it everyday. Leave little tokens of motivation and inspiration for yourself in places you frequent. Your mirror. Your phone. Your car. When setting out to accomplish a goal it is helpful to keep the potential vision constantly in front of your physical vision. This constant exposure helps you to keep sight of the destination you embarked towards. So when those inevitable obstacles blur your vision, which can ultimately yield laziness, self doubt or temptation to quit, you have a point of reference, a place to remind you of your purpose, to revisit.
It is futile to get so wrapped up in an endeavor that you trade your sanity for stress. Many times when we overwork ourselves, when we are too hard on ourselves, we burn out before March and forget about the whole thing until next year. Take time to relax, meditate, breathe. This does not pardon procrastination; you can be still for moment while still remaining in a progressive state of mind. Progressive relaxation is often more productive than overworked stress.