New Year’s Resolution: Wish or Goal?
The first week of the New Year has come and gone. Did you make a resolution? If so, have you made it this far or given up? If you have given up, you have plenty of company. Last year, I wrote about Dr. John Norcross’ research. He found that almost one-half of adults make a New Year’s Resolution but only about one-half of those people follow through. There is many different reasons that resolutions fail, such as:
- You made the resolution because someone else wants you to change
- You didn’t create a plan of action
- Your resolution was too general
- You don’t want to or aren’t ready to make a change
- Your goal is not realistic
Don’t worry, change doesn’t need to start on New Year’s Day. The good thing about waking up each morning is that you are granted a new day...a new beginning. Whenever you are ready to make changes in your life you can.
Make Sure Your Goal is Your Own
Your goal must be your own. You need to make the decision to change. It is much more difficult to make changes in your life because someone else believes you need to improve some area. For example, suppose your spouse believes you should be more organized. You know that organization isn’t your strength but at the same time, you have been going along in life okay so far. You spend too much time looking for your keys but have never lost your kids (at least not for long) and somehow or other, the household chores get done and bills are paid. Your system may not look like much but it seems to work for you. Even so, your spouse keeps telling you life would be better if you were more organized. So you decide to become more organized this year. Chances are, this isn’t going to happen. Before deciding what you want to change, ask yourself:
- Are you really motivated to change?
- Are you trying to please someone else?
- How is this going to improve your life?
If the goal is your own, then you have decided this change is something you want. You will be more invested in following through and making sure it happens.
Choose Something Realistic
You have dreams for your future. You may want a new job, a new car, a promotion at work, to be more organized, to get married, to get divorced. Write a list of all the things you want, then think about whether each one is realistic. If some of your goals aren’t realistic, it doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming...it means you need to break your goal into steps and concentrate on one step at a time. What do you need to do to start the process? That step, no matter how small, is your first goal. Don’t worry about the other steps until this one is complete.
Part of being realistic is choosing a goal that is in your control. You can’t change certain things about yourself, for example, you can’t say you want to get rid of ADHD, but you can decide you want to manage it better. You also can’t change things about other people. You can’t make them think a certain way or do things your way. Make sure your goal reflects what you can achieve on your own (but you can ask for help.)
Create a Plan of Action
It is said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. For example, “I am going to lose weight this year,” is a wish. There is no information to back it up and no plan on how you are going to achieve it. Most wishes, however, can turn into goals with a little thought. Break it down into steps you need to take to achieve it. For the goal of losing weight you might list:
- I will lose 10 pounds
- I will cut out dessert except for on Friday evening.
- I will reduce my portion sizes and only have one helping of dinner.
- I will add 20 minutes of aerobic (or whatever type) exercise three times a week. I will ask my friend Marsha to join an aerobics class with me. There is one that meets at the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Add accountability to your plan:
- I will keep a daily chart of what foods I am eating
- I will write on the calendar when I go to aerobics class
- I will check in with my coach (or friend) on a weekly basis and talk about what is working and what is not so I can adjust my plan
You also want to include rewards:
- When I reach my goal of losing 10 pounds, I will buy myself a new outfit.
Now, you have a goal you want to achieve, you know it is doable and a plan of action to reach your goal. Now you are ready to make a change in your life (remember, it is easier to work on one goal at a time - don’t go overboard and try to change too many things at one time, you are likely to overwhelm yourself and give up on any change.)