New Year's Resolutions
It's that time of year again. According to ProActiveChange.com, between 40% and 45% of all Americans set at least one New Year's Resolution. According to the site, 75% of those people make it through the first week, 64% make it through the first month and less than half make it through six months.
Last year, I wrote a few columns on setting goals and reasons why goals often do not work out and with so many people in the process of deciding on whether to set a New Year's Resolution and what area of their life they want to improve, I thought this information should be shared with everyone once more. So below are my rules for setting goals:
1. Choose just one goal. You will be able to stay more focused by choosing only one.
2. Commit to your goal in writing.
3. Accept that you may have setbacks but that you will not allow these to stop you from achieving your goal. Accept that if you have a setback, it is not a failure, just a slight delay in accomplishing the goal.
4. Break your goal into small pieces. Rather than setting a "whole year" goal, set a goal for January, or even for the first week of January. Once you have accomplished that goal or have made it through the week, set another small goal for the next period of time.
5. Make a plan of action. Determine what you should do and when you should do it. Be prepared to alter some of your behaviors in order to make the change happen.
6. Use email reminder services to send yourself reminder notices or buy postcards and write one out to yourself for each month. Ask a friend to put one in the mail at the beginning of each month. Use your computer or PDA to set a reminder system.
7. Plan rewards. Set up a reward system to help you going. Each day you follow your plan, put a dollar in a jar. Use the money to go out or buy something as a reward for following through.
8. Remember no plans are set in concrete. If you find yourself feeling like a failure because you can't follow through, reevaluate your plan and your goals to make sure they are realistic.
Reasons Why Goals Don't Work
New Year's Resolutions show our desire to change and improve our lives. But for many people, New Year's Resolutions bring up memories of previous failed attempts at setting and reaching goals. Goals require planning and follow through, two areas where adults with ADHD often struggle. If you understand the reasons why most New Year's Resolutions fail, you can increase your chances for success.
Reason 1: Goals are over-ambitious.
Do you make fabulous resolutions, vowing to lose 50 pounds over the year, organize your entire home, or learn a new subject? Think about the type of resolutions you make and whether they are realistic or whether they are wishful thinking. They may be realistic if you break them down into chunks rather than looking at them as a whole. Instead of making the goal of organizing your entire home, you might want to start with a more manageable goal of organizing one specific room. Once you have accomplished that, you can move on to the next room or goal. Set smaller goals for each month rather than one large goal for the entire year. The smaller the goal, the easier it will be to attain.
Or possibly you can reword your goals, making them lasting changes rather than year long goals. For example, instead of "I want to lose 50 pounds," you can make a goal or eating healthier. You can start by using skim milk instead of whole milk or eating salads with your meals. You are still improving your life, working on an important goal and making it realistic in your life. This way you are changing habits and making changes that can last a lifetime.
Reason 2: You are setting goals based on what you think you should want, not what you really want.
How many times do you set goals because someone you know does something better than you? On a recent trip to a friend's home, I saw her family calendar hanging in the kitchen. It had a column for each child, and activities were color coded so that she readily knew who had what and when they needed to be somewhere. I thought it was a great idea and decided I should implement it in my home.
Needless to say, it didn't work. When I visited my friend, I was not thinking about my disorganization, I wasn't thinking about changing the way my family managed our activities. I can't say my family always remembers everything (recently I completely forgot to bring my daughter to a band practice on Saturday morning), or that we always get there on time, but we manage. My goal was not to become organized; it was "to be as organized as my friend is."
When you set a goal, it must be for you. It must be because you do not like the way something in your life is working and you want to see it improve. When you try to set a goal of becoming as good as someone else, you are not trying to help yourself. You are trying to copy someone else's success. Goals will work if you take your own situation into account and determine what steps you can take to make improvements, keeping in mind that you must want those improvements. If your systems of organization works, don't worry that someone else may have a better system.
Reason 3: Goals are not specific and do not have a plan of action.
Goals, without a plan and focus are simply wishes. "I wish I was more organized" is not a call for action. "I plan on becoming more organized this year. First, I will start with my desk at home, throwing away all old papers and those that are no longer needed. Once that is completed, I will sort and file any papers that are left." This is a goal. And this is an attainable goal.
The second goal not only calls for action, it gives a specific sequence of events that need to happen and in what order they should occur. Writing down your goal and listing all the steps needed to accomplish the goal will help immensely. You need only to work on the first step until it is completed. Only then do you move on to the second step.
By writing your goal and the process on paper, you change from wish to goal.