New Year’s Resolutions: Simple Goal-Setting Tips
It’s that time of year again. You’ve had way too much to eat and drink, and at least fifteen squabbles with your family and friends about anything from why they sneeze so goddamn loud, to whether or not Die Hard really is a Christmas movie (FYI: it is, and you can’t tell me otherwise). Like me and many others, you’ve probably done some reflecting by now on how your year shaped up, and are hoping to set and keep your new year’s resolutions this time. Unless you’re a war zone humanitarian who saves children from burning buildings, owns an animal sanctuary, and donates their organs to homeless people on the weekends, then you probably also have some new years resolutions that you would like to keep in 2020.
At the dawn of a new year, we’re all guilty of setting ambitious objectives as the tantalising promise of a clean slate and a brand new year looms. It’s like a temporary mania. During this strange period between Christmas and January, one day you just wake up with this unparalleled motivation to sort your life out. You realise that your once-loose pants are now too tight, and you don’t even need a belt. Or you see some of your mates traveling back to the exotic locations that they came from, and wonder if you too need something different. You grab a pen and paper or open a text file on your phone and frantically begin to write a list of all the things that you
want to will achieve in 2020. Sadly though, this fleeting mania often leads us to create unrealistic goals and expectations; ultimately setting us up for failure as we try to take on too much at once.
Luckily for you though, I have tried and failed at almost all of my new year resolutions for the last 15 years now. You could say that I’m a professional failer, and a dedicated quitter when it comes to new year resolutions. Not only do I have an impressive catalogue of things that didn’t work out, but I have also picked up some approaches that do work. Exercises that helped me to lay out and achieve some goals that I’m really proud of. Let’s go!
Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions: Top 3 Tips
1. Simplicity is Key
Use the four steps in this exercise to help you first figure out the most important goals you should focus on in the new year.
Step 1 – Clear your mind, and write everything down.
Take a pen and paper, and write down all of your goals, dreams, and desires. No judgement. It’s really important to get this stuff out of your head and onto paper as it helps to transform the way that you think about your goals. The focus that comes with writing ensures that you can move away from ineffective emotional and foggy methods of thinking, to more logical and practical ways of thinking. The simple act of jotting things down activates your logical brain, so it’s well worth the effort. If only it was that easy with everything.
Step 2 – From your list, carefully rank each of your goals by number of importance
i.e. put a 1 next to the goal that you think is the most important one for you to achieve, the thing you are most passionate to pursue. Keep ranking them for as many as you have. Don’t be afraid to be messy here, and rejig them around until you’re relatively satisfied with your list.
Warning: don’t be too particular here though and spend 3 hours doing this (like I did one year), only to end up cracking open a bottle of Merlot on your own and just saying fuck it. 👀
Step 3 – Highlight your Top 5 goals,
and carefully write them again on another piece of paper, with the most important one at the top. When ranking your Top 5 goals, listen to your gut! It’s OK to reprioritise, but try not to do it too often as it wastes time. Make sure they’re written out nice and neat, and clearly legible. Place the paper on your wall, or somewhere you will see it clearly everyday.
Step 4 – Now for the fun part.
I want you to take a pen to the carefully crafted piece of art that you just delicately hung with pride on your wall, and place a nice thick line through the goal that you have marked as number 5. Repeat this step with goal number 4. Run a line through goal number 3. This is where it really begins to get painful, doesn’t it? Take your quivering hand and obliterate with your pen the second most important goal to you in the whole world. Take a moment to grieve. Well done, I am so proud of you. With a steely glare, I want you to look at your last remaining goal. This. This is what you will focus all your energy on achieving first. This goal, and only this goal.
Why it works
The other goals that have now been scratched off your list serve a purpose. They are there to remind you of the most important goals to you that you will not achieve, until you have first achieved your number 1 goal. Moving forward, only once you have achieved your first goal, or you are in a comfortable routine of making steady progress towards it, can you even consider looking at your second most important goal. It’s like a video game, the rest of your objectives cannot be unlocked until you have achieved your first goal (or it is at least 70% complete and you feel ready to comfortably work on an additional one). Keep ploughing through the list one by one until you have achieved all objectives. Then make a new top 5 list.😉 Seeing this on my wall everyday was motivating as hell, and thinking of goals like missions in a game made it fun, spurring me on to complete them quicker than ever!
2. Be Realific (Realistic & Specific)
Two years ago, my new year’s goal list top 5 looked something like this:
– Read more
– Get fit
– Eat healthier
– Get a new job
– Learn a new language
Firstly, this is way too optimistic of a list. I should have narrowed it down, like a lot (see exercise #1). Realistically, I had a very slim chance of completing all of those things at once without burning out or sacrificing other important things that I emotionally needed while living abroad such as socialising and family time. More importantly though, every single goal in this list is far too vague. For example ‘read more’ – what does that mean? Read at least twice a year? Also, what constitutes as reading? Do articles count? Audio books? What about those steamy Mills & Boon novels you first encountered on your Grandma’s bedside locker in the 90’s? *shivers*
Last year, I had another shot at this goal, with far greater success. I took the time to honestly analyse why I had read so little the year before, and realised an uncomfortable truth. Even though I used to read books voraciously when I was in my teens, these days I actually hated it most of the time. Sadly, I found it tedious, hard to find somewhere quiet to read, and 99% of the time when I did try to read a book, I would fall asleep within 20 minutes. Reflecting on the type of books I had actually managed to finish though, it was obvious that I still really loved reading sci-fi and thriller novels. They were the only type of books I managed to get through at all in the past few years. It turned out too that I was now consuming the other content that I love (self-improvement and developmental of course) almost exclusively from podcasts and audio books, with some blog posts thrown in here and there for good measure.
It was time to re-evaluate what I wanted and needed. The most beneficial and enjoyable information for me to focus on is self-developmental stuff, so actually my goal should have been to listen to more audio books and podcasts, not books. Funny how goals change like that when you are specific and clear on why and how you want to achieve them.
Based on this new-found information about my reading habits (or lack thereof), I decided that the first part of my goal would be to listen to one audio book every 2 weeks. This was realistic for me to achieve as the average audio book is about 9 hours in length, and I had a 45 minute commute each way to work where I could listen to them. Bingpot! Secondly, I would listen to at least one informational podcast every week, as they are usually only between 30 minutes and 2.5 hours in length, so I could easy fit them in during my leftover commuting time or while out for a walk. Lastly, I didn’t want to fall out of touch with actual reading either. That was my original intention after all. So I set a very reasonable objective of reading 100 pages of a fictional novel every week.
Why it Works
This exercise of breaking down my goal in terms of being realistic and specific allowed me to have crystal clear clarity on what I wanted to achieve, and why it would be beneficial for me. More importantly, for the first time, I finally felt like I really could achieve the resolutions that I had set out for myself. Our goals simply have to be realistic, otherwise it’s too easy for our lazy brains to come up with excuses. Breaking the task down into simple weekly tasks, I now had 3 clear requirements which I had to meet each week to reach my overall goal of ‘read more’. I stuck these on my wall in a chart that I could tick off each week. It looked like this:
#1 Goal 2018 – Read More
– Read 100 pages of a fictional book per week
– Listen to 1/2 of an audio book per week
– Listen to at least one podcast per week
The trick here is to break down an overwhelming task down into smaller, more manageable, and realistic goals. This makes it really easy to keep your New Year’s resolutions. To stay motivated and accountable, you should also create a chart and tick it off each week. For ultimate success, remember to make your goals realific! OK, OK, I’ll stop trying to make ‘realific’ happen now. Maybe.
3. The Anti-Goal or New Year Irresolution
Last but certainly not least is the anti-goal. Short and sweet, this simple concept is something that I never used to even think of. We all have busy lives, and sometimes the thought of adding an extra worry into it is daunting. Why are we always so hung up on adding some new thing into our daily schedules? What if you just don’t have the time to squeeze it in with your current routine? This is where the anti-goal comes in. It’s not about adding something new, it’s about taking something away. Something that you just know is bad for you. Like chocolate, or men. This is because, deep in the dark chambers of your heart, you know exactly the things you do that are counterintuitive to your goals, make you lazy, eat into your finances, and suck up all of your precious time.
Quick! Take stock of some of the things that don’t bring your life any value and eat up your time, and choose to eliminate or reduce just one of them. One is more than enough, and it’s best to choose whichever one will be the easiest for you to cut down on.
There’s Always A Solution
It’s easy. Play too much PlayStation or Xbox? Set a timer. Eat too many takeaways? Cut it down to once per week. Watch too much TV or Netflix? You can set parental controls on those too. Hide the password for yourself, or get a trustworthy friend to set up the controls. Just make sure to choose someone who won’t let you talk them into unlocking it for you. Don’t know how to do it? Google it. If that’s too hard, you could always just set a timer on your phone. There’s always a way.
Choose one thing that you know is bad for you and resolve to remove it, cut it down, or replace it with one of the tasty goals you’ve already prepared earlier. Taking stock of the things that eat into your time will do wonders for you, and give you an even greater sense of accomplishment when you start taking control of your life and saying no. Overcoming bad habits is a serious motivator, and will have you relentlessly working towards your number 1 goal too in no time.
Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions: A Summary
Make sure to focus on one thing at a time (simple), be specific in what you want, break your goal down into manageable pieces (realific), and if you don’t feel like adding something in then put some effort into ditching a dodgy habit you already have (anti-goal). I’d love to hear what goals you all are looking to achieve in the coming year. Make sure to add them in the comment box below, so I can keep you accountable.😎
Lastly, Happy New Year ❤️ Let’s smash some goals!