I dislike New Year’s resolutions. How many times have you made a resolution that ended in a fiery disaster? It is not your fault. Resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” according to Timothy Pychyl a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada. Humans assume willpower is a character trait that you’re either born with, or innately lack. Keeping resolutions requires changing behavior and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking. Brain scientists have discovered, that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns which become the default for your behavior when you’re faced with a choice or decision. Change takes work and new ways of thinking.
I took a multi year approach on resolutions. Every year I decide on a theme for the year. My past two years have been to simplify my life (2019) and focus on what is important (2020). First I simplified my life to include my environments, habits, and the way I thought about my daily tasks. Then in 2020 I focused my mind and thoughts on what was important to me, such as my family, my writing and my health. I took small steps to realign my brain, my thoughts, to my goals. I took steps to improve what was in my control and accept what was not.
My 2021 theme is Forward Progress. I will take those realigned thoughts and move forward toward positive progress. I may actually reach some of my goals in 2021 that I started thinking about in 2019. By making goals actionable, measurable and shareable, I have built in accountability to my success or failures.
With each goal I made a short list of action steps not shared here due to space constraints. Then I made visual representations of the goals. The next step took courage, I shared my goals with my family. Now, by writing this post I am sharing them publicly, with you Dear Reader. Here are my goals:
- Finish 50% of my in progress writing projects.
- Loose that last 50 pounds.
- Save an additional $2000
- Take my family on a big adventure. (AKA Family vacation)
For my savings and vacation goals. I have a weekly saving plan. I printed list of how much to save every week for each goal and I gave one of my daughters the job of reminding me to make the deposit every Friday. She even gets to pick the weekly amount from the list.
For my weightless plan, I have sought advice from my doctor, changed my eating habits and exercise over the last two years. I also have a schedule for weighing and measuring that is not every day. I have changed my thinking that weight loss is a progress not a pass fail thing. Loosing a few pounds is a mini celebration and gaining a couple back is a given. It happens and I do not beat myself up about it. The goal is to steady go down over time. Sort of like investing in the stock market. You have see the line graphs that look like a mountain range, right?
For my writing goals I have created a vision board. My point is, for each goal I have taken small steps in the right direction. Rather than set myself up for failure by setting arbitrary resolutions that focus on denial, I have made a list of actionable steps for each goal and put visual reminders right in my face. Also, I have not kept them a secret.
Resolutions are promises you make to yourself that you keep secret and you can break when keeping them gets difficult. Setting goals that you share with others, gives you a safety net to catch you if you fail and help to keep you focused. Also, this multi year approach gives you time to form goals and manageable actions steps. Then sharing your goals give you someone to celebrate with you when you succeed.
2021 is my year of Progress.