Every time a new year rolls around we act like we have to change, as well. We spend the time leading into the new year making lists of ambitious goals we want to accomplish in the year, even if those goals are completely detached from the person we were previously. We run free with this “new year, new me” mindset for a month or two before the habits eventually become too strenuous to keep up with and we are back living our regular routine. If this cycle is something we continue to repeat, then maybe it is time to consider why we feel the need to change our habits only when the ball drops.
Eighty percent of people ditch their New Year’s resolutions by February according to Time Magazine. There are several explanations for this, most of them having to do with the fact that our expectations are greater than our motivation. Having a new year to work with allows us to project our own overconfidence into our goals. With twelve months to work with, surely anything can be accomplished. It is in this overconfidence that we lose the fundamentals of goals. We dive right into trying to achieve our goals without taking the time to plan for them or set milestones to make sure they are being accomplished.
So how can we make goals for ourselves if we actually intend to complete them? The first step is to remove ourselves from the idea that it all has to be done in a year. Some more complex goals may take more time, and we need to be understanding of that. In the words of Dr. Michele Neason, President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, “It’s difficult to wake up one day and suddenly decide you will change a long-held habit or practice. [It’s] better to give yourself some time to think over the entire process and make sure that you are committed to change”. Whether that means setting goals at a time separate from the new year or just setting a larger timeline for ourselves, it is important to take measures to make sure that goals are being set with the proper intentions.
It is also important to emphasize the planning process that goes into making goals. Without knowing what we want to achieve from completing our goals, it can be hard to visualize the bigger picture. New Year's resolutions often result in goals that are made on a whim in the midst of all the warm new year feelings, but lack a foundation to make them sustainable. If we want our goals to have longevity, we may want to take the time to ask ourselves what accomplishing our goals looks like. According to Forbes, people who vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.That could mean setting milestones for ourselves and measuring them frequently to make sure we are staying on track, or starting with smaller goals that are more realistic based on our lifestyles.
Finding resources in any form can be a great benefit to help keep us on track towards our goals and also visualize the progress we have made. Whether that be an app or a note-taking system, these resources can be a great source of motivation, which is a key factor in accomplishing goals. We have to want it to get it, and if we do not find ways to motivate ourselves, wanting it is only going to become harder.
If New Years is the time we choose to set goals for ourselves, try not to think of them as year-long goals, and take the time to put intention behind them to make sure they are goals we can and want to accomplish.Without a will, we will never be able to find a way.