The failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is estimated to be 80%, with most people throwing in the towel by mid-February according to a widely cited U.S. News & World Report. So whether it was hitting the gym, starting that new YouTube channel, or finding your dream job… there’s a high likelihood you may already have hit a wall of discouragement and are feeling like a failure. You started off motivated and pumped up, so what went wrong? Well maybe it’s the tradition and mindset of a New Year’s resolution itself.
The Absolutism of Resolutions
A quick Google search of the word “resolution” cites one of the definitions as: “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. As humans, it’s natural for that word to set us up for an all-or-nothing mentality which translates to “if I screw up once, I’m a failure”. Take a step back from this holiday tradition and ask yourself, when was the last time actualizing a healthy life choice came effortlessly? Losing weight, running a marathon, working on your marriage, recovering from depression, growing spiritually… all of these things require gradual change, learning from setbacks, dedicated action and steady growth. Taking an all or nothing approach at the start of every year is somewhat of a self-sabotaging practice of setting ourselves up for failure. So what can you try instead? Here are 5 tips to get you back on track.
#1: Think Big and Plan Small: Set SMART Goals
Resolutions tend to be broad themes, promises to yourself, or a trajectory you wish for your life to take. Goals on the other hand are specified targets that have a definite & precise endpoint. A resolution without goals is simply a wish. So, I recommend the tried and true method of setting goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, and Time Bound.
Examine the difference between these two statements:
- New Year’s Resolution: “I’m going to be healthier this year”
- New Year’s Goal: “I am going to stop smoking by the end of June. I will start off by making a call to my physician within the next week and try to get an appointment within the next 4 weeks to see what my options are. I’ll also try out suggestions some of my friends who quit smoking have given me and track my use to see what % I can cut back this month.”
You can find numerous variations of SMART worksheets with a simple google search, such as templates like these to help you get started.
Goals without planning are not SMART.
#2: Reflect on: What’s Your Why?
As motivational speaker, Eric Thomas said, “What’s your why?” Why do you wake up every morning and do what you do? Why did you set these particular goals?
Are you trying to please others or do these goals truly align with your core values? Are you trying to put a bandaid on an insecurity or are you truly investing in long term personal growth?
WHAT ARE MY CORE VALUES?
In this busy world of balancing work & family and incessant intrusions of text messages, emails, and notifications, when was the last time you took a breath and stopped to reflect on your life journey? Don’t wait for an unexpected major life event or crisis to think deeply about what you value, how you are living, and where you envision yourself in the future.
Find some private time, turn off your devices, and just take stock of your life. And again, this time of introspection and reflection itself should not be an “all-or-nothing” exercise.
- Unrealistic: “This weekend, I’m going to head to Starbucks, tune out the world listening to my jams, and figure out everything about my life in 90 minutes. And I better do it now, because I have to get back to my work project, 3 kids, and 800 emails and won’t have time for reflecting again”.
- Realistic: I’m going to stay conscious of my emotions and thoughts as I’m working towards my goals and make sure my radar is up when I feel like the goals are really resonating with me or if something feels off and find time to reflect on both.
Figuring out your “Why?” will be the fire to your resiliency. Your “why” will be what will continue to pick you up even if you fall short of a goal and motivate you to set a new one. What’s your why?
#3: Like Bruce Lee said: “Be Like Water” (Adaptability)
Be like water. Be flexible and adaptable in both your approach and your goals themselves. Fact: life doesn’t stop happening: health issues arise, jobs come and go, moves happen, financial situations change, pleasant surprises occur, and tragedies befall us.
There may be times where you need to be more structured in your approach:
- Personal Example: I have a goal this year of wanting to run a half-marathon. From past setbacks, I know that just winging it hasn’t worked. So I am following a planned out couch to 10K plan at this time.
There may be times where you need to be flexible & adaptable in your approach & goal:
- Hypothetical: I get a stress fracture in my leg. My timeline to run a 10K will need to be pushed back. So, I reflect back on my “Why?”. I set this goal because I want to be living a healthier lifestyle to prevent obesity, diabetes, and be around to make as many memories with my wife and son. So, during my recovery, I may have to set new goals with my diet and other types of fitness for the time being, until I can safely run again.
Solely taking a rigid mindset for your approach and goals, does not leave much room for contingencies when life happens. Don’t set yourself up for unneeded frustration with your mindset. “Be like water my friend.”
#4: Reset the Clock for Now
Whatever day it is when you’re reading this post and if you’ve “failed” or given up on your New Year’s resolution before the end of the calendar year. Reset the clock for RIGHT NOW. Why should you wait 339 more days to start working on your goal again? Start again today.
- For example, if you had a goal of cutting back on fast food and you had yourself a delicious double quarter pounder with cheese & large fries (hypothetically), don’t stuff your face with double quarter pounders for another 339 days because you “failed”. Learn from the setback. Be like water and adapt your approach for your next meal, not 1,017 meals from now.
Plan, retool, and start working on your goals again as soon as possible. The end game isn’t to meet some arbitrary New Year’s resolution timeline, it’s to work on your life goals and dreams.
#5: Be Like NIKE and “Just Do It”
At some point, all the reflecting, planning, and positive self-talk won’t do you any good if you don’t start working towards your plan of action. Don’t get stuck with “paralysis by analysis”.
- Don’t let the past hold you hostage. Didn’t reach your goals in the past? Don’t let the past wield power over your choices today. Learn from the past. Let if fuel your hunger and fire.
- Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from getting out of the gate. Prepare to encounter adversity. But, you know what? Hitting adversity means you’ve starting working on your goals and are making progress. Focus on that encouraging aspect instead.
- Celebrate the small victories with others. Who couldn’t use a dose of encouragement?
When you reach a goal or fall short of one, take stock and repeat steps 1-5 again and take out or add other steps from what you’ve experienced. Life is a complicated, fascinating, and wonderful journey, not a simple checklist like this.
Happy New Year! Keep on pushing!
Share your goals with me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @AndrewKimMD
~Andrew Kim MD
Re-posted from Original Article at: https://www.andrewkimmd.com/blog/given-up-on-your-new-years-resolution-hit-reset-and-try-this-instead