Some people swear by New Year’s resolutions, some people swerve them entirely. However, most people set them every year and immediately break them within the first 24 hours of the year.
Wherever you fit along this spectrum of failure, let’s see if we can do something positive as we roll into 2017, something that might actually make a difference to our lives.
In this post, I will argue that, rather than setting New Year’s resolutions, we need to set ourselves New Year’s goals. And, rather than set mad tasks that we will never achieve (like not drinking for an entire year, for instance) we will create a framework that allows us to make positive changes that push us in the right direction towards our longer life goals.
Why do people set NY resolutions in the first place? Well, there’s probably a myriad of reasons, but one is that everybody has something they want to change about themselves.
Another popular reason why millions of people indulge in NY resolutions is that everyone likes feeling like they have succeeded. Even if the level of success is small, it releases all the right chemicals to make us feel like we are worth something… and not a constant loser.
Rather than set concrete tasks for ourselves that are easily broken, set yourself a bunch of aims that might help you attain life goals that you might never otherwise have got close to.
The reason I’m posting this so early is that it takes some thinking about. If you want to make realistic goals that are actually worth while, you have to ask yourself a bunch of questions first, mull them over, and take it from there.
Let’s switch from resolutions – something that involves resolve, to goals – something you can actually aim at and hit.
So, here’s some things to ask yourself to get yourself started. Write these down, and keep the answers so you can refer to them throughout the year.
Name one of your strengths, how can can you improve on it?
This is a good positive way to start. Rather than the old-school habit of picking your worst, most ingrained habit and expecting to change it, we switch it on its head. What are you already good at, and how can you get better at it?
See? Already things seem a lot more positive, right?
What skill would you like to learn in 2017?
This could be something work related, like becoming a boss at PowerPoint, or it could be something much more whimsical, like juggling or magic tricks. Maybe you like the idea of playing the guitar or being able to do a sweet-ass cartwheel?
What existing skill would you like to improve?
Is there something you can already do that you would like to work on in the coming 12 months. Maybe you are already a boss at cartwheels and would like to be able to do two in a row? Maybe your PowerPoint wizardry is already legendary, but you’d like to become a pro with the automation?
Pick someone important to you to focus on this year.
Outside of your immediate family and friends, is there someone that you would like to get closer to, understand better, or help out more? Make them (secretly) your project for next year.
Your life will be better because of a stronger connection, and so will theirs.
Three books you want to read this year.
Knowledge is power etc. etc. Most of us don’t read as much as we would like to. Have a proper look around and find some stuff you think would be good to read – try to pick some books that will expand your mind in some way – science, wellbeing, philosophy – you know, something that will challenge you. Then order them and have them ready to start on January 1st (well, January 2nd, once the hangover has calmed down probably).
How can you draw closer to one major life goal?
Most people have something major in their life that they would like to achieve. Most of these beasts are way too big to cram into one year and, consequently, they can sit on the back burner with nothing really happening to feed into them.
So, think of some stuff you can do to inch yourself towards that massive challenge. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen in 2017, but hopefully, if it all goes to plan, you’ll be closer to it by the end of the year.
Pick a loose end.
We all have loose ends – that drain needs clearing, that book needs finishing – the list goes on. Pick one of these buggers and make sure you nail it this year. It’s only when you finally tie up a loose end that you realise how much it has been bothering you.
Those are just some examples you can use. You’ll be better placed to come up with stuff that means something to you.
I think the key things are to set your sites at a reasonable level. Not so high that you won’t make them and not so low that they are worthless. Get a bunch of things knocked together that you can really get stuck into that will make a positive change.
Importantly, don’t be annoyed if you feel like you have failed in one area or other, just make sure you nail it in some other areas to compensate. Little, well-directed movements are the best way to guarantee that warm feeling of achievement we all crave so badly.