The winter solstice has come and gone and the days are beginning to get longer again. The symbolic change from the old year to new is a great time for reflection and for looking ahead to what will be. The tradition of resolution-making is thousands of years old. The types of resolutions have changed over the years, but often focus on some kind of self-improvement.
The problem with setting resolutions is that people often think of their future self as a separate person, often vastly different than their present self. This future self is more attractive, more organized, more generous, has more time and less bad habits. This future self is someone who has it together and will pick up the slack that you left behind. Planning ahead is a great practice, and it's fun to think about being fabulously charming, giving and successful, but we tend to be far too optimistic and goal-focused rather than thinking about the journey we must take to become that future person.
This year, write down everything you want to do and then pick out your number one goal. What drives you to do this one thing? Is it fulfilling, life-changing? Are you doing it to look good for other people, or is it something that will help you be a better person? How can other people help you with your goal? Can you read a book or take a class, or is there a community group that can support and guide you? If no community exists, can you commit to creating one? How much time each week can you dedicate to your goal? Each day? What prevented you from achieving your goal last year?
Here are a few things to focus on that make you more likely to achieve your goal. Keep these in mind when picking out your resolution and creating your plan for the new year.
- Mix it up by doing new and unusual things. If exercise is your goal, don't run around your block every day. Try throwing in runs for charity, group classes, going to a park, planning a hiking trip, etc.
- Get a support group. Find people who are genuinely interested in what you're doing and have been doing it for a while. Close friends are great, but meeting new people is great motivation too because you want to impress them! Having a role model or mentor to guide you is even better.
- Make it easy for yourself. If you have other things that always seem to interfere, try streamlining them or getting them out of the way at the beginning of the week so you can focus on your resolution. If that's too hard, delegate the tasks in the way to someone else.
- Pick something close to your core values. You're more likely to do something and feel fulfilled doing it if it's meaningful to you. If you're trying to eat healthier and are also passionate about protecting the environment, try adopting a vegetarian diet.
- Take note of your pitfalls. Don't focus on failing, but do take note of when you're making excuses for yourself. If you make it to the end of the day and find you're no closer to doing what you intended, think back on what you reasoned was more important than your goal. This will help you plan ahead to succeed.
Resolutions are often surface-level changes, like losing weight or improving your wardrobe. When you think about what it will take to achieve your goal, and the different options available to achieve it, you may rethink what it is that you really want and why you're doing it. Take the time to look inside, and then put that good person on the inside to work on the outside. You may know that you're a good person, but good thoughts are no good to anyone else unless you do something with them! Until next time, keep it clean!