I admire anyone who has the will to improve themselves in some way. Whether it’s by losing weight, reading more or even smiling more often. Any improvement, big or small, is a step in the right direction. It is at this time of year that my social media feeds are full of posts stating such aims, I like to see the positivity, however it seems rather pointless if these aims aren’t being met in a month’s time. What’s going wrong?
Goal setting is a skill. You can set bad goals that you will fail to achieve. It isn’t always a matter of will power, sometimes people’s goals just don’t ‘tick the boxes’ we need to see them through.
When it comes to setting a goal, clarity is key. You have to know what it is you want to achieve. “I want to lose weight”, isn’t clear enough. You’re mind doesn’t know exactly what it is trying to achieve, thus it doesn’t know how determined to be.
If you instead set a goal that said “I want to lose 3lbs this month.” You know what you want to achieve and by when. You are able to monitor your progress – if you’ve lost a pound after week one, you’re on track, if you haven’t lost anything after 2 weeks, you need to get a move on!
This approach also allows you to take advantage of guilt. If at the end of the month you haven’t met your target, you might feel guilty. Don’t feel bad about this. The guilt drive is powerful and can be used to push you even harder in month two.
If your goal is ambiguous, your feelings towards it will be as well. If your aims are clear, so is your focus.
Why do you want to achieve this goal? Sometimes a goal can be autotelic. However, often we set ourselves goals that are in place for some larger purpose, yet we rarely try to think what that purpose is. Why do you want to read more? Is it to learn more about a certain subject? Maybe you want to win your local pub quiz for once. Think about the wider picture and have a reason for why you are setting the goal. It gives you something separate from the work to aim for.
Think about an athlete running in the morning. Rarely do they get up early and go for a run just because they want to (unless they are a runner). Often it is because it is part of their training for their sport, they are doing it to achieve in their sport, not in the running itself, that part is just a stepping stone.
Commitment means staying true to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left.
It is super easy to stand there at 11:55 on December 31st, probably with a drink in your hand and say that you will go to the gym 3 times a week in 2016. It’s not so easy when you wake up at 8am to try and do it.
Why? Because we don’t think consistently. We have different moods.
This is the main issue with New Year’s resolutions. They are set as part of the hype. ‘The New Year is coming and it’s going to see new determination in me’. The truth is, when the New Year starts, NOTHING CHANGES. You don’t change as a person just because the earth has finished an orbit around the sun and so how can you expect yourself to suddenly have new motivation?
This is why New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be set in the New Year. Turn around to yourself in the middle of March and set your goals. Do it in November as winter comes. Set your goals when you, yourself have decided you want to change. This way they are being set because there is motivation within you to improve, not because your mind is getting caught up in the New Year resolution’s fallacy.