Don’t Make Resolutions, Set Goals

I feel like I make one of these types of posts every new year’s because every year, I still listen to my friends make resolutions. The whole idea of new year’s resolutions sounds good in theory, but when I hear what people are claiming to strive for that year, I can’t help but be underwhelmed. People’s resolutions are vague, without conviction, and have no plan of action for achievement. People say, this year I’m going to get fit! I’m going to learn a new language! I’m going to be happier, more productive, make more money, etc.!

This is why I’m an advocate for setting clear-cut goals rather than making inexplicit resolutions. Goals and resolutions may seem like synonyms for each other, but in my mind, a goal is something with a motivating factor, a clear action plan, and milestones. People love to share what they’re focusing on, but rarely have they thought about how to achieve that.

The main problem I find is that people don’t actually have a good reason behind most of their so-called resolutions. They resolve to do these things mostly because they think that they should, but they don’t have a specific driver. For example, for those that want to be more “fit”, why? Do you want to be able to walk upstairs without losing your breath? Run a 10k? Do ten pull-ups? Play with your kids without getting sore? What is your motivation? This is important for two reasons: 1. It informs your game plan. Coming up with steps to run a 10K will look much different than training for pull-ups. And 2. This is what will keep you going when it starts to get tough. Gym memberships have a huge spike in January, and by February participation has usually dropped off because people don’t have a reason to keep going.

Ok, let’s say you have a great reason. Next, you need to go one step further and create a plan for yourself. This doesn’t have to be crucially detailed and specific. For the pull-up example, this could simply be doing as many pull-ups as possible every time you go to the gym and recording your personal bests. Or it could be adding assisted pull-ups to your workout twice a week to build up strength. It doesn’t matter, the point is that you have a reason to do this, and you’ve created a plan to achieve it.

Lastly, people don’t usually give themselves any credit until they’ve reached the end goal, but that can be really disheartening. Keeping with the pull-up goal, if you are starting from a place of not being able to do a single one, then even doing one is a huge milestone. Then when you’re able to do five, go ahead and TREAT YO SELF! You’re making progress and that’s the important part. If you wait until you get to ten to consider yourself accomplished, then you’re not giving yourself enough credit and you may grow disheartened at progress if it happens to be slow going.

I’ll give an example of one of my own goals for the year (although I have about 5 big ones)

Goal: Spend maximum one hour on social media a day.

Motivation: I found myself using my phone to distract from negative things in my life and I don’t want to be addicted to it or use it as a coping mechanism when it isn’t a healthy one.

Game Plan: Most of my social media usage occurs when I wake up or before I go to bed so the first step is to put my phone away at least a half hour before I go to bed and put it out of reach so I would have to get up to look at it in the morning. Block all social media apps between 10pm and 10am. Track my usage weekly to see how I’m doing.

Milestones: Right now I average 2-3 hours of social media a day (I am so embarrassed by this), so my milestones to cut it down are pretty straightforward. By the end of January, I want to be down to an average of 2 hrs per day, by end of February, that should be 1.5 hours per day, and by end of March, it should be 1 hour per day. Furthermore, by end of April I want to turn this into a more automatic habit I don’t have to think about as much.

See? It’s not too hard and it literally takes a few minutes to think through each goal. You can build yours out in more detail if you want, but my point is that if your ‘resolution’ doesn’t have these three elements, I can almost guarantee that you will not accomplish it. Don’t sell yourself short this 2019. Think about what you want to accomplish and why, and make a solid plan to get there. What do you have to lose?

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