It's almost time to say goodbye to this year and turn the page to a fresh start in the next. Feeling frisky about the possibilities for the coming year? Ready to repent of all of your bad habits? Are you poised with pen in hand, ready to write your New Year's Resolutions? Don't do it. You're probably setting yourself up for failure.
"Wow, Julie, that's rather dark!" you might be thinking. It might sound atypical coming from me, a person who is convinced that a lot of life is the result of choice. I believe that people can change and improve, and that they sometimes don't stretch themselves far enough. But why this apparent pessimism about something as harmless as New Year's Resolutions?
I have two reasons for viewing resolutions with a jaundiced eye:
- The are often constructed around something that you think you SHOULD do, not something that you WANT to do.
- They are spouted off casually, without a plan for how to do them.
Consider one of the potential topics around which you're thinking about making a New Year's resolution. Now answer this question: why haven't you done it already? Most of the time the answers fall into a few general categories:
- I ran into an unexpected obstacle the last time, and that stopped me.
- I didn't have time.
- I wanted to do something else more than I wanted to do that.
- It was no big deal, so I bailed.
What, specifically, is it that you want to resolve to do? Have you defined it well enough that you know what you're asking of yourself? If you are one of the millions of people who vow to "get in shape" next year, what do you mean by that? A sphere is a shape. A pear is a shape, too. You need to construct your resolution in a way that will enable you to know whether you accomplished it. Inches in fitness, times or percentages in sports performance, numbers of meals per week with all family members around the table - these are all measurable.
When you aren't specific it is much more difficult to identify the obstacles that you will need to conquer. So let's assume that you have constructed a resolution that is specific and measurable. If you really want to achieve it, then think now about the known and potential hurdles you'll have to overcome in order to get there. Figure out what you will do to go around, over, under, or through them. You might even be able to take pre-emptive action so that the obstacles will never pop up.
Oh, and one more thing - if your resolution feels like a big bite to swallow, divide it up into smaller tasks, milestones, or target dates. You aren't going to pull off a whole-life overhaul between January 1 and February 28th - or if you do please write to me, because I'd love to showcase your accomplishment. In most cases "get more organized" (this is not specific) can become specific through steps like "starting January 3, end each day by clearing off my desk," or "move my photographs from last year onto an external drive by February 10th." Death by 1,000 cuts, as they say in the Kaizen world, is how you can transform your work and personal processes. Take a bunch of small steps that collectively can bring big improvements.
Your resolutions need not be tied to the beginning of the new year. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into casting a resolution lightly. When you resolve, you are making a commitment to yourself, and if you are not really committed and don't follow through, you will be eroding a chip off of your self-image. On the other hand, you don't have to wait until January 1st to begin to walk a new and better path. If you want your life to be different, there is no better time than right now - whatever the date - to start creating it.