You began the year with high hopes, but now your New Year’s resolutions are just memories. You set out to make lots of changes to your life, but you’ve already put some at least some of those resolutions aside. You’ve failed, or so it seems.
As you analyse your “failure”, consider the following before you criticise yourself too much—you might have more to congratulate yourself about than you think.
At the end of last year, you were likely thinking about all sorts of things you wanted to do differently, but you made your list when you were on holiday, at a time when you were feeling relaxed. The resolutions you came up with seemed fine a couple of weeks ago, but now that you’re back into your normal routine, you’re not so sure.
In fact, you can’t really remember why you thought that list was filled with good resolutions in the first place. At least some of them don’t fit in with what you’re doing either at work or in your life outside work. Some of them are definitely the wrong resolutions. Now that you look closely at them, you can see that you’re right to put some of them to one side and think again.
It’s something that you do at the end of the year: you get together with friends and you all commit to reform some of your bad habits. You discuss what you are going to differently, what you intend to stop doing and which activities you’re going to start doing, or commit to do better. Perhaps on New Year’s Eve you nodded as someone in the group said:
“Let’s all agree to ……”
That’s where your problems started—you agreed to something that wasn’t necessarily on your personal list of priorities. Maybe it was something you hadn’t even considered focusing on this year, but it didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time, and you don’t like to dampen other people’s enthusiasm. However, when you come to think about it, this isn’t a New Year’s resolution you want to work on, so you’ve abandoned it.
When you think about this particular resolution, you say things like:
“I ought to work on ….”
“I really should make a commitment to …”
Words like “ought” and “should” reveal a lot about you. You know it’s a good idea to take off those extra pounds you put on last year; you know that adopting a more frugal lifestyle would be good for the planet and good for your bank balance, but somehow you know you’re not going to take action.
Making a New Year’s resolution to force yourself to do something that you’re not ready to do doesn’t work, because you’re not committed to take action. You don’t actually want to make the changes that fulfilling your resolution would demand of you.
You can try to goad yourself into making those changes, but it tends not to work. After a while, you stop prodding yourself, or you get fed up with feeling guilty all the time, and you give up on the project.
Making a New Year’s resolution to do something you really don’t want to do is a bad idea, so It’s not surprising that you’ve abandoned this one.
Quite a few people make long lists of New Year’s resolutions, and the same resolutions tend to crop up every year. You’re going to learn to touch-type; you’re going to learn to ride a bike; you’re going to exercise twice a week. You end up with so many resolutions, and you would need to make so many changes to your life in order to achieve them, that you really can’t cope with everything on your list.
When you make New Year’s resolutions remember the SMART formula in full: most people are good at making specific, measurable and time-bound commitments and thus addressing part of the formula. Some even ask if a task can be done, and if the task achievable. It’s the realistic element that so often gets overlooked.
If you have too much to do, if you have reached the limits of what you can cope with, don’t add anything else to your list of tasks to work on. It’s not realistic to take on something else. You just can’t do any more, even if you would like to.
Taking another look at your New Year’s resolutions and working on the ones you have the personal capacity to fulfill makes a lot of sense—if some of your resolutions have to be put to one side, it’s not a disaster. It’s good planning.
You have a whole year to work on your New Year’s resolutions and it’s important to remember that some tasks are easier to complete at particular times of the year—there’s no reason to assume that you should start work on all your New Year’s resolutions in January.
If you’re very busy at work in the first quarter of the year, it might make sense to work on revising your approach to how you manage your schedule in the second quarter. If you’re determined to become fitter, then the time of year when the weather is at its best is the time when you’ll find it easier to spend more time outdoors taking more exercise.
When you make New Year’s resolutions, be prepared to pace yourself through the year as you work to complete them.
Don’t assume you’ve failed to fulfill your resolutions just because you’re not working on them in January.
Resolutions are great because they bring focus to what you do, and they help you to motivate yourself to succeed at what’s important to you, but your grit and determination to achieve deserve to be focused on the right things. This means you need to be very careful about the resolutions you make when each new year comes.
Maybe now is the time to cheer that you haven’t keep some of your current New Year’s resolutions. Next year learn from this year’s “failures” and make sure your future resolutions are the right ones.
Choosing the right battles to fight is always the best way of increasing your chances of victory. Good Luck with 2014, when it arrives.
Featured photo credit: Sky train in Bangkok via Shutterstock
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