Throughout my life, I have made the same New Year’s resolutions over and over again. They were always your typical resolutions; the ones you see topping the lists of many year after year. “Get organized. Lose weight. Exercise more. Make a budget (and stick to it). Finish what you start.”
Eventually, I become disheartened after making the same list yet again. Not being able to stick to the list or see it through made me feel like I had failed. I made the list each year with the goal of being a better version of my myself and ultimately this lack of completion was achieving the opposite. I finally decided I was done making New Year’s Resolutions. Believe it or not, that is when I actually did get organized. I actually did lose weight. I do exercise more than I used to (still room for improvement). We made a budget, and we stick to it (most of the time). More importantly, I started evaluating the things that ACTUALLY spoke to becoming the person that I wanted to be.
The simple act of declaring I was over resolutions didn’t make things magically fall into place. It still took hard work and commitment on my part. It didn’t happen overnight. It took taking small steps daily and the understanding that I would mess up along the way. It was never going to happen as a simple New Year’s Resolution.
The answer lies in the fact that not only is everything connected, but, none of these things can be checked off of a to-do list. As we are all imperfect, reaching perfection is not possible. However, we can see ourselves as a constant work in progress and learn to be okay with that. We can strive to calm the chaos. We can have growth and development while showing ourselves a little bit of grace. I have learned that it is hard to have a thriving personal and professional life when you are stuck in survival mode!
So how can we conquer that yearly to-do list without ending up discouraged? How do we stop the need to repeat the same list again next year? I believe the key is to get rid New Year’s Resolutions and instead prioritize your goals. Start by making a master list of resolutions past and brilliant ideas present. Just dump everything onto the page. Quickly accept the overwhelm and realize you can’t do everything at once. From that, choose the top three things that will make the biggest difference in your life and your work. Follow your gut. These three things should stand out to you. I would challenge you further to consider the things that speak to your soul when creating your list.
Unlike most resolutions, these are not oft-broken promises to ourselves. Instead, they are things that we can make a reality if we refuse to give up on ourselves. You must take that goal and break it down into small steps, manageable tasks with actionable steps. The more specific you can be, the better. If it feels too overwhelming, you won’t start. If you can’t track it, you’ll get discouraged and quit. Once you can start checking off the boxes and see the progress you’re making, you’ll feel energized and be motivated to keep going.
Another component to finally accomplishing your goals is to check in often. If you wait until the end of the year to reflect on how you did on your resolutions, you’ve likely gone astray and forgotten what you even had intended to do. Honestly, I don’t even know what happened in January 2019, that was a whole year ago.
We have to maintain focus on what we are working towards. Check in every month (or more). Start each month with your top one to three goals and write them down! I’m a big advocate for planning out your week (personal and professional) each and every week. If you plan to work toward your goal every week, you stop yourself from ever getting too far off track. It also allows you to reevaluate and make corrections when things don’t seem to be going your way. Don’t stay on a path that is taking you in the wrong direction. It’s that simple and that hard. How do you get where you want to go? One step at a time, and hopefully, mostly in the right direction.
An example of the mindset shift:
“Lose weight,” became, “eat healthy.” Breaking that down in a new manageable way meant deciding on the steps to make that happen. My new goal became to start meal planning each week with healthy options that would get me my desired results.
For the additional, “challenge,” goals, I looked at those things that have prevented me from reaching goals or prevented me from being happy in the past. For example, boundary setting, not saying yes to things that don’t align with my values, or keeping a gratitude journal.
Are you still going to make New Year’s Resolutions? Please don’t wait for the perfect time to start, because I can promise you this one thing: that day will never come.