Why You Should Wait To Set Your New Year's Resolutions Until January
Please tell me if this story sounds familiar: I’ve spent the last ten years forgetting until the end of December that a new year is right around the corner and I might want to make some changes in myself and my life. Then inevitably at about 8 AM on December 31, I start to freak out because, well, I don’t have a plan!
It’s like every year I think that the time will naturally unfold where I will sit down, peacefully with candles and wine, no screaming children, no obligations to family or friends and at that moment my resolutions will just come to me. Then I will proceed into the new year with a healthier mindset, a set workout schedule, a more patient attitude for my children, more inspiration for work...and, on...and, on.
The most self-destructive part of this annual tradition is that I then spend most of January lamenting over the fact that I did not plan better for my ‘new-year-new-me’ plan. This year, I’m taking a different approach. And yes, I am fully aware that it’s almost the end of January already.
A colleague and friend recently gave me the most thoughtful gift. It was the workbook, Start Today, by Rachel Hollis, a boss lady that has built a thriving company and written two best-selling books meant to inspire other women. She’s written down all of the tools and created a roadmap for women to discover and commit to their ideal future. And, her model has inspired a ton of women. However, even with all of these beautiful tools right in front of me, I still reached the end of December last year with nothing to show.
Then, around January 5th, I started to work out a post for this month and subsequently began the self-loathing. I wanted to write about New Year’s resolutions but realized I hadn’t actually written down any of my own. How could I write about a topic I am passionate about, but I can’t even do for myself. Maybe it’s because I was looking for some silver lining or a way to justify my procrastination, but it dawned on me that each year I do wait until January to sketch out my ‘self-plan’ for the new year. Hooray! I am not even behind schedule! But, permitting myself to do this is what I have NOT been doing.
So to all of you procrastinators out there--just like me. To all of you perfectionists, who can’t stand being late. To all of you moms who have too much on your plate and not a minute to yourself, or career women who live and breathe work. Let’s start a resolution revolution, and commence by setting our goals in January instead of December.
You’ll notice I will use the terms ‘personal goals’ and ‘resolutions’ interchangeably in this post. The reason is that I like to think of them as the same. Many of the women I know and respect (including myself at one point), set resolutions that they fully intend to break...and what’s the point of that? If you know you are going to break your resolutions, why set them in the first place. When you switch out the term for ‘personal goals,’ suddenly it seems more real and essential to set the right ones.
Set an intentional theme for your year.
Is this going to be the year of healing for you? Maybe you had a significant health issue or injury, and overall healing is what you need in your life. I get that 100%, and this is your year to make it happen! Whatever your desire for the outcome of your year might be, put it out there as the guiding force for the rest of your resolution-setting. When you attach your hopes, dreams, and goals to a common theme it, in turn, makes all of your actions for the year more intentional. Our brains are powerful tools, and when all the little thoughts in your head become focused on one overarching concept, you're then more likely to unify your actions around that cause and make it happen! Have you ever noticed that a company department or small business with a business plan is more successful than one without?
Similarly, the entrepreneur that scrounges up enough cash to hire a business coach often ends up with the most successful venture. It’s not an accident. Business efforts made with intention, a common goal, theme, and a plan tend to succeed more often than those that don't. I’ll get into ‘your personal plan’ in the next blog post, but if you want more scientific evidence about why being intentional works, read this article from Scientific American about creating an intentional life and being open to new experiences.
Start with an achievable goal.
Nothing is worse than getting to the end of January (or February in this case 😉) and realizing that you have already broken all of your resolutions. I learned this the hard way for many many years until finally, I decided that at least one of my resolutions each year would be to change something small. Something that I could easily achieve each day--for example this year, I’m trying to drink one more glass of water each day than I usually do. I’ve noticed if I don’t include small but impactful changes in my personal goals each year, I'm less likely to make the other ones happen. Being intentional is one of the most significant self-starting ways I have seen real change happen in my life, and aspirations get achieved. While your ‘achievable’ goal might seem small, drinking additional water each day (for example), will make your body healthier over time, and likely help with the other goals you’ve set...and, nothing is more awesome than knowing you can do what you set out to do for the year!
Now for an aspirational resolution.
It’s all fine and well to have an 'achievable' resolution in your queue for the year, but you should also set your sights on something you want to do that may not happen without a lot of work. Otherwise, you will also be selling yourself short. So once you have set 1-2 achievable goals, go for the gold medal of resolutions, and set one that terrifies you! I’m not saying that you need to be completely unrealistic here. If you’re currently a teacher and want to be an Astronaut, it may not happen that you’re able to make that shift all in one year, but there are things you can achieve this year to start you down the road to achieving the dreams you're holding in your heart. Who knows, you may reach the stars faster than imagined just by getting started and putting your goal and intention out into the universe. So set the 'big-fish goal.' Do it. And then begin to create a plan that will make it happen.
Your resolutions will require a plan.
Part of the process of actually achieving goals in life (at least in my experience), is having a clear plan in place. There is not a single successful entrepreneur, or leader out there that made it to their position of leadership by just waiting for success to come to them. They pulled up their bootstraps (or put on their big-girl shoes), and started knocking on doors. They encountered and overcame rejection. They kept coming back and trying again until their mission started to make sense, and people began to listen. In other words, it’s just smashing that you want to become the best photographer in your state, with couples knocking down your door for photo shoots, and magazines wanting to feature you, but until you create a plan that includes steps to becoming this amazing and desirable professional, it will not begin to unfold. The same is true with health goals. If you want to get stronger and more fit, you’re not going to get there by sticking with your current routine and diet. We’ve all heard this before, but it helps to state it again.
And if you’re feeling annoyed because this will all take more work than you are willing to give, I have two points of feedback for you. You have a choice.
Stick with loving who you are now, and work on being more happy and comfortable with yourself as-is. And That Is An Immense Task In Itself. One to be proud of wanting to achieve.
Or, you can accept the fact that change is hard. The very word makes people squirm in their seats. But when you put in the work and see where it starts to lead, all of that effort seems completely worth it. I have not met one person who has worked hard for a life change that wishes they had not. Do they ever say it was easy? No! But they ALWAYS say it was worth it.
Good luck to you in this new, beautiful and complicated year. Give yourself the gift of investing in you this year. And let me know how it goes! Really!
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And, happy late-January New Year!