It’s New Year’s resolution time—time to make a list of things we want to do to better ourselves and then abandon the list within a month, right? Indeed, I’ve been reading that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions are broken by February. Why even bother? Or is it still a good idea but we’re doing it wrong?
I’d like to suggest that it’s not a bad idea but that we be kind to ourselves—that we focus more on process than on results and that goals be re-evaluated on a regular basis.
You may have heard of SMART goals, and I’d like to consider the A in that model: Attainable. To begin with, what are your chances of following through if your goals don’t fit your circumstances? Or if they’re what you think you should be doing rather than what is truly right for you? If your goals are too ambitious or you’re not fully committed to them, you’re destined to fail.
Sometimes you consider a goal attainable when you set it, but life happens and it’s no longer manageable. This could be due to a family emergency, an injury, the ebb and flow of energy for those who have chronic health issues, or other circumstances that throw you off course.
This is a learning opportunity, not a failure! We tend to think that when we set goals, we have to stick to them come hell or high water (or else we’re a failure). Sometimes powering through does work, but re-evaluating a goal is a compassionate action that is more likely to bring success down the line.
Can you modify the goal, even temporarily, so that it’s attainable in your new circumstances? Can you put it on the back burner until you resolve the situation? Or might it be that it’s just not a great goal for you and you’re better off to toss it and establish a new one?
It can be useful to have a Plan B in place from the get-go, especially if you have a chronic medical condition that flares from time to time. If a barrier makes your goal unmanageable, what can you do instead and still respect your original intentions ? Having a plan in advance can save you from floundering or, worse, giving up.
We tend to think of goals as a steady path from where we are now to where we want to be, but that’s not how life works. Be kind to yourself! Plan to re-evaluate your goals, and you’ll have a much better chance of actually following through with your New Year’s resolutions this year.
Do note that it can work the other way, too—if things are going particularly well, why stick to the original goal? Your re-evaluation just might mean increasing the challenge and progressing faster or further.
And so, I resolve (my only public resolution!) to publish a blog post every other Tuesday. My Plan B is to reduce my postings to once a month. On the other hand, I might post once a week if I get faster at writing. Stay tuned!