The start of the new year is a popular time for creating goals for ourselves. It’s a time that’s symbolic of wiping the slate clean and starting fresh and new. The most well known New Year’s goal tradition is the creation of a New Year’s Resolution. People all over the world choose something about themselves they want to change for the better and commit to doing so in the new year. January first arrives and everyone hits the ground running, determined to make this the year that their new habit sticks. Unfortunately, most of these resolutions go unfulfilled. By the end of February, lots of people have fallen back into their old habits and routines, leaving behind their resolutions to change. That’s why in our house, we’ve decided to approach New Year’s goal setting a little differently.
Why do New Year’s resolutions usually fail?
There are lots of reasons a New Year’s resolution can fail. Sometimes we take on more than we can handle and overwhelm ourselves with an impossible task. Other times it’s that the resolution wasn’t in tune with what we truly wanted or were prepared to do. Regardless the actual reason, what we tell ourselves is usually that we didn’t have the time, money, or knowledge to make the New Year’s resolution we set for ourselves a success. This, however, is rarely the truth.
New Year’s resolutions set you up for failure. We make one grand commitment and decide we’re going to do it. That’s it. There is no plan to ensure follow through. We create no outline for when we’ll hit certain milestones of our commitment or how we’ll know we’re on track. Usually, the resolution pertains to a goal that is so vague and broad like “I’m going to be healthier” that it’s difficult for us to accurately gauge if we’re even having success. Equally difficult to reach is the too specific resolution such as “I’m going to lose 50 lbs this year.” On the surface, this might seem like an easier goal. But without a plan, several months can go by before you know it and you haven’t actually done anything to lose that 50 lbs. I know, I’ve been there.
No matter the reason or the goal, New Year’s resolutions leave you making the same commitments year after year, with the hope that this year it will be different. In the past, before I started our New Year’s goal tradition, I made my fair share of New Year’s resolutions. And a lot of them were the same ones a few years in a row. I never saw success. Now, I see success with my New Year’s goals every year.
What’s different about a New Year’s goal?
In our house, we create New Year’s goals. Simply put, they’re tasks focused on the improvement of our lives. Unlike a New Year’s resolution, a New Year’s goal is not pinpointing one thing about ourselves we wish to change. That is the primary difference between a New Year’s resolution and a New Year’s goal; a resolution is a wish to change, a goal is about improvement of our lives. In short, they’re less about making one concrete change in ourselves and more about expanding our horizons, increasing our intelligence, revamping our finances, and accomplishing things in our lives overall.
Overall, a New Year’s goal is easier to achieve. It’s a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goal that is created with a plan toward accomplishing it in mind. Because we make several every year, no one goal is so overwhelming and insurmountable as if we were to only make one New Year’s resolution, as most do.
A New Year’s goal is also less restrictive. So often, New Year’s resolutions involve the phrases “I will always” or ” I will never.” As in, I will never eat sugar, I will never watch tv, or I will always exercise on my lunch break. You also see a lot of words like every day, will not, and stop. The negativity of these statements makes me not want to do them before I even start. And this kind of restrictiveness involves a great deal of will-power to keep on top of the commitment. Since resolutions generally involve something a person has a difficult time with, it’s no stretch to assume that this kind of will-power will be difficult to sustain over the course of an entire year.
For our New Year’s goals, we like to choose a few goals and compile a short list. Some pertain to the family as a whole. Other goals are just for me or just for Andy. We work on our joint goals together and encourage each other on our individual ones. It’s a much more positive, encouraging way to make changes and achieve goals than setting a New Year’s resolution.
An example of our New Year’s Goal list
In December, I like to think about all of the things I’ve accomplished in the past year. Along with that, I begin to consider everything I’d like to accomplish in the next year. Changes in my health I’d like to see. More financial stability. Career advancement opportunities I’d like to work toward. I let them all mull over for a while as I try to determine what is most important to me in the coming year to improve upon.
At the end of November, I have a list. The list is always far too long to tackle in one year, that’s for sure. But it’s a starting point and that’s what I need. Every year is different, depending on where we are as a family, where I am as an individual, and where we want to see ourselves a year from now.
To give an example, here is our list from 2015. The ones crossed out are ones we completed, or completed an alternative for.
Complete two projects on the house: windows and fencing. Windows in the fall ($2800 est), Fencing Spring ($250-$300 est) End the year with no credit debt.
- Put hound number 2 (otherwise known as Odin) through training. Spring classes start March 12, $96
Enroll in school. Get a complete physical exam, including all necessary blood work and tests, by end of Spring.
- Get a tooth cleaning and checkup. As soon as possible. Schedule the next 6 month cleaning.
- Weigh 150 by the end of the year. As of February 2, this would require losing 62 lbs, but some is baby weight and I’ll be gaining more before May.
See a dermatologist for an exam after the baby’s born.
- Finish a novel. Preferably the one already started.
As you can see, we did not complete everything on the list. But we did complete a lot. Some of these might seem like crazy things to you to have on a New Year’s goal list, but for us they were necessary. Andy hates going to the doctor and never schedules check-ups. I’d been meaning to get a general skin cancer screening at a dermatologist for years and never had. And there were so many projects around the house we talked about doing but because there were so many we never did any of them.
At the end of the year, when we looked back on these goals, we were incredibly proud of ourselves. Of course, some of these we made progress on, we just didn’t complete in full, so they aren’t crossed off. I periodically make updates to our list with our progress. Having a list keeps the goals and our path toward where we want to be in the front of our minds. We know what’s on the list, we revisit it regularly, make updates as life changes, and cross out what we’re done with. It’s all about improving. It’s all about making our lives better.
5 simple steps to creating your own New Year’s Goal
Creating a New Year’s goal or goal list is really quite easy. I promise. And this time next year, you’ll be so glad you did it.
Here are my 5 easy steps to coming up with your New Year’s goal or goal list.
- Think about where you are in your life. Consider all aspects of where you want to be a year from now. There will be many things in your life you are perfectly happy or content with. There will be many others that you want to improve upon.
- Of the things in your life you wish to improve upon, start to make a list. You can write it down, jot down notes when you think of things in your phone, or just keep a list in your head. Whatever works for you. Take at least a week to really think about what’s not working in your life, what could be going better, and what would help you get to that place you want to be in a year.
- Now it’s time to take those thoughts you’ve been mulling over and put them in place. Come up with at least one goal that will A) improve your life for the better in some way, B) will not completely restrict you or deny you of anything (this should’ve require a ridiculous amount of will-power) and C) has a measurable way of determining if you’ve succeeded. You can’t easily tell if you’ve succeeded in “riding your bike more” but you can tell if you’ve succeeded in “riding your bike 3 times per week.” You want this to be something you can check in on and tell right away if you’re sticking to it.
Keep it positive. Don’t let it be something that feels negative by restricting yourself and making yourself miserable. If you create more than one goal, fantastic! But be sure not to make them all in the same area of your life. It can be quite taxing to work on 5 different health improvements at once. Instead, try to space them out and work on multiple areas of your life at once. You’ll accomplish the same amount of goals, but you won’t be exhausted and drained doing it. When one area gets to be difficult or just too much to take, you can take a break and work on a different goal while you recharge that part of your life.
- Put the list somewhere that you can easily refer to it. You want this goal, or these goals, to be at the front and center of your life for the next year. We use a Google Drive sheet that we share. You want to easily be able to check in once a month, once every other month, or once per quarter to leave an update. By leaving an update, you allow yourself to see not only the goal, but also the progress you’ve made the next time you check in. Seeing that progress will continue to propel you to work toward achieving your goal.
- Get to work! Now is the time to start working toward your goals. If you’ve created a goal that needs some kind of additional planning, start it right away. The quicker you get whatever you need to actually begin working on your goal in place, the better. You don’t want to get to the end of January and realize you lost a month you could have used for a project that will require a long time to complete. So start working on your milestones, you’re check points, and any timelines necessary.
By this time next year, you’ll be able to look back at your goal and feel confident that you improved your life. Unlike your previous New Year’s resolutions, your New Year’s goal will be attainable and will leave you at the end of the year feeling accomplished, not disheartened. And that’s what I want for you. To experience the same accomplishment I feel at the end of every year when I look back on what I’ve done, how far I’ve come, and begin to look to the next year and where I still want to go.
What will be your New Year’s goal this year? Let me know below!
-To your Better Life-