Do you have a New Years Resolution for 2016? Did you have any resolutions for 2015? How did they work out? Did any resolutions stick for the entire year? How about for a couple months or even a week?
It’s demoralizing to come up short on a goal, but don’t feel bad if your resolution didn’t last, you’re in the majority. 25% of resolutions are broken within the first week and 54% are abandoned before 6 months.
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m actually pretty good about making and keeping my resolutions. I don’t accomplish all of my goals, but I accomplish enough of them to have made a lasting change in my life. How do I do this, you might ask? I’ve had a system in place for making goals for almost 20 years. It works for me, and I think anyone else could do the same if she is serious about self-improvement.
Why I Started Making Goals
I decided to make a list of goals before my sophomore year in college. I had trouble adjusting to the constant distractions of living in a fraternity house the previous semester. I lacked focus and realized that I was behind the 8-ball late in the game. I had to frantically dig myself out of a hole with daily 8 hour library session for the last 6 weeks of semester (including weekends) and was lucky to eek out with mostly B’s.
Not wanting to go through that experience again, I knew I had to make a change. The distractions of college life weren’t going away, so I had to change my mindset. I decided to make a list of goals to keep focused when distractions popped up and life got in the way.
When I finished the list, I printed a copy and taped it to my door. I got a few strange looks and some questions from the dudes on my floor, but having the goals worked. My grades were fine the next semester and I didn’t need to go into panic mode to keep my GPA up.
Why It Worked
There are 3 reasons why the goals worked:
- Writing it Down – Something clicked in me mentally when I wrote the goals down. I felt more compelled to see the goals through and take action. There’s research behind this too. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, found that:
If people commit in writing, to a goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that goal as being congruent with their self-image, even if the original incentive or motivation is removed.
- Reminding Myself – I couldn’t conveniently forget about a goal when I saw it every time I walked into or out of my dorm room. It was a constant reminder of what I needed to do. Sure it was annoying to stay in to study when my buddies were going to the bar on a random Wednesday night in October, but dealing with that annoyance was much better than 8 hour cram sessions at the library in December.
- Telling Others – It’s even more motivating to have another person aware of my shortcomings. There’s nowhere to hide when you make your goals public. Had I gone out drinking that Wednesday night some jerk on my floor could’ve called me out on it. (And rightfully so, I invited him to do so.)
OK, this is simple, right?! It’s not like I discovered plutonium by accident with this 1-2-3 formula. I’m probably telling you something you’ve already known for a long time. Knowing how to commit to your goal is not the hard part. It’s a lot more about having the discipline to commit. Discipline takes practice. That’s why I’ve continued my goal making habit since 1997.
My goals have evolved and my means of communicating them to others have changed throughout the years, (I no longer tape my goals to the front door of my apartment. That would be TMI for my neighbors whom I never speak with.) but I always share the goals. in some way
In that vein, here are my Goals for 2016:
Goals for 2016
- A Date with Portland: Do a new-to-you Portland or Oregon based thing 1X per month.
- Stop Clinging to the Past: No more than 2 trips home to Champaign
- Reduce Distractions: No social media while sitting on the toilet
- Find Inspiration: Watch at least 1 TEDtalk every week
- Healthy Eating:
- Veggies at every dinner
- Personal Development:
- Attend a writing workshop
- Participate in Red Lizard Running team group runs & social events
- Take a moment to pause & appreciate having food before you eat every meal
- Physical fitness:
- Run a local race every month
- No running on Sunday until you’ve gone to church
- Go to confession at least once
- Find a local organization to give your time to
Having goals is all about making change. The major change I’ve made to my goals format this time is adding a theme for the year: To Simplify. I reduced my goals from 29 to 12 in the hope that I can do less things better.
Getting back to my original question, do you have any New Years Resolutions? I hope that you do. It’s easy to get discouraged remembering when you didn’t follow through last year, but at least you tried even if it was only for a month, a week, or just a day. It’s more important to get into the habit of setting goals than it is to achieve them. If you you’re still setting goals or resolutions, or whatever you want to call them then you’re doing OK in my book.
Thanksfor reading. Good luck in the New Year!