First of all – Happy New Year!
It took us 365 days to get here, but we’ve finally arrived. It is officially the year 2019. (That’s the highest number year ever!) We hope 2018 has been kind to you, and that 2019 will be equally awesome, if not more.
As it is with every new year, many people have probably made a few New Years’ resolutions – some vague goal that they hope to achieve in the next year. Most of the time, these resolutions are about dieting, losing weight, building muscle, looking fitter. All of this with summer in mind, of course.
People usually make these kind of resolutions around the beginning of December or in the midst of it – right before the holiday’s gorging feasts.
The attentive mind will notice instantly that these promises are just another form of procrastination. ‘I’m not going to diet now, I’m going to diet next month, right after deliberately stuffing myself with food and gaining five pounds in only a week.’
Now, you might have guessed it from the title: I’m going to advise you not to make any new year’s resolutions. Here’s why.
New Year’s Resolutions = Doomed To Fail
Yes, that’s Doomed with Capital D.
LET ME REPEAT IT TO YOU ONE MORE TIME:
DOOMED TO FAIL
The main reason I’m telling you to stay away from New Year’s Resolutions is because they simply don’t work. This is a fact that has been proven time and time again. New Year’s resolutions are great at making you feel good and instilling optimism (next year will be awesome!). But most of the time when people start them, they start out enthousiastic and then tend do overdo things. Soon, they start to burn out and lose interest.
I know these things because I was like that. Mind you, it wasn’t only in the New Year that I said to myself: I will do ‘insert some vague thing’. These were things like: learn to play guitar. Learn a new language. ‘Graduate magna cum laude’. (the last one never happened, by the way).
This may sound a bit funny at first, but in reality, it’s really not. These vague goals, from their very nature, automatically lead to failure. And over time these failures accumulate and roll up from a little ‘failure snowball’ into a huge ‘Loser Avalanche’.
In the end, you’ll lose confidence in your abilities, and you won’t be able to finish anything anymore. ‘Why should I try to study hard, I can never keep it up anyway.’ Or, ‘I started writing a novel before but I wasn’t even able to get to ten thousand words, so I might as well not try again’.
As you can see, these are not productive attitudes. Failure simply leads to more failure. Because of that, New Year’s Resolutions are absolutely not as innocent as they look. They can have very negative consequences when you fail to follow through on them. As opposed to that, when you do succeed, successes will accumulate and you’ll gain massive self-confidence. Self-confidence will give you the courage to try out new things and succeed in those too.
If these goals are that important to you, start right away
Another thing I’d like to say is: if you have this goal, and it’s really important to you, it’s something that you really want to accomplish, why would you even wait to start? There’s no magical boost you get by delaying things until next month. On the contrary, if you delay now, you keep developing the habit of procrastination and you’ll end up accomplishing nothing.
Maybe you need to rethink your priorities. Sit down for ten minutes, and really think: why am I making this resolution? How will it benefit me? How will my life improve if I complete this goal?
Visualize the rewards (or ‘presents’) you get for completing your goals
Think of the reward that you’ll get by completing your goal. Think of how people will compliment on how good you look as a result of your diet and exercise regime. Think of the awesome job you’ll land thanks to your great academic results. Think of the general acclaim you’ll receive and the sense of achievement you’ll feel when you finish your novel (maybe the money, but that’s usually not a good motivation for novelists). Try to really visualize these and think of how good you would feel through your accomplishments.
Without a why, a what is worth nothing. And if you can think of a strong enough ‘why’, you’ll also be more eager to start earlier, way before January 1st.
Setting goals the right way
The goals people set in their New Year’s resolution are usually not specific enough.
If you want to achieve a goal in the future, don’t make vague promises to yourself. Don’t talk about the results – writing a novel next year, achieving a professional goal, or getting top scores on your exams. Instead, create measurable habits. Write 500 words a day (anyone can do that), do three workouts a week, take an hour every day to study your coursework. Something like that.
To be even more specific, also try to specify a time frame to complete your goal. Just saying ‘I’ll do X next year’ won’t cut it. ‘Next year’ can be any time. When you say ‘next year’, you really set the door open for procrastination. It could already be June and you could still say ‘I’ve still got six months left’. Then, before you know it, it’s December and another New Year is around the corner. ‘Well, guess it’s time to renew those New Year’s promises.’ With most likely the same results: nothing, nada, zero.
A better time frame might be ‘the next hundred days’. This is a very specific time frame, but you still have to combine it with a specific habit.
A classic management mantra is: what gets measured, gets managed. Do measurable things, so results will automatically follow. You’ll finish a 100.000 word novel in around 200 days (a little bit over half a year, leaving you ample time to edit and rewrite), you’ll at least lose a few pounds every month (if your eating habits are in order) and you’ll probably get good grades if you did your homework each day.
Ernest Hemingway said he only wrote 500 words each day. So don’t feel guilty if that’s your own word count. (but to be fair, his were probably very good words)
And don’t try to do too much. That’s another critical element of failure. Potential novel writers will try writing over two thousand words each day. Dieters will cut their calories to a thousand per day and do grueling daily workouts. Students will try to study for hours and hours on end. Be realistic – few people can keep that up. Maybe some people can, but it’s best not to test yourself and set yourself up for failure. Start off slow. Eat the elephant, one small piece at a time.
And, if you can handle this with ease, you can try to take bigger bites.
In short – instead of vague new year’s promises to yourself that you’re not going to be able to keep, make realistic goals for yourself, goals that will produce real results. Make goals that you actually care about and be sure you know why you want to accomplish them. And maybe the most important part: don’t waste time and start right now.
Do this, and you’re on the right path to a better, a happier and a more fulfilling life.
From the FocusMe team, we all wish you a fantastic 2019! May all of your dreams come true!