New Year’s Resolutions. How many have we made and how many have we broken? If you’re anything like me, it’s a sad, sorry tale over the years. But last year I set out to actually keep my New Year’s Resolutions, and 365 days later I’m happy to report success. What was different this past year? Just a few simple things that I’d like to share just in case anyone else out there is gearing up for the idea that 2013 is going be different.
To set the stage, let me tell you a little bit about me – if only to prove that I’m nothing special and that anyone can do what I did. At the beginning of 2012 I was an overweight, overstressed, late-thirties man with a wife and two pre-school children. I worked (and still do) at a full-time, regular job that required me to travel overseas quite a bit. And I really tried hard to squeeze in some kind of vague social life as well. In short: your typical North American, middle-class guy.
So what was different about my resolutions a year ago? What made it possible for the guy described above to transform himself in just one year from a stressed-out, miserable little tubbo into the well-adjusted, charming Adonis who types this? (Okay, allow me that single moment of blatant exaggeration – but I am looking and feeling much better than I was a year ago.) Determination was certainly key, but I think most people start out January with plenty of that. Discipline was paramount, but I’ve seen oodles of that too in Januaries past. I think the most important difference between my 2012 resolutions and those of previous years was the way I structured my goals.
First off, each resolution had to have a clear goal. A resolution saying “I’m going to lose weight” isn’t good enough. My goal was “I’m going to lose 25 pounds in 2012.” The goal is now clear, recognizable and precise. The first statement is woolly and doesn’t actually hold you accountable to anything: the second statement says clearly that if I end 2012 only 5 pounds lighter than I started, I’ve missed my goal and thus not kept my resolution.
Second, each resolution had to have a realistic goal. Staying motivated over the long term is definitely one of the hardest parts of keeping a resolution, and if you see no progress toward that lofty goal it can be very easy to give up. It’s great to challenge yourself, but if you set a goal that you have no hope of ever achieving, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and – very likely – quitting. For example, I could have said my goal was to lose 50 pounds, but based on my body size and my busy schedule, I knew realistically that there was no chance of that happening.
Third, each of my resolutions had a monthly milestone that was a portion of the overall goal. It wasn’t essential that I meet each monthly milestone, but they served as an excellent indication of how I was doing toward reaching my ultimate goal. And – very important – these milestones were cumulative: if my intention was to lose 2 pounds per month in order to reach 25 by year-end (yes, I know, with an extra pound slipped in there somewhere) then if I only lost 1 pound in January, I knew that I had to step it up because my milestone for February was 4 pounds lost – meaning I still had 3 to go. This stopped me from falling into the trap of saying “Oh well, I blew it that month but I’ll start fresh this month” and it held me accountable over the entire year for all my activity. If I fell of the wagon, I had to try extra hard the next month. Similarly – and just as important – cumulative milestones encouraged me to keep going in a month even if I’d already hit the milestone (instead of slacking off), knowing that for every success in, say June, I’d have that much less pressure in July to hit the next milestone.
Cumulative milestones are brilliant: they discourage the tendency to stop trying in a given month and start again next month, and they reward extra effort each month. I can’t stress this point enough.
So what were my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions? I had seven, divided into three different categories. The first category was physical health; the second was emotional/mental/spiritual health (call it whatever you like); the third was professional. Over the next few articles I’ll talk about some of the specific goals and share my insights from them, but the only point I want to make here is that I set goals for different parts of my overall life in an attempt to achieve a balance of priorities between myself, my family, my friends & community, my job and my dreams. One of the dangers of setting goals can be that they become all-encompassing to the exclusion of other critical parts of our lives, and by setting a broad spectrum of goals I actually managed to accomplish an unstated goal for 2012: live a balanced life.
This series of articles will examine some of my specific goals, and I’ll start the next one with the subject pretty much everybody is thinking about at this time of year: weight loss.
Image courtesy of Leadership with Sass
Recent Bennett R. Coles Articles:
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part 4 – The traditional industry: the bookstores (and distributors)
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part III – The Traditional Industry: The Publishers
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part II – Making sense of the lingo
- A No-BS Tour of Modern Publishing Part I – Author Motivations
- Star Wars: The Next Generation