I was raised to be quite an ambitious person and new year’s resolutions were always a part of that. It started to reach a point for me in my early twenties where the idea and the reality of my resolutions just weren’t matching up. I’d have a great big long list and barely anything ticked off.
Now, when it comes to my target setting, I find I’m far more successful. It took me a minute to work out why. I mean, yes, I use the SMART acronym to help me but it was zooming in on the ‘R’ (realistic) part of it that really made a difference to me.
Making a goal that was specific, measurable, achievable and time-constrained (almost always a year, max) came easily to me.
Making sure it was realistic? Whole other ball game. I had to make a lot of mistakes before realising how to make SMART goals work for me.
Learn the difference between Wishlists and Goals
My ‘goals for this y34r!’ or ‘New Year’s Resolutions!’ lists used to be…actually, quite long lists. And they were unrealistic because, looking back, I wasn’t actively prepared to put the work in for most of those things – they were just things that I hoped would magically happen to me at some point. Example: “Learn how to do own makeup.”
Action plan – obsessively watch Youtube videos of women I think I look like (and yet, really and truly, I do not. Also, all their foundation shades were wildly different tones – how did I not notice that?!)
Since realising I have a pretty big wishlist of stuff I’d love but don’t want to make the effort towards and goals that I will actually work towards, I’m far more effective in terms of what I achieve!
Limit the amount of goals set
This is connected to my first point. From my personal experience, five new goals for about a year’s amount of time is enough for me. This may sound like too little but when I set goals that require me to make an effort, that means I need to find time (and possibly other resources) in my day/week/year/budget to do the work and make it happen.
Also, I try not to have too many stacked in the same category. Sure, it’d be great if I could get the bathroom, spare room and kitchen done this year but those three big ‘goals’ are all in the house category and will make me start to feel unbalanced because I’d be dedicating too much time to my ‘house’ category. I’m starting to like to have weekends and time that is either unplanned or busy to allow me to 1) do basic weekly things such as food shopping and 2) potter. Having a mooch around your own house, neighbourhood or town is sorely underrated.
I’m at a point in my life where I miss sleep like a dearly departed cousin – I genuinely don’t want to spend my time working towards goals just for the sake of saying I’ve done this. It’s got to be something I feel I need to do, rather than I should do.
Start at the right time
I never set goals in January any more. There are too many left overs from Christmas, it’s grey, miserable, still dark and back to work time.
Any self-control I did have is getting flushed down my gullet with the leftover fancypant sparkling juice only I drink that I’ve stockpiled under my bed and the cake nobody is eating because they’re all suddenly on a diet, being ‘good’.
I have gained much
calories with this approach.
It’s not just a not-great time for me to start thinking about changes I want to make in my life – it’s an actively terrible time for me.
Plus everywhere interesting will be busy with new hopefuls and that’s enough to put me off too.
I heard that most people give up their new year’s resolutions by February 6th, so that’s when I usually start thinking about mine. And looky here, a blog post only 8 days later.
Even after I’ve decided on my goals, I slowly ease into each one rather than trying to change my life stupidcrazyquick and all at once. Too many of my friends are already complaining about goal burn out and I’m like Persephone*, barely started on my work.
Sometimes, the journey is the goal
One of my goals this year is along the lines of ‘read more’. I don’t know how much I read last year, so all I’m doing is tracking my reading.
Every time I read a book, I write it down.
There wasn’t a number that I wanted to aim for because, okay, I’ve read 100 books, now what? But I am interested in seeing what types of books I read, what I remember from just the titles and which ones I’d recommend to others. I’m interested in what I find out by just trying to ‘read more’.
The same could be said of other goals – yeah, maybe you think you should lose weight by running but what you really want to do is see how much you can improve your running by doing a Couch to 5k program. Or if you can keep it up consistently during your off-season/when your favourite class is not available. Before I became pregnant, I wanted to see if running would improve my mood. And it did. And I stopped when it got icy because I knew that running in the freezing cold would definitely not improve my mood and nor would breaking my collarbone after slipping on ice, thankyouverymucb.
Although I don’t run any more, the experience of the running time made me feel a big sense of achievement that lasts even now. Heck yeah I did that!
Consider how to get there
If I want to be able to do a backward bend by 14th February, I would probably have to dedicate 30 minutes of stretching every day to guarantee this (I’m a crunchy, crispy scarecrow y’all).
Which, in my case, would mean waking up half an hour earlier to make sure I got that time.
I used to think of my daily or weekly timetable as so free: “Only 10 minutes a day! Easy!” I didn’t consider where I would ‘put’ these 10 minutes or what I was prepared to give up to make it happen.
Sometimes new goals pop up – I had a two mega ones pop up over the last 8 months that basically meant all other not-essential-to life hobbies were to go on the back burner. All of them. Even this here blog (You can tell I finally caved and stopped posting in November to concentrate on these other two). I can barely remember how to write, type or even my passwords for my affiliated accounts but I sacrificed some things in order to hit my goal deadlines and am super proud of myself.
This has had a knock on effect on other goals too. Sometimes, with my goals, I have to decide which is my priority and which ones will have to be paused. Since I’m mainly accountable to myself, it’s disturbingly easy to press pause on some things – it’s picking them back up after a substantial pause that’s the hardest bit!
Also, did you know that the word priority apparently wasn’t supposed to have a plural form? I try to remember why when thinking about setting my goals – what’s the most important one to me? What order do they go in, from high to low importance?
Ditch old goals
Basically, this means, no roll over goals if it’s no longer relevant. Yep, 17 year old me really wanted to learn to draw but I’m no longer that person any more (at the very least, I no longer own her unfettered schedule and impeccable bladder control).
It can also include a new goal that I’ve set that I realise is no longer something I want to do.
Last year, I dibbed in to a challenge to make an extra £2,019 (outside of jobs and interest). I quit after a few hundred – the time and effort it required from me was more than I thought it was worth pursuing, so I binned it.
I learned that, with the Hatchling in my life, I had/have no time or desire for a side hustle of any kind. Even in my job, I’m definitely moving more towards a ‘Hustle smarter, not harder’ mindset.
The most important thing for me when I let go of ‘old’ or ‘rollover’ goals is to not feel guilty or ashamed. I realised I have no space in my life for this aim and dumped it. Well done me! How grown up! How very, utterly clever.
Congratulations, crumpets and cake all round.
Phew! Apparently, I have learnt more than I realise about realistic goal setting. Good to know all those failures weren’t for nothing.
Anyone else have a tailored approach to their goals? What are the targets you’re working towards this year?
Image Credit: Retha Ferguson at Pexels.com
Thank you for this essay; it is really helpful and thought provoking. – Abe
Thank you for visiting and commenting 🙂
I change how I set goals every year! At least a little bit. Most years I am at least excited or eager to set some goals for January, not so this year. I chose not to set any at all. Then at the end of January, I realized that I do want to do a couple things this year and I set just two goals. For the first time in .. 20? years, I’m not setting any new specific money goals. I’m on auto-pilot for those y rolling over last year’s money goals that weren’t accomplished into this year’s. This is also an attempt to reduce the anxiety I was feeling last year when I spent way too many brain cells trying to push to meet those goals early. (Because if I don’t meet them early, then I’m late. Clearly I have quite a FEW issues!)
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I normally love the freshness of the idea of a ‘new year’ – but I like to give myself multiple options – Calendar new year….seasonal new year….tax new year….academic new year….who says that feeling comes but once a year? 😅
Not issues – just a specific way of thinking about your goals Revanche! I like to work around this by giving myself an amount of time that probably a liiiittle bit too long so when I do finish early, I can give myself a big pat on the back and if I finish late, I can at least congratulate myself on completing it at all!
Oh dear – maybe I’m too kind to myself now. That would definitely explain the state of my house…
Brilliant post! I have historically set lots of very silly resolutions (silly as in unachievable), and then got disheartened when I didn’t magically lose four stone, run a marathon and learn the violin… I need to review my 2020 goals and may well back-link you when I write about them!
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