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The Smartest Way to Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Now

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I’m glad I gave my New Year’s Resolution a makeover.

Once I realized that I didn’t need to just pick one way to improve for the entire year, I felt a whole lot happier. I decided to opt for multiple, bite-sized resolutions that are more like stand-alone mini goals and bucket list items on a monthly basis.

And that’s what I’ve been doing since the start of the new year.  I created a new approach for myself.

That approach is:

 It’s okay to shoot for a bunch of random short-term goals throughout the year. Creating new short-term goals each month or quarter allows for flexibility and doesn’t box you in too much. 

Don’t get me wrong. Specific goals definitely have their place.  Pinpointing the end result you want, mapping out steps to get there, etc. are still very useful. The thing is since I already do that with work and in other areas of my life such as exercise and diet, I like a little room for experimenting, spontaneity and quick wins.

Here’s Why I Turned One Resolution into Multiple “Tough” Goals

We are often told not to set the bar too high when goal setting. This often leads to failure and we’ve all heard that a high percentage of people abandon their New Year’s Resolution shortly after January. At the same time, people tend to be motivated by setting “tough” goals for themselves. Maybe we think we want to stretch ourselves and push all of the time to truly make progress. Or, maybe we just want to sound impressive.

According to research, setting these “tough” goals can work if you allow for error. It establishes from the beginning that it’s okay to be human and you might fall short sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s just a part of the process and you can still keep at it and be successful.

People in the study were more successful at reaching their “tough” goal when told that it’s okay if you miss a day or two than those in the study that were just given an easy goal with the same incentive to complete the goal, but without that stipulation. This study suggests that “tough” goals can be attainable if you accept that sometimes things won’t go according to plan. You can forgive yourself for some missteps here and there.

So if you’ve been trying to achieve something for a while now, but you tend to give up. Try a “tough” goal for a shorter period of time. Then you don’t have the pressure of sticking it out for a whole year especially if you don’t like it. A well-crafted short-term goal can give you a quick win and a dose of confidence when pursuing other ideas. Just remember not to be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake. It can be the difference between a goal victory and an opportunity lost.

Author Ping Fu once said:

Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning we have the ability to bounce back even from difficult times.

To reclaim the motivation you might have had at the start of the year,  I’m giving the idea of accomplishing goals (resolutions) a makeover with my new approach.

Here’s what I recently did after deciding to ditch the long-term resolution while still sticking with a “tough” goals for the year.

1. Create an Outline or a Life Goals List and Let it Unfold as You Go

I envy people that map out their whole year. If they have a business, they know exactly what they will do each quarter. Or, they choose a long-term goal and plot out how to work up to it from Jan all the way through to December.

They somehow manage to have every step mapped out in sequence. While I like that, I sometimes feel that it creates a lot of pressure especially if it involves big learning curves or new processes I need to figure out.

It sounds good in theory, but it can seem like an overwhelming list when the time comes. I fear I won’t make the deadline or be ready for whatever I set up. Things change and some of the ideas or steps might not even be relevant when the time comes to complete them.

I’ve decided to practice relying more on an outline and my internal compass. Then when the date approaches to complete said idea, I can craft my “tough” goal at that time and go from there. It allows you to decide the best course of action once you are closer to working on it. You can touch base with yourself closer to the date.

I don’t want to knock planning. I actually love it. I just think I’ve come to realize that outlining a plan works better for me so I have a general direction. The smallest thing can set off a big plan so I try not to get too intricate with writing out every little detail in the beginning.

In my experience, I’ve also come to realize that I don’t always need to know every step beforehand.  I don’t have to block out a training time or sit and read something for hours. I can learn as I go and be okay with that. And, taking one step to start a new goal might naturally reveal the next step. I know I’ll find my way without overthinking it, overly planning or following what works for others.

2. Set Fun Goals and Make a List of Cool Bucket List Ideas too

While working on challenging “tough” goals. I also like to actively plan leisurely activities. That alone can be a challenge when you have a busy schedule and most of your energy is focused on work. Though I have very specific work goals and even personal goals such as reading one book a month, I only want to devote so much bandwidth for keeping track on a regular basis.

I’m not someone that likes having every aspect of my life scripted out. I’m not sure that anyone does. I think personal goals, work-related or for leisure purposes should contain an element of spontaneity or playing things by ear.

You can allow yourself to seize opportunities as they present themselves. Though I tend to have specific locations or activities in mind when planning fun goals such as visiting a luxury hotel, eating at a fancy restaurant or making Ina Garten’s ice cream recipe, I also like finding out about something randomly and trying it.

For example, I like visiting a new place to eat via my hairdresser’s recommendation or attending a random event that I find out about through Facebook.  I guess, in a way, it’s planning for spontaneity.

3. Also, Create a Vision Board with Your Personal Goals

After deciding to have more fun on a regular basis, I started jotting down what I wanted to do this year including some of those ideas mentioned above. I even made a vision board. It started out with mostly local bucket list travel, places to eat and unique experiences like musicals and visiting live TV shows.

Though creating a vision board might seem like a woo woo activity, I believe it allows me to stretch myself and dream a little bit in picture form. It also serves as a visual reminder that stares me in the face to make things happen.

If you have a vision board or a list of personal goals, think about when you can accomplish them this year. For the vision board, you can use sticky notes and figure out when you can focus on making the ideas in the pictures or what they symbolize come to life.

Maybe you visit a luxury hotel in January and then attempt to do indoor skydiving in February. Place the sticky notes on your vision board as a way to outline when you’ll attempt to do the items on there. If you’re using a list, write the month when you think you will accomplish the goal next to each item.

Here’s a luxury hotel where it’s summer-like inside with palm trees, a pool and a beautiful natural lighting from above in the dead of winter.

I purposely cut up pictures of area restaurants and hotels that I’ve always wanted to visit using pamphlets and magazines from a local visitors center. I dedicate time to gather the details if necessary and then quickly assign a day and time to do the item (even if I’m just penciling it in for the time being).

For example, if I’m taking a winter road trip, outside of the accommodations, I might plan to make healthy snacks to stick to what we plan to spend.

Coordinating the schedules of the 4 members of my family has always been a challenge. Since the start of the year on Fridays, I gauge what we need to do for the weekend, find out everyone’s schedule and then make sure that everyone knows to not make any other plans. I even sometimes put it on our family’s Google Calendar to lock it up especially if it’s done far in advance.

4. Make achieving goals easy when possible

Two things might be standing in your way of achieving your goals. One is finding extra time to do the goal. The other is facing some roadblocks or handling something uncomfortable such as public speaking or running a marathon for the first time.

To address the first issue, I’ve decided to take back my right to multi-task. Multi-tasking isn’t all bad. I’m not saying to simultaneously unicycle while knitting. You can listen to top-rated podcasts to boost your bottom line while cleaning out the garage. You can straighten up your house while talking on the phone. You can also read a book while riding a recumbent bike or walking on a treadmill.

In fact, I did that today. While reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, I was able to work on my goal of reading one book a month while getting in 30 minutes of exercise at the gym. This is how I make achieving goals much more manageable.

It’s an easy way to sneak it into my day. I also find that if I want to exercise, it forces me to finish my book. If I’m into the book, it forces me to exercise. Right now it’s the latter. I love this book because of how she seamlessly weaves research into her own anecdotes. She also includes steps for every chapter similar to her other book, The Happiness Project, so you can try to implement some of the ideas as you read if you like.

If you hit a snag or feel uncomfortable or fearful of a certain step while attempting to achieve your goal, think about the “Five Fateful Questions” from Happier at Home. Rubin says to ask yourself:

  1. “What am I waiting for?”
  2. “What would I do if I weren’t scared?”
  3. “What steps would make things easier?”
  4. “What would I do if I had all the time and money in the world?”
  5. “If I were looking back at this decision, five years from now, what will I wish I had done?”

The Bottom Line

If one New Year’s Resolution for the whole year isn’t for you, consider focusing on accomplishing multiple short-term goals throughout the year. No matter what you choose to do with your time when it comes to goal setting, think about adding some challenging mini goals to accomplish along with some cool bucket list ideas. You can even continue to tweak your schedule to improve your life.