January 22, 2019

An anti-resolution reset for the new year

If your New Year’s resolution failed, you’re in good company

According to oft-cited statistics, 80% of Americans who resolve to change on Jan. 1 have failed 30 days into the year, and most of the remainder will do so in the weeks to come.  While somewhat disheartening, I also find these figures reassuring.  If I and so many others fail to achieve a resolution, maybe there’s something inherently wrong with the process, rather than something inherently wrong with all of us.

Yet, the appeal of a fresh start is clear, and I am a committed goal setter.  If you had big dreams three weeks back that seem to be deflating before your eyes, take heart.  Maybe you need to give yourself permission for another fresh start (Jan. 1 is just another day on the calendar, after all), and a better process for getting where you hope to go in 2019.  Here is some inspiration:

Replacing the resolution

As I wrote in an earlier post, I like to end the year reflecting on the year gone by, expressing gratitude for the people and events that helped me achieve my goals, and zeroing on my “big 3” goals for the year to come.  The idea here is to set myself up for a process of growth, rather than complete transformation overnight.  When your goal is an endpoint for the entire year, the process is both fluid and forgiving.  It’s less likely to be derailed by pizza night and a couple days away from the gym.

I also like this goal-oriented framework from Susanna Newsonen, who shares in this wonderful post how she pinpoints and maps out goals for the year.  She suggests asking three questions:

  • What do you want to do more of, and why?
  • What do you want to do less of, and why?
  • How will you make it happen?

A different spin on this simply suggests a theme for the year, such as self-care, gratitude, health or something else that is important to you.  That may sound nebulous, but it doesn’t have to be a recipe for inaction.  Susannah Conway has created a workbook for weaving this intention into the fabric of your life.  A theme can offer both freedom from the prospect of failure and a lens through which many types of decisions can be made.

Bringing goals to life

Whatever you want for this year, whether it’s achieving a goal, pursuing a theme like gratitude or exploring a new direction in your career, you can get there.  Now that you’ve hopefully at least forgiven yourself for any resolution relapsing, let’s talk about a better framework for getting where you want to go.

Explore it:  Annabel Acton recommends a creative process of visually or verbally articulating your goal, through art or writing.  The idea is to engage different areas of your brain and solidify the goal itself while starting to connect the dots between where you are and where you intend to go.

Map it out:  Articulating your goal (or a resolution, for that matter) is a step, but it isn’t enough.  Peg Streep recommends mapping out the process your goal requires on paper or electronically, step by step.  Break down the short-term and long-term components.  You probably need to walk before you can run.

Plan for roadblocks:  Streep also advises anticipating setbacks and determining now how you will overcome those setbacks.  Try if/then thinking to plan how you will manage obstacles without getting totally derailed.

Start immediately:  One challenge around the resolution craze is the idea that you need the dawn of a new year for renewal.  But January 22 is a new day, too.  This moment right now is a new moment.  So once you have made the commitment to a new goal, take action now.  Acton says even a small step will capture momentum — not unlike the momentum that sweeps up so many of us on January 1.

Don’t go it alone:  Perhaps one of the most important messages I try to convey in this blog, whatever we are talking about, is the value of support systems.  In our careers and personal lives, growth rarely happens in a vacuum.  Whether for support or accountability, share your goals with people who will help inspire you to achieve them.

Go (a little bit) easy on yourself:  Blowing a diet a week into the new year doesn’t feel very good.  But it also doesn’t mean you’re a failure, and it doesn’t even mean you won’t achieve your goal of health.  It’s rare that we are defined personally or professionally by one mistake.  See it as the hiccup it is, and don’t be too hard on yourself.  Channel your frustration into renewed drive.  Every day is a new day and a new opportunity, whatever the calendar says.

What’s your approach to goals and growth?

Do you set resolutions or something else? And how do you make it happen?  Please share in the comments.

Last updated January 22, 2019