Well 2016 is well under way and by now all the New Year’s party hats and noisemakers have been thrown out or neatly tucked away somewhere to be pulled out in 11 ½ months’ time. And with those celebratory items gone, the question I’ve got is, “So how are you making out with that resolution you made for the New Year?”
Okay for you who are still reading (because some who have broken their resolutions already after 20 days don’t like to be reminded and have clicked close on this piece), let’s revisit both your goal and what’s caused you to go astray.
Now your goal is a personal one, and while I don’t know what it was (or still is), there is one thing I’m fairly certain of, and that is that it was (and likely still is) important enough that you want to realize something you don’t currently have. Now this could be a healthier lifestyle, a loss of weight, a new job or personal relationship, learning how to use technology better, being a more generous or forgiving person, or any number of other possibilities.
By their nature, resolutions are generally statements of what we intend to do with a clean slate. When they were made on the very edge of 2015, 2016 was shiny and new, unsoiled; a pristine 365 days of new sunrises and endless possibilities. The prospect of kissing 2015 goodbye and with it all your problems, bad habits, gluttonous or sedentary lifestyle or stressors is something we can all embrace; our once-a-year shared opportunity to re-invent ourselves for the better.
So why if we want to bring about such change do we generally fail so quickly and then feel so bad about it? Is our willpower and commitment so tenuous that after only a scant 20 days into the year we’ve given up? Do we put so much pressure on ourselves that as soon as we slide back even once, we chuck the whole resolution thing into the waste bin? Sometimes when we fail or feel ourselves failing, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why we wanted to make that resolution in the first place. And make no mistake; even if you didn’t make a formal declaration or resolution as the clock wound down in 2015, it’s likely you thought about changing something or gaining something in 2016 even if you kept those thoughts private.
Remind yourself first of all that habits – good or bad – are called habits for a reason. Habits are the things we usually do in certain situations. Habits by nature are hard things to change, and just because we revert to our old habits from time to time, if we want to change them it make take time and a renewed commitment. Small things are habitually easy to change than big ones too. So if the habit you want to change is getting away from eating potato chips every night while watching television, you may more likely to succeed if you resolve to eat celery sticks and cherry tomatoes twice a week instead of trying to commit to a complete ban on chips altogether if that’s been your habit. The first night you find yourself depressed for a lack of willpower as you put the chips in your mouth shouldn’t lead to chucking the whole, ‘eat healthier’ plan in other words. Only then have you truly lost.
One danger you can have is a very broad goal with no defined plan to bring about the result you want. So a resolution that went, “I want a job in 2016” might not pan out because your psyche can always justify inaction by whispering, “you’ve got 345 more days to make it happen. Why rush things?” You can almost hear the hiss of temptation to revert to doing nothing to bring about change in the words.
Yes, you’re far more likely to get a job if you do a few things to build momentum by breaking down that broad goal of finding employment into smaller pieces. Maybe it goes, “By the end of January I’m going to determine exactly what job I’m after by doing some research. Based on this, by mid-February I plan on having a resume completed that is targeted to a specific opening for a job I want and by the end of February I plan on having attended two community workshops on interview skills. Knowing that March is the prime hiring period for the entire year, that’s when I kick the job search into full gear and apply, apply, apply!
I could launch into SMART goals here (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) but I’ll just mention them without the details. Lots of articles exist on the subject so look them up if you want more details.
If you’ve stumbled already or given up even, give yourself a break; you’re human and you’re allowed to. However, if you really would like to be successful; if that resolution you made isn’t flippant but had and still carries importance to you, there’s still time to make it happen. You may have several false starts, and with each one you inch closer to bringing about the necessary change to realize your goal. Pick yourself up, dust your ego off, smile, and get going. No better day to get going than today; unless of course you don’t get going today. Then tomorrow will do nicely.