You were a little kid once—a starry-eyed, innocent child. You had dreams, big dreams. Maybe somewhere along the lines, you’ve decided you don’t deserve those dreams. (bullshit).
Instead of thinking that a new year’s resolution is a cliche, it just may be the opportunity to dust off some of those old dreams and make them real.
Life is just too damn short not to.
There are just a couple of days remaining in 2020. For many of us, this means new years resolutions. As 2020 was a tough year, 2021 promises to be a year of transcendence and growth. In many cases, this process starts with a resolution.
Half of us will resolve, yet less than one in ten will successfully achieve our new year’s resolution1. As we leave this year behind, the following are ideas that will help you navigate the next year.
Decide on Your Approach
In a recent study, researchers found that approach goals are more often achieved than avoidance goals. An approach goal is adding a habit into your life. (For example, waking up at 5 AM each morning.) An avoidance goal is subtracting something. (Like deciding not to eat chocolate.)2 When making a resolution for the new year, it is more beneficial to add a habit or activity than to stop one.
Generally, there are three goal types: process goals, performance goals, or outcome goals.
- Process goal: This type aims to create that habit that will drive towards the goal. IE. spending time writing each day.
- Performance goal: Usually, these behaviors are linked with frequency or time and drive the behavior toward the goal. IE. writing for twenty minutes each day.
- Outcome goal: Focuses on the end result, or outcome. IE. to finish writing the novel3.
The most popular resolutions are associated with losing weight and physical fitness. Challenging goals lead to higher performance levels4. Set challenging goals to raise the likelihood of achievement.
Write it down. Research shows that those who write down their goals and resolutions are more likely to follow through on them5.
Now, decide what type of goal is necessary for your resolution (make sure it’s an approach goal). Make sure it’s sufficiently challenging. Then, write it down.
Why do you want this to be your new year’s resolution?
Do you want to make more money? Do you want a bigger house? Do you want a better body? Do you want to lose thirty pounds? Why?
Who are you doing this for?
How will you feel when you achieve your goal?
The choice of resolution must clearly align with your values and something that you truly care about9. Things in the nice to have category will not qualify.
You have your resolution(s) written. Now write 1-2 pages on why. What does it mean to you? How will you feel when it’s achieved? What will potential failure look and feel like?
Question: Why do new year’s resolutions fail?
Answer: We underestimate our reactions when things get uncomfortable6.
Consequently, planning is paramount. Decide ahead of time what action you’ll take in certain contingencies. For example, if you plan to run daily and experience shin splints, what action will be acceptable to keep you on track? Bicycling may be an option7. Putting a plan-b, an if-then clause in the plan can dramatically increase the likelihood of following through8.
Planning lapses may help reach the overall goal8. The reasoning is that often when a lapse occurs, the event can trigger a complete loss of motivation and a feeling of failure. This can be avoided by building in a “lapse”. It is important to not overly rely on will-power9. This psychic energy is used in our daily lives to a great extent and is finite. When it is depleted, it is unavailable until recharged.
Develop a method to track your progress. Not to change your behavior directly, but indirectly. Track to build self-awareness, to see the state of your habits in relation to your goal11. Put time on the calendar to look at the stats. Consider relevant questions such as Am I on track? What are the obstacles/challenges? How can I simplify the process?
Manage expectations. Break the resolution down into smaller parts. Don’t expect instant results. (There is a reason it is a new year’s resolution!)
Don’t Go it Alone
Having the support of your social circle is vital to achieving your goals10. An accountability partner can help you stay positive through a shared desire to achieve your new year’s resolution. It requires some vulnerability – another to witness your potential failure. Yet, the support can go far to ensure that you stay accountable for what you set out to do.
Simply having someone to share the journey with can have a powerful positive impact in keeping engaged with the goal12.
The Tension Between the … You’s?
Considering aspects of different identity theories, ponder the dichotomy between the narrative-self and the experiential-self. The narrative-self is the idea that there is an evolving story told to oneself as a function of identity creation13. (This is also referred to as the remembering self). In contrast, the experiential-self is the part of our consciousness experiencing the present, the current experience.
When difficulty is experienced in achieving a goal, there is tension between these functions. The narrative-self decided that we’d take on the resolution. The experiential-self is having difficulty in the present moment living up to the story the narrative-self would like to be true. The solution to bridging this gap is becoming more self-aware. Many strategies exist to facilitate greater self-awareness, including meditation, taking psychometric tests, and requesting regular feedback at work.
When planning, make it easy for your experiential-self. Understand that our subconscious judges an experience by the best or worst part and the end of the experience14. That being so, make sure to really enjoy the best part of the approach goal and arrange the events so that the end is thoroughly delightful.
Breaking It Down
- Decide your approach- write it down.
- Think about why-write it down.
- Plan-contingencies, lapses, etc.
- Ask for support.
- Become self-aware- Ease tension between experiential and narrative-self.
Just look at you—cute little kid, deserving of the world. There’s only one you and you (may) only get one try at life. Honor your inner child, honor yourself, and go after it
Happy New Year!