Every New Year, I hear a lot about making resolutions—to lose weight, get a better job, to quit smoking, etc. And many people make the same ones every year because they are so hard to keep. If you are in that company, take heart. It may not be you that is at fault, but your resolutions.
I propose that we change the word “resolution” to a different word. Resolution means “the state or quality of being resolute; firm determination” (dictionary.com). Resolute means “firm, steadfast, unshaken” (dictionary.com). This definition suggests that keeping resolutions requires willpower and steadfast determination. Perhaps last year you resolved to stop eating junk food, and you knew that triple chocolate creampuffs can thwart that goal. At a party, a plate of triple chocolate creampuffs pass by and whisper your name. You ignored them and kept your resolution, right? Easy, perhaps, if you are a robot.
A “goal,” which is the word I propose to replace “resolution,” takes a more human approach. A goal is “the result toward which effort is aimed; an objective” (dictionary.com). The only thing required to fulfill a goal is effort. There is no judgment and no failure as long as you keep working towards your goal. Imagine you did eat that triple chocolate creampuff. With a goal, that’s okay; you just do better next time. Think of your favorite sports team. Sometimes when they shoot towards a goal, they score. Sometimes, they do not. Yet nobody tells them they should give up all together.
So maybe you don’t care about semantics as much as I do. Goals, resolutions, objectives, even mission statements can all describe that you want to achieve something this year. Here are a few ideas to make these tasks easier.
Be realistic. Make reasonable goals for yourself. If you have stopped going to every gym you ever joined, don’t resolve to join a gym. They are not for you. Instead try to find exercise that appeals to you. Don’t try to fit yourself to what you think your resolution should be; instead let your goals reflect you.
Be specific. Instead of just resolving to get out of debt or read more, go into greater detail when framing your goal. Instead of “get out of debt,” you may want to make a plan with smaller, achievable goals like “look into credit counseling” or “make a monthly budget.” Instead of “read more,” specify one extra thing you will read each day or week or month.
Be positive. Frame your goals in a positive way. For example, “I decide to choose healthier foods” is more optimistic than “I don’t want to eat junk food.”
Be creative. If you want to stop doing something, try to replace it with some other activity you enjoy. If you want to stop biting your nails, do something else. Perhaps try gardening, knitting, inventing, fixing gadgets, cooking, or whatever else will keep your hands busy.
Be motivated. A great way to stay motivated is to keep a journal about your goals. Journals help with accountability and encouragement since you can see where you have been and what you’ve been doing. It can help you find out what works for you, what doesn’t work and perhaps any triggers that make you want to quit. At the very least, write down your goals and post them where you can see them every day.
Be truthful. Evaluate your progress. Congratulate yourself if you are well on the way to reaching your goals. If you are not as far along as you wanted to be, evaluate if you can make any small changes that will getting to your goal easier.
Be social. Sometimes reaching a goal is easier when someone does it with you. Find a group in your area whose events match up with what you want to accomplish or find a forum online with others with the same interests for additional support. If your goal is to become a better writer, look for a writer’s group in your area with experienced people who can help critique your work. If you have a clear goal, but don’t know how to start, for example to stop smoking or to start your own business, don’t be afraid to seek professional assistance.