It’s about that time again. Time to eat more than you’re comfortable admitting and spend more than you made this whole quarter in the name of generosity.
That’s right. Christmas is in the air. And in an irony that seems almost tactical, the new year comes only a week later. Just enough time to think about what you’ve done and feel a deep sense of regret for your actions.
If you believe in conspiracy theories, I’d say the idea isn’t all that far-fetched that the CEOs of a giant gym franchise and a financial consulting company partnered together to place these two holidays side-by-side at the end of the year.
Thanks to the apparent strategic pairing of these holidays, we do the same thing every year. We decide that we’re terrible human beings who desperately need to change. So we come up with ten goals that are going to make our lives less lame, and then we follow through… for like, a day.
We’re doing just fine until the boss brings in chocolate chip cookies for everyone at the office. Suddenly, all bets are off. We attack those magnificent little wafers like we haven’t eaten anything for weeks. Then about five minutes later, after having stuffed our faces with chocolate chips, we once again hang our heads in defeat, just like last year.
Eventually the inevitable happens. You realize that every year you get excited about making big changes in your life, and every year you fail drastically. So you decide that the best course of action is to just give up before you begin. It seems less discouraging to never try than to try and fail.
But before you completely dismiss the whole idea of a New Year’s Resolution as a total lost cause, I would like to share five mistakes most of us make that that keep us from meeting our goals.
Mistake #1: Never write down your goals.
If you don’t write down your goals, you will not accomplish them. You probably won’t even remember them.
All you need to do is commit to sit down for 30 minutes one evening this week and write down some goals. Decide what day and time you will do this right now so you don’t forget or procrastinate.
Mistake #2: Set unattainable goals.
We get ourselves into trouble when we set goals that involve a complete life change. Instead of going from never exercising to exercising for an hour every day, let’s take it a little slower.
How about committing to three days a week, 30 minutes per session?
When our goals are too difficult to attain, instead of giving ourselves grace when we mess up, we usually just give up. That’s why it’s better to thoughtfully commit to a small goal than to excitedly aim high at the beginning, only to quit a couple of weeks later. Smaller ambitions leave room for real life to interrupt your goals without compromising them.
Mistake #3: Commit to too much.
This goes along with setting unattainable goals. If you have ten goals you want to undertake this year, you probably won’t accomplish any of them. I recommend no more than three.
Truth be told, having only one goal would probably give you the most success.
Mistake #4: Be vague and unspecific.
Here are three goals you will never achieve:
- I want to be healthier next year.
- I want to read more next year.
- I want to learn French next year.
You won’t accomplish these goals because they’re not goals. They’re ideals. Goals are specific, measurable and actionable.
Here are three goals you can achieve:
- I want to lose 25 pounds next year. I will do this by exercising three times a week and only having sugar (candy, snacks, soda, etc.) one day a week.
- I want to read 24 books next year, so I will read 2 books every month.
- I want to learn 500 new words in French this year. So I will purchase software, learn ten new words each week and quiz myself on the forty new words I’ve learned at the end of every month.
Mistake #5: Keep it a secret (make it a surprise).
Maybe you want to surprise your spouse or friends. Maybe you don’t want to face the embarrassment of everyone knowing if you fail. Or perhaps you just want to see if you can accomplish your goals by yourself. Whatever the reason, our tendency is often to not tell anyone about our goals.
It’s a trap.
Unless you’re a superhuman, you cannot accomplish great things without help, encouragement and accountability. If you want to surprise someone, fine. But find someone else to tell. Preferably, find someone to do it with you. Exercise together, register for the same French class, or start a book club.
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