It's January 12. About two weeks ago, some of you made some resolutions to create a better you. I sincerely hope that those of you brave enough to set goals have been able to stick with them this far. But studies show that as many as 92% of resolution-setters will have given up on their goals by February 1. Or maybe you're like me, refusing to set goals year after year because of this discouraging statistic. But many of us have distorted understandings about resolutions. If you have quit on this year's resolution(s), or never set any in the first place, let me offer some tips that might clear up your view of resolutions.
Write it down
In 1979, a study was conducted in which Harvard MBA graduates were interviewed about their goals. After graduating, 84% of the class said they didn't have any specific goals, 13% had specific goals set, and 3% of the grads actually committed their specific goals to writing. When interviewed ten years later, the 13% who had specific goals made, on average, twice as much as those who hadn't set goals. But the 3% who had written down their goals made, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of their class. I'm not saying writing down "make bed every day" will make you rich, but the physical evidence of your commitment is a helpful reminder of the goals we set. We need that confrontation from the past, more motivated version of ourselves to keep us going.
Make it specific
Too many times, our goals are too vague to be accurately tracked. "Eat healthier" could mean choosing wheat bread instead of white or it could only mean eating raw whole foods. There's a big difference there. A better goal would be "eat one vegetable with every lunch and dinner". You might feel like you're not doing much when you quantify your goals, but at least you'll know you're doing it.
Focus on a few
Sometimes the reason we give up on our New Year's resolutions is that we set too many of them. Instead of devoting your will power to seven or eight formative practices, focus on just three or less to increase your odds of sticking with them.
It's important to set specific, quantitative goals so we can track them. But we should also make sure that we don't set impossible goals. Instead of "do 50 pushups everyday when I wake up," try "do 100 pushups by the end of every week". This will give you some breathing room if you ever slip up. Don't let streaks of missed days guilt you into quitting. Mistakes are natural, and coming back from them builds character.
Have good friends
Surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people and tell them your goal(s). Let them know when you're on top of things and let them ask when you're not so on top of things. And of course, repay the favor by encouraging them to make and meet their goals!
So try to set one goal sometime this week using the guidelines above. Even I, the anti-resolutionist, have been able to stick with my simple, specific, and realistic goal: writing one song every week. Here's the first one I made to encourage you: