I love starting a new year. And even before that, I love finishing a year.
The whole process of making December a cozy month with all the décor, celebrations, and hot chocolate mugs helps us relax and enjoy life after a year of hard work. Especially during the last weeks, those are the perfect time of the year to look back, see how far we have come, and evaluate how close (or far) are we from achieving the goals we set out to achieve.
Two years ago I made this for the first time with my wife, after she read a book called “Your Best Year Ever” by Michael S. Hyatt. We do not follow his approach anymore, but it was a great way to kickstart our taste for goal setting. (Funny thing: we started with a notebook that, following the book title, started like this: “Best year ever – 2020!” – little did we know!)
Re-evaluate how to see new year “resolutions”
I never made new year resolutions as usually defined. I just thought those were useless and January 1st was surely no different than other days of the year. And I still believe that hold truth, as having every year that passes the same set of resolutions just to give up after 2 weeks is just bullshit. You are essentially fooling yourself.
But there is another way to look at them.
A great moment for looking back at the past year
We are a bit past the time for this one, but note it in your calendar next year and take time during the end of December to look back at the year that has passed.
For now, just try to remember the person that you were at the beginning of the year (we are never the same). Remember what you were doing with your days, what were your worries at the time. Also, if you did not write them, what were your goals, hopes, and dreams.
Sit down, grab a drink and think about what you would like to achieve
I like to make some brainstorming first, before getting things organized. Make yourself comfortable and ask yourself the following:
What do you truly desire? (If you watch the series Lucifer, think of him asking the question!)
If you need to, get a pen and paper and start taking some notes. It’s ok if your thoughts and notes are random at first. We will start to break it down later on.
Now we organize the problem
When we think of new year’s resolutions, we are looking at goals to achieve during the period of one year. But if you look at your notes, you will probably find some are smaller and others may be possible to achieve in just 12 months. The next step will be:
- Add an estimated duration for each
After this, you might have a mixed match of tiny and bigger resolutions. For the ones that take in your estimates more than 12 months to achieve, reformulate by defining what you need to achieve this year so you can get there in the amount of time you indicated.
- Adapt the bigger resolutions to fit the 12-month timeframe
At this stage, if you find that you have too many, you need to decide what to tackle this year and what to postpone. This might be a hard decision and might make you feel a bit down. But I assure you, it is necessary. Because if you do not do this step you will find yourself overwhelmed and eventually fail to accomplish anything at all.
- Cut down the list to an achievable amount
And finally, we break it into pieces
The final step is to break each resolution into small pieces. For each 12 month goal, define what needs to be achieved in the next 6 months to get there. Then break that into half thinking about 3 months. Break-even more for a monthly view and finally define what you will work on next week.
But the most important step will be defining what to do daily from now on.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine you want to get in shape. Probably you are thinking of achieving that until summer, so you have 6 months to get there.
- Focus on losing fat for the first 3 months, and improving body composition for 3 months after that (e.g. gaining some muscle or toning, whatever your goal is)
- To lose fat during the first 3 months you might need to improve your diet and start exercising. We could break it as follows:
- Month 1: improve my diet
- Month 2: start a physical activity
- Month 3: Etc.
- As for the first month, it is better not to start everything at once, so:
- Week 1: increase vegetables intake
- Week 2: start meal prep
- And so on.
- Define actions for the start week:
- List vegetables I want to introduce to my diet
- Search new recipes
- Go to the store and buy ingredients
Progressive steps and accountability
The great thing about this method is that you define what to do next week in small specific steps that will progressively get you to your goal. So, instead of deciding that you will “exercise more” and “eat well”, you do two different things. You say to yourself that:
- Next week I will start by eating more vegetables. And this is all you need to focus on. As long as you achieve that, you are on track.
- I will only think about exercise next month. And that is ok, you are not failing – it is part of your plan to start slow.
And, at the same time, it puts you in control of making yourself accountable.
You define the tasks that you believe you are capable of achieving this week, and by the weekend you need to review where your stand. Did you do what you defined? How hard was it? Depending on your answers you might need (or not) to readjust the plan – and if you do that is ok. You can make it easier or harder now. It is up to you.
And then you define the tasks for the following week and the cycle continues. When the month is over, look back at the previous weeks and check how things are going in a larger plan.
I believe this is a much better approach than just redefining your life from one day to the other. I hope structuring your goals like this can help you break the cycle of failed resolutions.
Also, ideas to improve this method are welcome – please add them to the comments.