Happy New Year! The pressure is on this week to solidify your New Year’s resolutions and kick off the year putting loads of pressure on yourself to achieve your loftiest goals! Just kidding… that’s actually not at all what we want you to do. Despite what you see across the media —especially social media– it’s okay to modify your resolutions and ease up on the pressure. We encourage you to set yourself up for success by examining your goals and measuring them in terms of their attainability before a full-throttle commitment that could leave you feeling disappointed by February. This is not at all to say you should cancel major goals, simply that there’s value in breaking them down into smaller, meaningful pieces that can affect actual change.
So, what can you do to set resolutions you can actually keep this year? This post is designed to help!
To begin, let’s break down some facts about New Year’s resolutions. Did you know that nearly 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? Or that studies have shown that only 9-12% of people actually keep them for the year? Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. “2023 is the year of [insert YOUR name here!]”, “New Year, New Me!” and endless motivational phrases pop into our minds that are designed to empower us to go after what we want. The problem is that they typically lack critical key steps to make them become reality. If you don’t include a roadmap for how you’ll get there by breaking down some specific steps and starting points, chances are you won’t be able to take your resolution through the year.
Here are three steps to guide you on the path to achieving your resolutions and goals this year.
STEP ONE: Understand why your resolutions have failed in the past
Think about it for a minute ー there is no right or wrong answer, and you don’t even have to tell anyone. Just be honest with yourself and look within to identify why your resolutions have been unattainable if you’ve made them before.
- Did you bite off more than you could chew?
- Did you set a vague resolution?
- Did you choose a resolution you’ve never been able to keep in the past, expecting a different outcome?
- Did you choose Netflix over taking action?
- Did discouragement take over your mindset?
- Something else?
If “yes” is your answer to any of the questions above, you’re ready for step two:
STEP TWO: Go Micro
It’s time to zero in on your resolutions and the larger goals they’re intended to serve. This time, do it through a clear lens and identify the smaller actions needed to really get there ー enter the mircoresolution! If you’re diving into semantics here, stop right now! While using a prefix like micro, you might infer this to mean you’re making your resolutions smaller ー and while in comparison to a lofty, vague and unattainable concept, you are, the purpose of going micro is to distill your bigger goals into more attainable and measurable components. These smaller pieces will ultimately serve your bigger, overarching goal(s). Consider going micro a way to draw a roadmap you can really hold yourself accountable for. Learn more about this concept here from this talk by an expert in the topic, Caroline Arnold, a Wall Street tech leader and author of Small Move, Big Change – Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently. Watch her talk on the subject and about the book here.
How exactly are you supposed to plot your course?
STEP THREE: Take Action
Consider the following key words and actions to help you refine your resolutions, and make active moves toward achieving them:
Our favorite word, clarity, is also an essential component of declaring a resolution or setting any kind of goal for that matter. The more specific you can be, the better. Is your resolution concise and clear? Or is it a big, vague idea or theme that challenges your ability to take action due to its magnitude?
How to take action: If your resolution lacks specificity, drill down on it to find its purest form. From there, you can outline steps to actually attain that larger goal through concrete actions. For example, instead of simply “Get a New Job in 2023”, imagine what a road map will look like to get there, and write down the micro-steps to get on the road, such as: Update my resume! Email that recruiter back and set up that call! Create a list of target companies to research! Email your former co-worker who works at one and invite them for coffee (virtual coffee dates are perfectly acceptable… and easier for many in our new normal anyway.)! Submit your resume to Clarity! The list goes on…
Eliminate Negative Language
Negative language impacts our behavior and treatment of ourselves. Have you phrased your resolution using negative words, such as, don’t or stop [insert bad habit here]? Consider changing your action to something positive and proactive that will help you eliminate the behaviors you’re zeroing in on and would like to change. As is true in many areas of life, it’s not always about what you say, it’s how you say it that drives results.
How to take action: Say it out loud to yourself in the mirror! Reciting your resolution should feel inspiring, affirming and encouraging ー like something you can do, and want to do. It shouldn’t feel like a scolding, or cause you to devalue your self-worth. Instead of “Stop being lazy and hitting snooze so many times”, try, “Set alarm 20 minutes earlier in the morning to make extra time in the morning for [insert act of self care].”
Make sure your resolutions are actually something you can take action toward, and you alone. If your goals depend on or include the actions of others, you’re no longer in control of the outcome. If your goal pertains to outcomes you’d like to see at work, in your personal life, or with your friends and family, don’t pin it on the other people or variables that are constantly changing.
How to take action: Pin it on yourself, and define what you can do to optimize your relationships and encourage behavior you’d like to see in others. Seeking a promotion? Instead of simply resolving to, “Get the promotion I know I’ve earned”, think about how to proactively encourage the topic. Not enough face time with your manager? Start by scheduling a check-in meeting or review ー you don’t need to wait for your manager to arrange a meeting if something is on your mind. Just make sure you spend some time collecting your thoughts and preparing beforehand.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that while January and February are peak resolution season for many people, thinking about the micro steps needed to be your best self should be part of a daily routine, all year round. Going micro will make it easier to visualize your goals too, so don’t be afraid to write them down to drive accountability! Comparing yourself to other people crushing their fitness goals, somehow landing a dream job during the pandemic, curating a dreamy new home -or home office!- on instagram or hitting their bucket list of dream projects won’t help you achieve yours.
Your health, community –digital community counts!– and the internet connection enabling you to read this are all things you can practice gratitude for. Recognize the growth you’ve experienced this past year. The greatest strength comes from testing your endurance until you are able to surpass previous limits. Sometimes this happens without psychological awareness that you’ve broken a new barrier. Know that over the past year, it’s likely that you have. Yes, you.
Take Action: Everyone reading this has achieved something simply by enduring the past nearly 3 years of surviving a global pandemic! We experienced something most of us never could have imagined as possible in our lifetime. Take a moment to express gratitude for your own personal journey and resilience through a time that has been difficult for many. Recognizing where you stand today, and where’ you’ve come from, can lay the groundwork for where you want to go this year. Taking time out of your morning, a mid-day break, or implementing a bedtime ritual to reflect on what you are thankful and grateful for is a healing practice. Taking time to express gratitude can help you see the forest through the trees, even on the darkest days. Tell the people you love that you love them, and the coworkers you appreciate that you value them.
If you follow the above recommendations, your list of micro-resolutions can truly chart a new course toward your biggest life goals. Taking action can be a powerful antidote to stress, hopelessness and even some forms of anxiety. If those feelings feel more intense than usual however, consider talking to a professional and crafting an individualized plan. Take control of your goals and resolutions, starting today, by taking one micro-step at a time. Let us know how it goes!