Happy New Year! I really tried to get this column into Saturday's paper, but I procrastinated too long and now 2011 is over. Coincidentally, my New Year's resolution for 2011 was to stop procrastinating so much and get organized. That lasted all of two weeks. As I write this a pile of notes and press releases threatens to topple from my desk, burying me under three months worth of documents. My obvious failings in the organization department make me wonder, why don't my New Year's resolutions ever stick?
I did a bit of research (I Googled it) and found several articles on the topic of failed New Year's resolutions. Forbes, “The New York Times,” and several other reputable news sources assure me that, yes, I will give up on every single resolution no matter how hard I try. But why is it so hard to stick to a New Year's resolution?
I have the will-power to quit smoking, quit eating meat, and lose 10 pounds. I have done all of those things before, so I know I can resolve to accomplish something and see it through. But if I made it my New Year's resolution I know I would fail miserably. What is it about labeling my goals as “New Year's resolutions” that makes them so hard to achieve? I took a good, hard look at resolutions from years past and figured out why I, and I suspect many other people, have such a hard time sticking to New Year's resolutions.
New Year's resolutions are grandiose. Every year we hold that glass of bubbly in hand and proclaim loudly “This year I will lose weight!” or “In 2012 I will stay organized!” Those sound like great goals, and we feel good about our chances of success. So we join a gym, buy a closet organization system, and throw ourselves at it with full steam. But are those goals realistic? How exactly will we achieve the goal, and how will we maintain it in the long run? I cleaned my house, but now it's messy again. I threw out all of my old work documents, but they piled up again. I joined a gym, but quit going when work got hectic. I think my problem with setting goals is that I set very large goals without mapping a plan for success.
When I set goals in everyday life I come up with a plan to execute them. My house does not get cleaned in one frenzied storm, but in gradual increments. First I put away the junk, then I clean counters, sinks and toilets, then I vacuum and scrub floors. This check-list of mini goals helps me to stay on track and gives me bench-marks to gauge my progress. Perhaps for my New Year's Resolutions I should also set smaller achievable goals rather than one huge end-goal.
Rather than resolving to start a daily fitness routine, I will resolve to get my butt to the gym at least once a week. Baby steps.
Another problem with New Year's Resolutions is that we set them because we feel obligated to. Everyone else is doing something to improve their lives in 2012, so I feel the need to do it too. But setting a goal for the wrong reasons just sets me up for failure. When I quit smoking I succeeded because it was something that meant a lot to me. My father passed away from heart disease and the coroner told me his death was directly related to his smoking habits. I wish I could say that I quit right away, but it took time. I've back-slid a few times and I still get cravings, but it was worth it. It took a huge motivating force for me to make that change, and it's not something I could have done just because everyone else was doing it.
I think that smaller goals, a plan and real motivation, are the only way that I can make a change in my life. While I wish you all good luck with your New Year's resolutions, I hope that you have a plan and a motivator in place. If not, it's not too late to map out your road to success and come up with some legitimate reasons to make a change.
What is my resolution for 2012? Check for my column this time next year and I'll let you know how it worked out.