New Year’s resolutions are great in theory. Often made with the fresh determination that comes with the start of a new calendar year, we resolve to BE and DO better in specific areas of life that matter to us. We often reflect on our big priorities and set lofty goals about which we plan to be resolute. Yet, after just months or weeks, and for some resolutions, even after only a few days, we abandon many of these meaningful resolutions. The year is just five days old and already some resolutions have already been broken. Why?
RESOLUTIONS ARE BIG DEALS!
It’s not in the timing of the resolutions that often sets us up for resolution failure. Nor does it stem from the resolutions themselves. Most resolutions are quite worthy of achieving. Take a look at this list, culled from various top resolutions lists. As you’ll quickly see, though, each of these top 12 resolutions is REALLY BIG.
- Enjoy life to the fullest.
- Lose weight and get fit through a healthier lifestyle.
- Spend more time with family and friends.
- Save more money, spend less money.
- Pay down or get out of debt.
- Quit smoking, drinking, or other bad habits.
- Learn something new and different.
- Travel to new and exciting places.
- Be less stressed.
- Get organized.
- Fall in love, meet soul mate.
Are any of these resolutions on your list? Resolutions by their very nature are big undertakings. As a result, resolutions can be tough to parse into simple actionable items. To be achieved, even big resolutions need to be integrated into whatever you need to get done next Thursday, as it were. Just how does your to-do list for the coming week incorporate a potential desire to enjoy life to the fullest while spending more time with family and friends, learning something new in an exotic new place where you can lose weight, pay down your debt, reduce your stress and volunteer, all while being totally organized? With resolutions of this scale, of course many of us will abandon ship. As these top 12 resolutions show, it’s easy to make grand resolutions. As our track records show, it’s just as easy to consistently fall short of implementing them.
Two Reasons Why Resolutions Erode
Two factors enter into resolution erosion. First, we tend to set ourselves up with too many different big resolutions at once. In recent blog posts, we shared strategies to tackle one resolution at a time, working to master one resolution before moving onto the next. Even if your resolutions are pint-sized compared to these MEGAlutions, trying to accomplish multiple resolutions at once can be too much for lots of us.
The second reason resolutions erode so quickly is not about WHEN we decide to work on them, simultaneously or sequentially. It’s also not about WHAT the resolutions themselves may be about; if it matters to you, it is a worthwhile resolution. The second reason resolutions erode is because of HOW we tackle them.
Would you ever attempt to eat an entire 10-pound salami in one bite? Hardly. Big goals need to be parsed into smaller, doable steps. By slicing big resolutions into smaller pieces, many of us will do a better job of integrating big goals into day-to-day life. Even smaller slices need to be actionable. For example, if you want to live a healthier life in 2016, many smaller actionable steps need to be part of this resolution, from cleaning out your pantry to replacing your running shoes.
365 Slices Mean 365 Fresh Starts
I use an approach that I’ve dubbed 365 Slices. Each of the 365 days of this coming year becomes a clean slate. Even when the day’s actions are a total bust when compared to longer-term goals, to quote Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”
It’s helpful when the everyday actions and choices that fill our to-do lists align directly to the big priorities and resolutions that matter most. Connecting the dots between the resolution (WHAT) and its implementation (HOW) helps you to achieve more. When you take even one action each day that brings you closer to the resolution you’re focusing on, you make actionable progress.
Each day, work to include even just one action that aligns to one of your big priorities for the year. For example, getting to the school concert for your children, no matter what is going on at work that day is an example of connecting dots on a resolution of Family First. Think of each day as a sort of Etch-a-Sketch, with the chance to erase the day that’s over and begin with a clean slate the next day. Each day is a new opportunity to get closer to and make progress on your big goals.
The High Five on Which I Strive!
I distill my resolutions into five main categories: Family, Health, Biz 1, Biz 2, and Future. Each day I make my to-do list. Much is tied directly to daily activities, but by being mindful of my bigger resolutions, I often slip in an extra walk, plan ahead to get to the school event, or simply plan a free night to be open to whatever family situation might be happening.
I typically have more to do than is feasible to complete in one day. Comparing the items on my list to my five categories helps me make better choices. When I take the extra few seconds to connect the dots between my to-dos and my big resolutions, I prioritize more effectively.
This method also helps me reflect back on a weekly basis. When I notice days slipping by without checking a “connect-the-dots” box that links a daily action to a bigger resolution, it’s a wake-up call.
As you jump back into your first days of school after Winter Break, try using this PDF—created by the Teacher Peach designers at the PeachQuotes Studio—for your to-do list, even for a few days. See what you notice and of course, let us know. Feel free to modify this form, share it, and experiment with other ways to connect-the-dots between your big resolutions and your day-to-day activities and must-do tasks. And remember, each new day is a fresh start!