The sad truth is most resolutions fail because you expect them to fail (source: Forbes: Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail).
According to one survey, around 45% set resolutions each year yet only 8% actually follow through (source: Stephen Shapiro Interesting New Year's Statistics). I see this at the gym. The first few weeks of January are crazy as throngs of people decide to get into shape. By February, most have given up.
Success and self-esteem are not improved by setting goals. They are improved by achieving your goals. For many, creating a New Year's Resolution is a form of procrastination (source: Why New Year's Resolutions Fail). They create the illusion of doing something. Real change occurs when we alter our habits. And that takes work.
1. Set realistic goalsStep one in achieving your goals is to create S.M.A.R.T. goals. This is something they teach in business and management courses but doesn't reach through to the Arts.
S - Specific: The most details the better (e.g. "Write 5 pages a day" is better than "Write more."
M - Measurable: Put a number to it. Quantify
A - Achievable: Make it realistic
R - Relevant: Why are you doing this? How does it further your long-term goals
T - Time Bound: Give each task a firm deadline.
Link: Application and History of SMART goals
2. One Goal is Better than SeveralA quick Google search will reveal hundreds of sites offering suggested resolutions. However, if you actually want to make a change in your life, pick one - two at most. The rest can wait until next year.
30 New Year's Resolutions for Writers
13 New Year's Resolutions for Writers by Jeff Goins
3. Set (and follow) a scheduleI teach college-level management and professionalism courses. One of the foundations of goal setting is to start with a long-term goal and break it down into short-term goals. If you're serious about following through on your resolution, break your end goal into smaller goals. And give deadlines for each one.
For example, a resolution to get in shape is vague and likely to fail. However, a resolution to loose 30 pounds within the next year is more likely to succeed. I'd suggest breaking it down even further. Resolve to loose 3 lbs per month. That's much more achievable. As a writer, instead of focusing on writing a book, focus on how many pages you will write each day. The most common goal is four pages per day. Depending on your typing speed and experience, you can get this done in under 2 hours. So build 2 hours of writing time into your schedule every day.
4. Celebrate Your SuccessNamed for the Roman god Janus, January is the time of open doors and new beginnings. Janus is recognizable because he has two faces: one looking forward, one looking behind. Before you look ahead, take some time to look back and see what you've already accomplished.
Stephen Shapiro, author of the survey quoted above, suggests there is no real link between achieving goals and general happiness. It is far to easy to get caught up in the drive to do more that we forget why are doing more. Instead of striving to achieve new goals, take some time to appreciate the goals you have already accomplished. See how far you have come and give yourself a pat on the back. Stop waiting for someone else to congratulate you.
LINK: Happiness By Wanting What You have (mp3)
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