Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tips towards sticking to your New Year goals

If you're like most people around my age, you probably have stopped believing in New Year Resolutions. Resolutions are like promises, they bind you into a fabrication of a future (which, as we have established, is never in your hands until it stops being the future and starts being the present anyway) while doing almost NOTHING to help you achieve those outcomes. It's all just pressure man. You don't need that!

A better thing to list down when a New Year starts, are goals. Detailed, realistic, time/measurement-bound goals. And, more importantly, What separates the two (because it's certainly not the words themselves, which basically means the same thing) is how a "goal" implies that it's an end point of a process that has a middle. And it doesn't have the stigma attached to the word "resolution". Let's face it, wording is a big thing. Not everybody is willing to look beyond their own personal word associations. Even though in a perfect world, people would try to understand the intent behind the word, practically speaking, it's more convenient to use new words for new positive associations. That being said, if the word "goal" feels binding to you as well, you don't have to use it! You don't even have to use just a word. You can use something as long as: "How I want to live my life in 2012". It's just once a year after all.

What makes resolutions fail? Don't be too hard on yourself, it's not you. Okay, it kind of is, but it's not your incapability to reach them, but probably your method of creating them in the first place. And of course, there's life. What you should focus on isn't being perfect, but getting better all the time. Always be aware of how you're getting better. It's usually enough. :) Acknowledge your accomplishments, be they big or little.

Here are some tips to help you stick to your goals! These aren't meant to sound preachy, but it's things I try to remind myself with, and at the very least they make me feel better. They help me go beyond feeling that I've reached a dead end.

  1. Write things you REALLY want to accomplish. Real desire binds more efficiently than any piece of paper can. Imagine yourself accomplishing the thing, and imagine the good things it will bring to your life. If this doesn't get you excited, maybe you don't really want it. If you're one of those people that can't really think of anything but would like to make a change by giving this a try (for some odd reason..) Start by observing your life and how you feel about it. If you feel like something is missing, start there. Write what you don't like about it, and look for a counterattack. If you're perfectly pleased, then good for you! Maintain your outlook. (Actually if you are, you're probably not reading this so....)
  2. Write them somewhere you always see. Like your bathroom mirror (tip: whiteboard marker!) or desk, or closet door. Not as a way of feeding yourself guilt if it doesn't get accomplished but as a friendly reminder. If you think about it, hidden resolutions will give you more guilt because by the time you find them again, you've already forgotten what you were supposed to do and you're already off-track! Again, the key is to remember that setting goals is not a way to police yourself into accomplishing stuff, but to guide yourself towards those things. Be your own friend.
  3. Begin with the end in mind. Build a process. Especially if it's a big goal or a complex one, like losing weight. Think of what you want, then what you need to have it, and what you need to do. If you can't really imagine it happening yet, save it for later after you've thought about the how's more. The first steps will come clearer that way. List these things down and save them in a file on your desktop, or a notebook you always bring with you. And don't skimp on reminding yourself! put little notes of encouragement in your planner or whatever. If you have the time or are really serious about these things (like I kinda am), had a REALLY AWESOME METHOD that I used and I really feel like it's given me more direction in general. What I liked about it is how it really gets to the core and soul of things. It really helped me remember what I wanted in life before I became a bit more cynical or disheartened with age. And how it makes you list down the why and how of your goal, so that you're not stuck looking at it scratching your head saying "Yeah, but how?", and so that you always remember your initial motivations. It also makes you list what facet of your life it benefits, to enable you in monitoring how balanced all the important stuff are.
  4. Remember that a year has 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days. No matter how invincible the clean slate of a new year makes you feel, we are still bound by time. So if your goals don't really come with their own due date (ex: graduation, best friend's bridal shower), make your own. Make your goals measurable, so that you can reward yourself accordingly. You can do this as loosely or specifically as you like, as long as your goals are really achievable in a year's time! Otherwise you might stress yourself out or set yourself up for disappointment.
  5. Feel free to follow your heart! If even with your initial reasons in front of you, you don't feel like doing something anymore (ex: skydiving just somehow STOPPED seeming so exciting), update your list! Remember that this is all about YOU, NOW. Whenever the Now is. 
  6. Keep track of your progress. Have a weekly or bi-monthly check-up on yourself and your goals, or keep a journal, or have a silent staring marathon with your bathroom mirror list, reviewing where you are now. 
  7. Keep yourself excited! Read blogs about people with the same challenges, or read success stories, anything to make you feel good and happy about taking this journey. Because no matter what the bad days might tell you, what you're doing is a very brave thing. You trying to be better is what life is all about! Make sure you feel as good about it as you deserve to be!

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