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How to plan your new year's resolutions effectively.

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The new year is approaching, this is a time when people set up a list of goals to achieve by the end of the new year. For a lot of people, that list is the same every year. Somehow, you just can't get to your goals or check them off your list. You're still trying to quit smoking, you're still trying to lose weight, and you still haven't started going to the gym. Motivation isn't the problem, it is not that simple. There are a few reasons why your new year's resolution never works out.

1. It is something you feel you -should- do, but don't actually have any passion for.

Don't underestimate what passion is. Feeling passionate about something turns it into a lifeforce, something that brings you back to life when you're feeling down. I'm not saying every new year's resolution needs come with a burning passion, but if there is no deeper motivation behind it other than that "it is better", it'll just slip your mind and fall to the background. You need to have a reason to want to change something or do something. With the culture around new year's resolutions, people sometimes choose something random to fill in the blank to the question what their resolution is going to be. They pick the best fitting answer, but it means nothing.

2. Your resolution isn't realistic.

We humans have something that I like to call "someday-syndrome", where we set the deadline for "someday", as a way not to actually have to work on it.

"Weren't you going to write a book?" "Yeah, someday."

Someday means you don't need a solid plan, it is something you're going to passively work on over time and "someday" it'll be done. It becomes some distant, ambitious dream that is too big to "really" work on. "Someday, I'll be famous" "Someday, I'll buy a Tesla"

It is not realistic enough to accomplish in a year. If you have a vacation budget of 0, but you want to enjoy a far away 10 day sun vacation next summer, that's not realistic. Starting a real, effective fund for future vacations, however, is! If you want to plan a 10 day exotic vacation, or a 30 day backpacking trip for someday, you resolution should be to start planning for it today.

As for resolutions, while you may not literally say "some day" with it, it's the same idea. You have a year to work on it, so you'll work on it "at some point". Then, "some day" has passed, and you've never actually done what you wanted to do.

3. Your resolution is good, but you don't actually plan anything to fulfill it.

This ties in with number 2. Even if your goal is realistic, most people jump into their busy lives right after new year's and forget about their resolutions.

If you don't come up with a plan alongside your resolution, it is not going to happen. If you have to be at the office the next day, come home tired and fall back into your regular routine, you will never sit down and solidify the path towards your goal.

In other words, you have to make the plan before the midnight clock. Make sure it is in place and ready to go alongside your daily life.

And make sure you record your progress, it is inmensely satisfying!

Another classic example is the gym. People who vow to go to the gym every day after new year's, burn out after three days. Just like anything else, you need to know how much energy you have to spend on this project, how many hours it takes, and to make sure that you have enough downtime.

Photo by Zhang Kenny on Unsplash

4. You put too much pressure on it, so it stops being fun.

This is why I prefer affirmations over resolutions. When you put too much pressure on accomplishing your goals and resolutions, it becomes a nagging thing, a difficult thing. This happens when the days go by and you didn't go to the gym for a full week, and your resolution becomes something you don't want to deal with anymore. After all, you got better things to do than put time you don't have into this passionless, silly new year's promise that doesn't benefit you in the way you need it to.

Do you want realistic, effective resolutions that you will actually complete?

Make sure it is something you truly want, and that it is part of who you are. Someone who loves telenovella's will have an easier time sticking to the resolution to learn Spanish, than someone who just feels obligated to learn a second language. In other words, make sure your resolution is authenthic to you. The reasons behind a goal, will channel energy into motivation, and without motivation, you won't get it done. Set the goal, set the details.

To stick with the example of learning Spanish, to just say "I'm going to learn a language" is not realistic. If you're serious about a resolution, you need to make a plan. How many hours a week will you practice? Becoming fluent in a language within a year is ambitious, at what point do you consider the language "learnt"? Will you buy some Spanish literature? Listen to Spanish podcasts? Do your research, make sure you actually know what you're doing. Weightloss goals are so often not met, because they don't know anything about fitness and nutrition.

Don't put pressure on it. Some people feel guilty for not sticking to their resolution, or in the case of this example, missing a spanish class or forgetting to read. In some minds, not succeeding in a resolution equal to failing, even while something that might enhance you as a person, doesn't make you less if you don't do it. Staying the same shouldn't be a failure. Chasing goals should be fun! Making a plan should be exciting, starting out and building a habit should make you feel good, and seeing progress should make you happy. Accomplishing small things gives you a motivation boost that you can channel into bigger things. But if you feel like you "have to" do it, if you feel guilty when you don't, do yourself a favour and abandon the resolution. I guess that is the crux of it, resolutions usually aren't serious.

I wonder if there is a cultural guilt involved, that people feel obligated to have resolutions when the new year comes around, to make sure they "utilize" this fresh start to its fullest. We collectively feel as if who we were last year doesn't matter anymore once the clock hits 12.

This, on its own, is healthy. The ability to identifity when something doesn't matter anymore and should be let go, will empower whatever it is you pursue in life.

If you feel like the person you used to be doesn't exist anymore, then why should their mistakes and memories matter? You've reflected on it, learned from it, taken in the good and left the bad behind, and you made yourself evolve away from the bad.

For that, new year's eve, this magical symbolic evening that acknowledges this, is a wonderful thing. Too bad we set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and ruin the joy of the journey to those goals by putting pressure on it. So this year, when you make a resolution, to try come up with resolutions that empower who you've evolved into, and serve your health and wellbeing, and that help you feel better, instead of obliging to the idea that you must improve every year. My resolution? This year I've learned to value myself and my boundaries, to claim my place in the world. That is what I'll do as a resolution: I claim my place in the world. The details of this, are more for myself.

But I hope my example will inspire you to think about what you want to enhance about yourself. You can find me on twitter and we can talk about resolutions, to make 2021 truly a productive year. Happy new year's, I'll see you around. Love, Terri.


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