New Year’s Resolutions down the toilet? Again!

Phew! We made it through January! We made it out of ‘New Year’s Resolution Territory’! But now where do we find ourselves? Falling Short in February? Because most of us did not meet our New Year’s goals, or not entirely, am I right?

I don’t know about you but I’m letting out a big sigh of relief, at putting some distance between me and January 1st for two reasons: 1) People will stop asking me what my NY Resolutions are, and 2) I can give up the guilt and shame around not having set any in the first place!

Don’t get me wrong, GOALS have value. It took me a long time to be able to say that as I am not a natural goal-setter. I’m a very motivated, action-oriented person but goals don’t inspire me, they somehow restrict me. I’m told that’s probably just the way I approach them but today, I heard something that perfectly explained my issue with goals.

Thank you James Clear! His book, Atomic Habits – An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, makes a lot of sense to me.

It’s easy to set a goal and a really good one too – I can do it in a few seconds! A good goal is juicy, right? And it’s inspiring. It sums up our best thoughts, our most passionate desires and sets something in motion. What that ‘something’ is, however, depends very much on what we do next after we set the goal.

So, is what happens next a road to fulfilment and success, or a slippery slope to disappointment and self-loathing? You can see which way I lean!

In Atomic Habits, James says (and I’m paraphrasing) “the important part is to build a process or develop a system that carries us towards our desired outcome (goal).”

That process or system he describes as a “collection of daily habits” that we can easily adopt and that practically and purposefully move us towards our goal.

I love this!

Taking daily steps and forging good habits, however small, I can do!

For example, If I want to eat healthier and lose weight I can ask myself at mealtimes “What would a healthy person eat? What exercise would they do that would make a difference?”

And if I don’t know the answers to these things, I can find out? But what it means is that several times a day I am going to take a positive step towards being how I want to be.

And somehow this makes me a whole lot more accountable because I will be taking action and thinking thoughts that are in agreement with what I’ve said I want.

The tricky part for most of us is that this seems like small stuff. Goals are usually big and bright and shiny and this is like putting tiny marbles into a big jar, one by one. It takes time, it’s not sexy, it’s nothing to shout about or show off to others.

However, what might be barely noticeable is definitely meaningful, in very practical terms because it’s cumulative and it’s habit-forming. It’s forward-focused and it’s positive life-affirming action. It’s something all of us can undertake to achieve what we want, or get where we want to be.

The other important part of this is it shuts down that nagging inner critic who has just been dying to give you a flogging about those failed Resolutions. The Critic can’t get a look in when you’re saying what you want and taking action to get it.

All you need to do is just do what you can, when you can, as consistently as you can and most importantly ACKNOWLEDGE that you are doing it. Remind yourself that you are achieving your goal with every choice you make and every step you take.

How would you encourage someone you care about: “You’re doing great. You’re making good choices. Every step counts. Keep going. I’m cheering you on!”

James Clear says: “The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 per cent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-¬seven times better by the time you’re done. “

This is a slow and steady change which means this is lasting change. This is sustainable, do-able change. Making deliberate choices and taking small, habit-forming steps means we’re on the road to genuine transformation.

And if there’s a battle to be fought, I’d rather do it on a small scale each day, where I wrestle with the decisions of what I have time for, what I choose to do or not. These fights are a lot easier to deal with than the hideous snowball of guilt and shame that come with another big goal crashing and burning.

You might not, in fact, you won’t, see immediate results from building a step-by-step set of habits that carry you forward to what you want and where you want to be. But you will be building something significant. Every small step will be carrying you forward, with you in charge of the process.

I don’t know about you, but for me, this feels like something I can do and it sure beats the heck out of those New Year’s Resolutions!

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