Post date: Feb 18, 2014 10:08:50 PM
It's half way through January, and we're just reaching that time when everyone starts to forget or give up on their new year's resolutions. I wanted to offer you an alternative this year.
I'm not a fan of new year's resolutions. Generally, I think January's a bad time, when most people are tired at coming back to real life after the holiday. More importantly, though, a year is a long time. Over the course of a year, your goals will almost certainly change. In fact, they really should. In some cases, you'll achieve it or have made sufficient life changes that it's no longer necessary to hold to a resolution. Alternatively, you'll find that the resolution is no longer possible (for example if you have a stretching goal but developed an injury) or that you're actually not that committed to it in the first place. That's ok. Either way, it's then time to take stock and decide what you really do want to use your energy to achieve.
Instead of new year's resolutions, I'm having monthly goals. Because it's a much shorter timeframe, it feels ok to have much smaller goals. It's also easier to keep them in mind. I'm much happier with a small goal that I think about every day than I would be with a huge one that I only remember once a week (and then only to feel guilty at forgetting it so often). It's certainly the option that leads to the most change.
So, here are my rules for monthly 'mini-resolutions'. Obviously, these are the rules that work for me. Find what works for you and go with that.
1 - Each month's goal is decided on the last day of the previous month, not before. Usually, when I have an idea like this, I go into an orgy of planning. I love deciding what each month will be, making sure that it all builds on what was done before and takes me towards an even bigger goal. That's fun, but ultimately counter-productive. A major part of the point of this is to react to the way your life is changing. You can't do that if every month is already set in stone. There's a real value in taking the time each month to work out what it is you want to achieve with the following 30 days.
2 - Each goal should be something you can measure. You have to know whether you've actually been achieving it over the course of the month.
3 - Start really small. These should be things that make you feel good. If you start out with a huge target, each time you evaluate your progress will give you a sense of failure. A really common example is achieving a flat split. Even when you acknowledge progress, you’re still left with the nagging regret that you’re not “there yet”. Small goals that can be achieved EVERY TIME are much more motivating than large, impressive goals with a period of failure first.
4 - Each goal is expressed in one or two words. Throughout January, I found myself saying my goal aloud several times a day. Not as part of some ritual or pre-specified motivational tool. I just found that each time I wanted to do something that wasn’t in alignment with my goal, I said my goal aloud and that gave me the willpower to do things right. Having to specify goals in one or two words also makes sure that they really are as simple and refined as possible.
5 - Goals can be repeated, if it feels like I want to. Sometimes, it might feel like a goal is still the most important thing for me to work on. That’s a sign that it could be valuable to repeat it. Alternatively, a goal might feel so comfortable that you want to keep it as a ‘background goal’, in addition to the new goal for the month.
So, my goal for January was “good habits”. Every day, I was trying to develop and maintain good habits in what I was doing. This was in terms of training, yoga practice, cleaning the house, eating habits and anything else that felt right. That might sound like a huge goal, but it’s actually quite simple. The focus was all on my efforts, not on achieving an arbitrary standard. So 5 minutes of stretching was enough to still be developing the habit. Stacking the dishwasher before bed was still part of the housework ‘good habit’. And I found that doing 5 minutes of something (to keep my habit going) usually led to me doing much, much more of it.
January’s goal was so productive that I’m wanting to keep it as a background goal. It felt good and there were loads of times that I believe I would have skipped a day or just been a little bit lazy without the magic phrase of “Good Habits” to pull me back. Towards the end of the month, though, I felt like something was missing a little bit. The word that stayed on my mind was “Play”. So that’s going to be February’s goal. I want to spend February remembering to stick to my good habits, but also remembering to play, just a little bit, every day. That might be playing on the pole, it might be meeting friends for coffee, it might be spending time with the kittens and a ball of string. It certainly means trying harder to say ‘yes’ to social invites.
If you feel like joining me in having monthly goals, I’d be delighted. Please feel free to let me know what your goals are, and how you’re getting on. I’m really interested in which rules feel like they resonate with you.
I’ll let you know how I get on.