It’s that time of year again when I start talking about making a list of New Year’s resolutions and my husband starts declaring his disdain for them.
“The majority of people making them fail,” he’ll say. “So why bother?”
I did some internet research and study after study confirmed he was right. That still didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for them though.
As far as I can tell, one of the biggest reasons most of us don’t succeed with our resolutions is because we have an all-or-nothing mentality, and we tend to view our first setback as absolute failure, rather than a mere obstacle to overcome.
For example, if one of my goals is to get in better physical shape, I can’t give up just because I consumed an entire box of Oreo cookies in one sitting. I have to acknowledge I didn’t make the wisest decision in getting closer to reaching that particular goal, and prepare to make better choices going forward.
A well-developed plan that allows for these occasional missteps can make the difference.
We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves by expecting to be perfect. Instead we should aim to be persistent.
I’ve looked at some of my lists from years past and I can see that the more thought I put into each goal, the better my results have been. I now know that “write a book” is too broad and vague as is—it needs a detailed strategy. To accomplish this objective I must tackle it in more manageable bite-sized chunks.
Author E.L. Doctorow once said: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
This analogy doesn’t just apply to bestselling historical novels, but to any lofty goal.
Breaking down our big ambitions into smaller, more achievable tasks can keep us from getting overwhelmed and feeling stuck.
Another important element to realizing our dreams is our willingness to seriously focus on them—not just when we create our lists, but when our motivation dwindles and we lose our way.
That’s when we need to take some time to re-focus and re-commit.
In the past year, I found myself needing to do that often. Life can get messy and becoming distracted can easily blur our vision and take our eyes off the prize.
For that reason I’m a sucker for fresh starts.
The first of a new year is my favourite, but a new month, new week or even a new day is also a great opportunity to re-energize. And just thinking about what I want to accomplish is never enough. I need to personally document my intentions to solidify and prioritize their level of importance.
New Year’s resolutions, to me, are simply a written list of attainable goals that I plan on achieving in the following year. Imperfection will inevitably play a part, as will persistence and a constant re-focusing as I go along.
But to avoid working for the future rather than living in the present—a mistake I’ve made before—I will be sure to include the following as one of the most important goals on my list: “Enjoy the process.”
Life is too short to do it any other way.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com.