As we near the end of January, those of us brave enough to make New Years Resolutions may find our enthusiasm fading and their deeply suppressed urges talking to them like the metaphorical devil on their shoulder willing them to trip up into the darkside of perceived failure. But does it really matter if our New Year Resolutions are over by January?
Let me list those favourite resolution clichés that we’ve all had on our lists;
- Get fitter/Lose Weight
- Work on self-development
- Be more productive
- Spend less, save more.
………well I could go on but, you know the drill so why bother. Whilst I’m not berating those of us who want to be a better version of ourselves in the forthcoming year (its actually quite the opposite, bear with me), I do think we could all ask ourselves a few key questions to better understand how we have come up with this list of aspirations. Why are we making the change, is it for us or someone else? How will we feel when we have achieved our goal? How will we know when we’ve done what we set out to do?
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and get granular with these classics;
- Get fitter/lose weight
Great goal to have and the getting fitter one is always on my list of constant ‘work in progress’ projects. It’s never made it to the ‘completed’ list with a nice big tick next to it because this one never really ends does it. We are constantly surrounded by temptation (red wine, chocolate; maybe those are just my foibles) but equally bombarded with the instashame of what we should look like.
But perhaps we should just refine the goal to something more manageable to give us the greatest chance of achieving it? For example, I would like to get to the end of the spin class today. I don’t have to be the one that sweats the most, burns the most calories, or does the most impressive ‘whoop whoop’ at the bequest of the (very) annoying instructor. But I can maybe make it to the end without stopping. And maybe I could build on that with “I (slightly) enjoyed that and shall come again next week”. Perhaps its about creating the building blocks before jumping of the skyscraper without a harness.
2. Work on self-development
Again, completely valid and important. Learning in life never stops and if you think you know everything then perhaps one thing you don’t know is why you have no friends. Because you’re annoying. I digress. Self-development doesn’t have to be learning a whole new language or creating a new web code. I don’t know what web code is or even if that’s the right term but what I’m saying is that self-development opportunities surround us every day.
That walk to the park with the kids where we notice the shape of leaves on the big old oak tree for the first time. Or when we work out the coffee maker settings after 3 years of having the same machine (again, me?). It’s really, for me, about noticing the learning opportunities we’re gifted with everyday and recognising that we’re nailing it. Sure, some structured learning of a cognitively challenging task (different post coming soon, look up Cal Newport for some fantastic insight) is always going to be beneficial, but don’t forget to notice noticing the everyday learning we complete and nail every single day.
3. Be more productive.
Well, this really is sufficiently vague isn’t it. Be more productive at what specifically? A broad statement is one any of us can make but how about defining it in more detail. What, to be more productive a work? Well, perhaps its worth looking at what part of work specifically – client proposals, accounts, sales? Maybe you want to be more productive with your studying? Your housework? The point is to get specific.
Gemma Bray of The Organised Mum Method has some great tips that can be applied to many a task. She looks at a task (in her case housework), considers what time is available and what can be achieved during that time. This is then broken down into manageable and achievable chunks during a focused period where only the task at hand is to be completed. Is it that you need to be more productive or less distracted so that you actually get things done?
4. Spend less, save more.
This certainly is a popular one this year isn’t it? Particularly now that we’ve finally realised all that stuff we didn’t need but felt compelled to buy actually goes somewhere like landfill, the ocean etc. You don’t need a sustainability and environmental lesson from me. But perhaps this greater level of self-awareness is that the desire for immediate pleasure has more far reaching consequences than just our bank balance.
There was a great article written by David DeSteno that highlights that as a society we are obsessed by perceived success and what comes with that is often the immediate pleasure in constantly demonstrating that to others with items or monetary value that indicate we are ‘better’ than the next person. However, is that instant gratification going to really lead to sustained success in achieving our goals and does anyone really care? Desteno highlighted that we over value immediate pleasures relative to future ones. Maybe that’s why we all can get a bit spendy from time to time. The self-control that is required for saving money can be extremely challenging but perhaps resisting the desire for immediate pleasure is worth it when you can finally afford that big ticket item without resorting to the flexible friend and the accompanying immediate guilt within 5 minutes of making the purchase that it brings.
Perhaps we would be better served by sacrificing in the moment for future gains.
So what’s the big insightful answer to all of this? Don’t want to state the bloody obvious, but I’d be a millionaire if I could come up with that nugget of wonderment. It’s really time for me to be sufficiently vague and bounce that ball right back in to your court.
Perhaps if we all lived with gratitude, compassion, self-control, grit and authentic pride we’d nail all of this a little better. But let’s cut ourselves some slack, it’s only January and we’re only human after all.