Jess and I (the wondrous Dr Jessamy Hibberd with whom I have written This Book Will) penned a blog together about New Year resolutions and how to keep them (which you can read on our site jessamyandjo.com). I was going to re-post it here, but then realised it’s probably too late as pretty much everyone will have already reneged on their heartfelt promises to the resolution gods and be busily necking wine and cake while cancelling their hurriedly-bought gym membership. (A study by Cancer Research of 4,000 adults found that 39% of people gave up on their resolutions in just two weeks with only 9% claiming to have stuck with them for at least six months.) For this reason I am re-angling the blog so it’s more generalised – focusing on making short-term, medium term and long-term goals that you might actually see through.
January is great for making plans as it’s the natural time for assessing the year just gone, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself up for things you didn’t achieve or where you feel you fell short rather than focusing on the good things that happened and building on them. This inevitably leads to the making of grand ‘resolutions’ that are almost always negative – cutting things out of your life rather than adding good things in. January is grim enough without sacrificing things you enjoy. Saying, ‘I’m going to give up cake’ when you love cake during the coldest, darkest and skint-est (nope, not a real word) month of the year is not a great plan. You’re setting yourself up for a fall which will make you feel low and demotivated. Far better to add more good things into your life instead, making you feel more positive and hopeful so you’ll be more confident about cutting out bad habits later if you want to.
Making positive and achievable goals is a really pro-active way to plan for the year ahead. Come up with a list of things that you’d like to do over the next 12 months (that all add something to your life rather than take something away). For example, ‘work towards a promotion’ rather than ‘avoid my boss’ or ‘walk home from work twice a week’ rather than ‘stop eating cake’.
It doesn’t matter what it is or how many you chose as long as they’re positive goals that are also SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Timely. So if you’re hoping for a promotion at work, aim for the next step up (realistic and achievable) rather than ‘becoming C.E.O’ and set yourself a time frame of when you want to achieve it by (timely). Speak to a mentor or manager at work to discuss what you’ll need to do for this to happen (specific) and then write down each step so you can tick them off (measurable).
Another example might be ‘go on holiday’. Specific: where do you want to go? Measurable: make a step-by-step plan, i.e. ‘I’ll ask Kate if she can go and when she’s free’. Achievable: pick somewhere you can afford that’s nice to visit when you’re free to go and if you’re terrified of flying don’t pick Australia. Relevant: how will this improve your life? Actually acknowledging the positives will make you feel more inspired to see the plan through. Timely: Be specific about WHEN you want to have achieved this by. There’s no point thinking vaguely about some time in the future. If you give yourself a deadline you’re far more likely to work towards meeting it.
Check back in on your plan every week or so to see how you’re getting on and ask friends or family to remind you why you’re doing it if you hit a lull (social support is a huge motivator). By making a plan (and actually writing it down) you’re much more likely to stick to it and by breaking down your goals into small manageable steps and rewarding yourself as you meet each target you’ll be far more motivated to keep going.