The Problem with New Year’s Resolutions
It’s nearly half-way through January. How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions?
That’s okay. I didn’t bother to set any. I never do.
I’m not lazy; I just don’t see the point. I always hear more about people’s failure to keep New Year’s Resolutions than I do their victory at achieving their goals. (At least, goals set at the New Year.)
The U.S. News & World Report published an article a few years ago stating that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Other sources give other numbers, but the consistent thread is failure. Numerous articles tout reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail.
I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling like a failure. I’d rather put my effort toward things in which I can find success.
Intention Instead of Resolution
Forbes’ contributor Naz Beheshti, in her 2018 article, suggests that it’s not just a lack of effort, or a personal failure, that cause so many resolutions to lose steam. “New Year’s resolutions are a flawed way to reach an admirable goal….” She prefers the idea of intention instead.
Beheshti explains, “An intention is more forgiving, without the built-in succeed-or-fail dynamic that seems to come with New Year’s resolutions. The idea of intention honors effort and process, and not just results.” I like this. The idea of valuing the process (or progress!) resonates with me, because it flows from a mindset of grace.
I can rejoice at another person’s growth toward a certain ideal, even if he or she is still far from perfect. I need to extend that same grace to myself.
The importance of grace notwithstanding, we still need some sort of motivation to grow and achieve anything in our lives.
So it is little surprise that my ears perked up listening to a podcast on a recent road trip.
A Better Alternative
I heard a great idea, of all places, on a real estate investing podcast. (Let me be clear: this is my husband’s interest, not mine!) For use during our holiday travels, he had downloaded several episodes of the Bigger Pockets Podcast, and among other things, we listened to this during our 12 hour round trip in the van together.
Side note: This is a great tip for couples and families alike! Listening to an audio book on a relevant topic, or podcasts about something new or interesting, makes the trip go faster and provides lots of conversation opportunities not possible in a typical day. Another benefit is that it seems to put our children to sleep. Of course, we may have to listen to a couple complaints of, “This is boring!” But before too long, these complaints usually fall silent.
In the middle of this particular podcast full of chit-chat about real estate investing, business growth, and personal ambitions, Co-Host Brandon Turner began describing his discovery of and experience with drafting a vision and making it a reality. This piqued my curiosity, because it sounded applicable to my NON-real-estate-investing life.
He described how he started with a vision, and wrote out what it would look like if that dream could be a reality, down to every little detail of how this could work. He observed, “When you have crystal clarity on a vision, the speed at which you can accomplish that improves drastically.”
Based on this vision, he created a 1-year goal, broke it down into 90-day sprints, then even further to “weekly battle plans.”
He suggests defining and scheduling what he calls “MINS,” or “Most Important Next Steps.” (For almost any large project—house remodeling, term paper, housecleaning, etc., this is helpful. It makes it manageable.)
Brandon further suggested sharing your vision/goals with a small group of friends or accountability partners to encourage greater accomplishment. He cited some statistics that only 30% of goals actually get accomplished, but when they are written down, action steps are specified, and accountability is sought, that accomplishment rate jumps to 92%.
Writer Naz Beheshti concurs with these ideas. Like the detailed vision description mentioned on Bigger Pockets, she recommends asking yourself questions about what you want to help define your intention.
Like the “90-day sprints” and “weekly battle plans,” she “[encourages] clients to put less pressure on themselves by developing the habit of making regular daily, weekly, and monthly intentions instead of making a big ordeal about laborious resolutions.” (I know I am less overwhelmed by a daily to-do list than a list of all the projects in my life that need to be done.)
And like the Bigger Pockets‘ idea, she urges the need for accountability to stay on track.
All of this sounds like a wonderful alternative to traditional New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t know about you, but I am excited to try this!
Benefits of 90-Day Sprints over New Year’s Resolutions
- You can start at any time of year.
- This process can be applied to almost any kind of goal. (See below for “Examples of Goals and Action Steps.”)
- You can accomplish multiple goals in one year.
- It is long-term enough to have time to accomplish something big.
- It is short-term enough to stay focused.
- Front-loading with defining the vision and identifying and scheduling the next steps makes success more possible.
- If you fail the first time, you can regroup and start over without waiting until next January.
Putting it Into Practice
After discussing the multitude of goals we’d like to set, my husband and I chose two family goals: one spiritual goal and one practical household goal.
Our family spiritual goal is to learn 6 verses together as a family by the end of March. (We have witnessed the difference it makes!)
We had already been attempting Scripture memory since summer, but even with the verse posted on the wall RIGHT BY THE DINING ROOM TABLE, we still constantly forgot to review and practice it.
What I envisioned was for Scripture memory to become a habit, a regular part of our routine. During dinner seemed the best time and place to do this. We wanted to do it together as a family, to motivate each other and make the challenge fun, not just something we required our children to do. Ideally we would all completely memorize one verse, complete with reference, each week.
So, before starting, we had to pick which verses to use. Since my husband felt like he never really learned the ones we had already worked on together, we decided to back up and review/relearn these verses first, before moving into new territory. That will make this first 90 days easy. (Why not ease into it while building the habit?)
For the first 90 days, we will allow 2 weeks to learn each verse. That should allow time within the two weeks to review verses from previous weeks. After our habit is more ingrained, we can challenge ourselves to one verse a week.
To help turn this goal into a habit, we had to figure out how to REMEMBER to practice the verse every night at dinner. We considered putting the verses in a jar on the table, but that would add to the clutter and be one more thing to shuffle around. We ended up deciding to keep the verses on the wall where they are, but set a timer on my phone to remind us during dinner time.
The household goal we set was to paint the bathroom and replace the vanity and over-toilet storage.
Some time ago, my husband had to replace a section of drywall over the shower, so that prompted the long-needed update. We dawdled, narrowing down our paint color choices to two similar paint chips. I preferred one, my husband preferred the other. Stalemate. So nothing happened.
Months ago, we had browsed online for new vanities we liked (so we could move the existing one to the basement, where my husband planned to install a second bathroom.) Our favorite vanity didn’t come in the size we needed. Another vanity we liked didn’t have matching pieces we could use for over-the-toilet storage. I was busy, and discourage, I gave up searching. Again, stalemate.
The project itself wasn’t huge. We just needed some motivation to get started.
So with our new 90-day sprint, we outlined what we needed to do. We scheduled parts of the decision-making process and actual labor over the course of several weeks, taking into account busier seasons in our lives.
So far into this first 90 days, we have already made some (invigorating!) progress. We made a trip to Lowes; after looking at options and realizing how fast (and high) it would all add up (compared to the value of our house), we decided to forego the vanity replacement at this time, and just focus on repainting the bathroom. That just simplified the project!
While at Lowes, we picked up two paint samples, and that night Matt threw them on one wall to try them out so we can choose our color. So far, so good!
Progress is exciting and motivating! I can’t wait to see how this 90 days turns out!
A Word about SMART Goals
From my years as a teacher, the need for SMART goals was ingrained in me. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable (or Actionable), Rigorous (or Realistic), and Timely. When setting goals for our students at the beginning of the year to guide our teaching (and to hand in to our principal), we were given this template to make sure our goals were specific enough and therefore achievable.
In the first part of his article in Edutopia, Maurice J. Elias explains how the vague “I will do better on my report card in the next marking period” is NOT a SMART goal. He then fleshes out how to make the goal more specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.
These guidelines can be helpful outside of the academic setting, as well. They can increase the success of our personal goal-setting.
The components of SMART goals most relevant to non-academic goals and intentions, in my opinion, are specific (define your vision), actionable (.your MINS/action steps), and timely (90-day sprint, put each step on the calendar to keep you going and hold yourself accountable).
Examples of Goals and Action Steps
Goal: pay off one credit card
- Stop using credit card
- Forgo the daily coffee, saving $10 per week
- Inventory household, identifying items of worth no longer wanted or needed
- Sell one unneeded item per week on Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
- Add weekly savings/profits to monthly credit card payment
Goal: Lose 10 pounds
- Replace sweetened drinks with water
- Stash cupboards/refrigerator with healthy snacks
- Schedule 4 times a week to exercise
- Ask someone to join you at least one of those days
Goal: Develop prayer journal
- Consider purpose (Do I need reminders to pray or a record of answers?)
- Purchase notebook, index cards, etc.
- Set up structure—list people/situations to pray for, add color-coding, etc.
- Schedule daily time to pray, and to consult / update prayer journal
Goal: Have 3 families over for dinner
- Decide which 3 families to invite
- Consult calendar and spouse for best days to have guests
- Invite the families and schedule dinner with each
- Plan menu ahead of time to lower stress
- Complete small daily cleaning tasks to reduce last-minute panic
Goal: read one marriage book together
- Choose book together
- Discuss hopes for reading
- Time-block chapters or pages to read each week
- Schedule time to read together (or time to read independently and then meet to discuss application)
Goal: organize kid’s toy storage
- Take inventory of toys
- Discard broken toys, donate ones no longer used
- Consider/measure space to be used as storage
- Browse types of storage
- Purchase or build any needed shelving/containers
- Sort and stow toys by category, and label if desired
- Show/explain organization to children, and practice putting toys away in their proper homes
New Year’s Resolutions are known to be difficult to keep, though the desire to make changes and achieve goals is admirable, and even necessary. There are plenty of better alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions that can make goal-setting more successful. Bigger Pockets’ Co-Host Brandon Turner, Forbes writer Naz Beheshti, and the education world’s guidelines for SMART Goals all provide valuable contributions to successful goal-setting.
To make headway with our goals and intentions, we must do these six things:
- Clarify our vision
- Set specific yet realistic goal(s) to accomplish our vision
- Identify all the steps necessary to reach our goal and fulfill our vision
- Plan when to accomplish each step
- Seek help or accountability
- And, of course, actually follow through
Why don’t you join us on our 90-day sprint?
I plan to let my subscribers know at the beginning of April how our family’s first 90-day sprints turned out. (How’s that for accountability?)
What dreams and goals do you have for yourself or your family? What steps will you take to achieve them? Please share in the comments below so we can encourage one another!