It is no secret that resolutions we make for the new year tend to fizzle out by January 15th, if not sooner. Despite that, we end every year with things we want to change, work on, improve, or start. Whether it is health, family, school, work, finances, or fun — we all have aims we're shooting for. But, if most resolutions are hard to follow, get put off, and seem doomed to fail, how can we do this? Instead of picking a rigid resolution, set a theme for your new year, and then ask yourself daily if your actions and choices are pushing you towards or away from that ultimate aim.
It may seem like a lot of goals fail because they're not specific enough, but I would contend that some resolutions fall flat because they're specific enough that we notice ourselves failing. And when we notice that we're failing, we just give up. If we promised to go to the gym twice a week, the first time we don't, we'll feel an element of failure. The first B instead of the A we were shooting for will feel more catastrophic. The pressure we put on ourselves to meet our resolutions could be what ultimately makes us give up on them. Thus, by loosening up the constraints of our goal, and making it more of a target to aim for than a bullseye to hit right on, we give ourselves a chance to fail here and there but to succeed in the end.
So, what's a theme?
A theme can be anything from a certain area to focus on, like "health," "finances" or "family", to something less general like "personal style," "academic improvement," or "community involvement." Our theme should be something that we can visualize or get a feeling from. Give yourself a target to aim at, without pigeonholing yourself into a specific goal. Instead of "I want to lose weight" or "I want to run X distance in Y time," say "I want to focus on my health" or "I want to feel healthier by 2017." For style, instead of "I want to dress like X" or "I want to have Y item," say "I want to develop my personal style" or "I want to find my look."
It's an important step to solidify that word into a sentence, but ultimately, you should try to reduce your theme into just one word. Use the exercise of crafting that sentence length goal to help yourself understand your aim, but when you're visualizing "develop my style" or "focus on my health," it should just come back down to a theme of "style" or "health." Give yourself the shortest possible, most clear theme to go for.
Ok, so how do I pursue my theme?
1. Put it places. Write it on post it notes. Find quotes related to it and place them around where you'll see them every day.
2. Declutter yourself of things that will detract from the goal. For example, if your goal is style, get rid of clothes that make you feel bad or don't reflect what you want. If it's health, put the good-for-you things in clear sight and the bad-for-you things out of sight or even into the garbage.
3. Use your theme to make choices. When you're making a decision in relation to your theme, ask yourself if that is taking you closer to or further from your goal. If your goal is travel, ask yourself if you need to spend your money on the expensive shoes, or if it could be saved for a weekend trip. If it's style, ask yourself if items you buy are creating the image you want.
4. Allow yourself to fail and take breaks. Sometimes a style-seeker will buy some sweatpants or go out looking less than perfect. The health-pursuant will have a pizza from time to time. Remind yourself that you don't have to be perfect to succeed.
5. Tell friends what you're doing. Having support is important. Let them be there to cheer you on and encourage you. If they're doing things to detract from your pursuit, like offering you tacos when you're seeking out a salad, remind them that your goal is important.
6. Measure your progress. Keep a journal, or a log. Find a metric that is appropriate to track how you're doing. Don't let it become an obsession, but give yourself some milestones and then reward yourself when you meet them.
7. Set small, low pressure goals. Don't let them define your theme, and don't feel set back if they don't work out. Even doing 75% of a small goal instead of finishing it perfectly puts you in a better position than if you didn't do it at all. For an example of small goals or simple resolutions, check this article out.
Ending your first semester is a beautiful time to reflect on how far you've come since childhood, the end of high school, and through your start to college. Hopefully things are amazing, but even so, the perspective we've gained from our first semester at school gives us a great chance to make the most of 2016, and to tackle something that we think could make a big difference in our lives.
Whether you choose "travel," "love," or "microwave-baking skill" as your theme, I hope you feel empowered to tackle your goal, and power through even when there are setbacks.
Happy new year!
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