I learned quite some time ago that it takes 21 days to create or break a habit, so why is it that the first month of the year is over, and many of our New Year’s resolutions are not sticking like we thought they would? And as it relates to the rhythms and seasons of the year, winter simply might not be the best time to force unforgiving expectations of yourself. Bears are hibernating, trees have shed their leaves, and are in the waiting phase before blooming again in the spring, so as humans, it’s fair to not expect a robust boost of energy and newness at this time.
Now that January is over, it may be time to take a step back and consider if you’re being realistic with your goal-setting. As a non-believer in New Year’s resolutions, I want to use this space to explore how we can incorporate change into our lives, and reach goals we’ve set for ourselves in a practical way.
Don’t Wait Until the New Year To Start
In one of author Alex Elle’s recent interviews, she speaks on the importance of “leaning into who we are today” and getting rid of the pressures to reinvent yourself every time the new year rolls around. I think this point really helps us to remember the importance of being present. If we are in tune with ourselves, and how our lives are flowing (or not flowing), we can make the changes that we need for the better, today.
If you want to cut alcohol from your diet, start now by committing to no more than 3 drinks a week. And then in a month 2 drinks and in another month 1 drink, until you meet your goals. It’s nice to have deadlines and benchmarks for goals, but delaying the starting point is procrastinating. I also struggle with the term “New Year, New Me” because reinventing yourself can truly be an exhausting process. If there are changes that I need to make for me to feel better, how will it benefit me to wait, and how will I magically achieve these instantaneous transformations? Regular journaling and meditation practices can work as check-ins to help you stay in tune with who you are today.
Do The Work, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
The reality is that in order to reach your goals, you will have times when you feel completely unmotivated to do so. So it’s imperative that the way you structure your goals is practical for your lifestyle.
Say you’re looking to learn how to play a new instrument. If you have a full work day in the office and have a long commute, it may not be ideal to aim to practice guitar every day of the week for 4 hours a day after work. But 30 minutes or an hour might work because it takes into account the time you will need to rest and unwind. If you’re a morning person you might even consider adding an additional 30 minutes to your day by waking up early or possibly narrowing down working on your new goal to only 2-3 days a week. You can reach these conclusions by writing down exactly what it is you’re looking to achieve, and how your time is currently being occupied. Then you can look at the free time you have and see what might be achievable within those parameters. It might even be a good time to weed out pieces of your day that you feel are a waste of time.
Another way to be practical when making plans to reach a goal is, to be honest with yourself about who you are. Last year, I created a rigorous reading goal to read a book a week. Halfway into the year, I realized this wasn’t realistic or sustainable. Mostly because I was someone who had hardly ever read over 10 books a year, and I didn’t take into account that I have a life full of change and surprises. I found myself on vacation or traveling for work, and simply not having the time to read, or the time to even adjust to a steady schedule quickly enough to fit in leisure reading.
Even when things were pretty ‘normal’ in my routine, I had days when I was vibrating low and couldn’t bring myself to clean my room, eat a full meal, let alone pick up a book to read– no matter how enjoyable the story was. A more realistic goal would have been something along the lines of 50 pages a week or even a book a month. This minimizes the goal into smaller portions to accommodate my lifestyle, and also gives room for off days by creating a reachable goal over the span of multiple days. As a prep practice for goal setting, evaluate who you are and how you can still attain your ambitions amidst your worst days.
Keep Yourself Accountable with Tangible Reminders
Once you get past self-reflecting and creating manageable targets, you’re going to have to hold yourself accountable for the steps, and not just the end goal. If you have a to-do list or calendar, make sure your baby steps are included, so you can see them being completed with all of your other tasks.
Vision boards, a growing social media trend, are a nice way to help you visualize and remember the things you want to achieve. You might take a more structured route and set an alarm on your phone to remind you when to start working on your task for the day. Another great idea might be an accountability partner who you can check in with regularly to identify if you’re on the right path. A lot of people work better when they have another person to help keep them on track, that’s why gym partners work so well. These regular check-ins will also help maintain staying in the present. You may be reviewing your progress and decide you need to restructure your plan because you can handle more or you need to lighten up your load. This will help you confidently achieve the things you want, and celebrate accordingly!
So, take this as your friendly reminder to be real with yourself and your desires. How exactly will you reach your destination as the person you are in this present moment? Consider who you are on your best and worst days, and decide – how can you outline a plan for that person. A goal without a plan is just a wish. And don’t forget to think about how you’re going to celebrate when you achieve your goals, because you WILL achieve them all. I’m rooting for you!
Asya is an accounting and finance professional who loves fiction novels, travel, writing, nature, and being a plant mom.