December 19, 2012

Head Start on New Year's Resolutions

In less than two weeks, it's likely most of us will be declaring our New Year's Resolutions to family, friends and collegues. 

Or, if you're more like me, you may scribble the resolutions down perhaps in a private journal -- a kind of insurance to make sure nobody knows whether or not you have succeeded by the end of the year.

Admit it -- most of us have high expectations. We want to lose (insert pounds/kilos/stones), we want to do more, be better, pass the exam and get the promotion. We want to look like and actually be one of the 'successful' people. 

A few years ago, I made myself a goal book. I had some lofty goals in mind. I wanted to read one book a week, lose weight, do various photography projects, and get rid of other 'baggage' in my life -- all in one go! 

I definitely had some high ambitions. Throughout the year I referred to the book and kept a tally of how far behind I was on various projects. At the end of 2010, I looked back on my goal book and felt like a failure. I read half as many books as I wanted to, lost only a few pounds (and then gained them all back) cooked less than I planned to, and still had some baggage lurking, both proverbially and physically. 

My procrastination skills got the better of me in 2011 and instead of creating a new goal book, I revisited the 2010 book and focused on what I DID actually accomplish. I realized that although I didn't read 56 books that year, I still read 25 -- and that was better than not reading anything. I noticed that while I didn't get to all of the recipes I wanted to try out, I still cooked and baked a slew of new ones. I was so focused on what I didn't get done that I totally missed the things I actually accomplished. 

For 2012, I casually kept track of the new recipes I tried on a piece of paper on the fridge, wrote down the books I read in the back of my journal, and took photos of every crafty project I completed -- more out of being a pedantic record-keeper than anything else. After a while, without the 'pressure' of checking to see that I was fulfilling my quota of goals, the resolutions actually became a habit

While I came up with generic mottos for the year: read more, write more, walk more, eat healthier, love others -- along the way I discovered that by letting go of measuring myself, I had actually completed more -- and the 'more' was in fact better quality. 

I'm a firm believe in writing down your goals -- I don't remember who proved the theory or when, but apparently you have a much higher chance of reaching your target if you physically WRITE down your goals -- even if you never look at that piece of paper ever again. 

(This own theory has been proven in my life. During my third year at University, I wrote down a page worth of what seemed to be impossible and absurd things I wanted to do in life. Ten years later, I found that piece of paper and nearly passed out. Nearly everything except 'learn the guitar' had actually happened...)

However, I do think New Year's Resolutions are often in a special pressure-cooker category. I think sometimes we compare ourselves to others, or even our own image (past, present and what we think should be the future), so much that we forget that a resolution or goal is a process and doesn't often happen overnight. 

So we make a resolution, and by January 31st, we feel like a failure because we didn't go to the gym three times that week, or because we devoured two helpings of chocolate cake, or because we got angry with a family member. And then we throw in the towel.

The truth is, resolutions are not easy. They take time. Bear in mind that you may fall off the resolution horse. But then you get back on.

As a child, I had a pony. She wasn't the most obedient thing -- she ran away once and she used to do numerous things at horse shows to purposely embarrass me, I think. She also bucked me off several times. Each time, my mother made me climb back up on her. 

I used to believe it was so I wouldn't be scared of riding after the fall. In reality, I had to get back on my stubborn pony to show her that I was still in charge -- and that she wasn't the boss of me. 

So as you plan your New Year's Resolutions, keep that in mind. No matter what pitfalls January brings, you still have 11 months after that to climb back onto the horse. (Then again, who made the rule that you have to get it all done in 12 months?) Just because your goal book is only half full at the end of this year or even next, it doesn't mean you've failed. It simply means that some things may take a little longer -- and that's okay.

Above all else, stop comparing yourself to others. I did that for a long time -- and once I actually stopped, I saw far more potential in myself than I realized. Read that story here.  

(Of course, this is my own method for accomplishing my personal New Year's Resolutions. Maybe you have a different story -- how do you stay on track?) 

1 comment:

  1. Nice photos. And I agree with 'the writing down your goals plan'. For whatever reason, I am feeling motivated in 2013 to maintain purpose in life. It helps to have a vision. Thanks for your thoughts.