I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. There was a time, long ago, when I jumped on the bandwagon along with everyone else every New Year’s Eve, promising to lose a certain amount of weight, complete a big project I’d been putting off, or exercise every day. Inevitably, along with most other Americans who make resolutions, these lofty goals would fail. A recent article in Forbes Magazine said that only 8 percent of Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions achieve the intended results.
But feelings of frustration about failed resolutions aren’t the reason I don’t make them anymore. Failure is one of the best ways to learn. And one thing I learned from the failure of New Year’s resolutions is that there’s a better way to set goals. Instead of waiting for one specific night each year, why not set goals all year long?
The beginning of a new year can seem like the perfect time to start something new – and it can be, but so can any other day of the year. Timing is far less important than methods, and the most important thing is to have a plan. Resolutions, after all, are simply words. But a plan is more concrete. A plan has words and actions. And when you lay out a plan with specific steps, you aren’t frustrated when you don’t reach the end goal quickly.
Which brings me to another issue I have with resolutions, they often focus on the end results rather than the journey. But the steps along the way are so much more important than the overall outcome. If I am only focused on losing ten pounds, I might not be able to celebrate the fact that I’m choosing fruit over cookies, my energy levels are much higher, and my jeans are fitting better.
Finally, while resolutions are typically an individual thing, goals can be shared with a group of like-minded people all setting the same intention for their lives. I am incredibly fortunate to have an amazing group of people who help keep me motivated, push me when I need it, hold me up when I need support, and never let me give up.
It’s a group I found accidentally, when I set the solitary goal of taking up jogging. A friend got wind of my plan, and told me to join a group at the track. “It will be fun,” she said. That first day, it was anything but fun. I arrived and they were doing sprints. Trying to do sprints on the first day of running is like trying to finish writing a novel in a day – totally unrealistic and somewhat crazy to attempt. If I had been on my own out there, I likely would have walked away, telling myself once again that running is just something I can’t do.
Instead, I found encouragement. I ran a quarter of the way around the track, and was celebrated. I heard people calling my name, and had a coach there telling me I could, indeed, do it. Support makes all the difference. Three and a half years later, I regularly run in 5K races. Running races was never part of my original goal, but it has been an amazing part of the journey.
It really all comes down to commitment. A resolution is easy to say – following through on a goal is hard to do. And when you choose when to begin, you can be sure you are truly ready, instead of trying to force it because it happens to be January first.
None of the goals I’ve set for myself in recent years have been too ambitious, requiring huge amounts of time, special equipment, memberships or money. Instead of pressure to follow through (and guilt if I don’t) I give myself the gift of patience, of persistence and commitment. I know that if I take a step backwards, all is not lost. I can begin moving forward again the next day. And that’s better than empty words any day.