I love the fresh, clean feeling of new things, don’t you? Opening up that new laptop for the first time. The sound of the spine creaking as you open a new book. The smell of a freshly opened can of tennis balls.
Hey, don’t judge … you have your thing too.
Outside of the fact that it’s my birthday (🎉), there is just something about January 1st that feels so new. Like that Christmas sweater you are about to receive, it’s got that warm fuzzy feeling without all of the pilling that comes after you’ve washed it a few times. It’s easily one of my favorite days of the year.
Now, if you’ve ever been given the chance to start something over, then you know there is something great about getting another chance to do things right. For some reason though, it seems we always tend to wait for a particular moment in time before starting over.
“Oh man, I messed that up today. Better luck tomorrow.”
“I need to start that workout program, but not until Monday.”
“Well, I’m not gonna hit that goal this month. I might as well just cash it in and try again next month.”
The start of a new day, week, or month somehow represents the chance to start over. I’ve never heard anyone say “Darn, I screwed that up. I guess I’ll start over at 2:00 on Tuesday.”
End the Trend
So if it’s true that we tend to wait for a particular moment in time to start over, then why is it that the majority of people no longer set New Years resolutions? January 1st is the start of a brand new year. It seems like a great time to start something over again, doesn’t it?
In researching this topic I performed a complex, highly-scientific study (okay … it was a Facebook poll) to determine whether people still set goals for the New Year. 60% of respondents said that they no longer set goals because they were boring and useless. The majority of people believe that setting goals is a waste of time and no longer worth the paper they write them down on.
I believe what’s happened is that we’ve given up on setting goals because we think setting goals doesn’t work. We’ve tried them and failed so it must be the goals that are the problem.
First of all, failure is normal. Let me go ahead and address that elephant in the room right now. You’re going to fail. You’re aren’t always going to reach your goals. There are many different reasons for this. Just know that it can and will happen. Knowledge is power.
Next, if you’ve tried setting a bunch of different goals and have failed at reaching all of them, I’d ask you to look at the common denominator in all of those goals. That’s you, by the way. Maybe the problem isn’t with setting goals, maybe the problem is you.
“But you don’t know my life!”
You’re right. But as someone who has tried and failed many, many times to lose weight and get in shape I can tell you that 100% of the time it was because of me.
It’s not the workout program. All the workout programs I have on my shelf work. I just don’t want to put in the time it takes to do them. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to sweat or be sore.
It’s also not the restriction of the diet. I just want that hamburger and French fries (and Diet Coke) more than I want a salad. I want to eat something fried more than I want to eat the broccoli.
I want the results of the goal without having to put in what it takes to get there.
So you see, it’s not the goal, it’s me. It’s unfair to yourself and to the goal to say that the goal isn’t right or that goals in general no longer work. If I don’t work at my goals, my goals won’t work for me.
This trend can end today. You can stop blaming your goals and start setting the right ones. You can have your best year ever. Here’s how.
The Anatomy of a Goal
First things first, goals get a bad rap because we don’t know how to set good ones. We say things like “I want to be a millionaire,” “I want to read more” or “I want to lose weight.” We think these are good goals, but they’re not.
The problem isn’t that these statements aren’t worthy of being true. Being a millionaire would be awesome! The problem is that these aren’t goals, they’re dreams. They lack vision, action, and anything that would encourage you or keep you on the path to accomplishing them.
One method of goal setting that I’m particularly fond of says that goals should be S.M.A.R.T. These kinds of goals are:
- Specific: What exactly do you want to achieve?
- Measurable: How can you track this?
- Achievable: Is this something you can actually accomplish?
- Relevant: Does this goal make sense for you in your life right now?
- Time-Bound: What’s the deadline?
There is such a big difference between saying “I want to lose weight” and “I want to lose 5 pounds per month for the next 12 months by eating healthy meals and working out 6 days per week.” The former is a dream. The latter is a plan of action.
Breaking down your dreams into S.M.A.R.T. goals creates smaller, more achievable steps that are simpler and more likely to be accomplished over time.
Beware Goal Fatigue
A lot of the time our goals get set by the wayside because we just get tired of chasing after them. Goals like the weight loss one above are awesome and they allow you to keep your goals small and achievable. But what happens when you’re 5 months and 25 pounds in (which is awesome, by the way) and you are just tired of eating kale and grilled chicken? You’re tired of checking a box after every workout … do I really have to keep doing this?
This is goal fatigue. You get bored of doing the same old thing day after day. This is when you start entertaining ideas like working out more or eating less so that you hit your goal sooner. You might start thinking about giving up on your goal. You’ve made it this far and that’s pretty good, right? Perhaps you could just stop tracking it.
Whatever the case is, goal fatigue is real and it’s probably going to happen. When it does, this is a chance to revisit your goal and remember your “why.” Why did you choose this goal in the first place? Deep down inside, why do you want this? Over the long haul it is only this “why” that will keep you dialed in and able to keep pushing through when things seem tough or boring.
You also have the opportunity here to change some things up. Do your tracking differently, at a different time or place. Try something that is still related to your goal but that makes you feel like you’re doing something different. Coming up with different ways to do the same thing allows your mind to think and your body to react in different ways than you’re used to. Doing this helps the goal feel fresh and new once again.
Plan for the Unplanned
Life itself is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to not achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Things happen that we haven’t planned for and it throws us off of our neatly planned schedule we created when we made our goals.
This is my personal Achilles’ heel. This is one of the hardest ones for me because once I’m off my schedule it’s so hard for me to get back on it. The instant I miss something I feel like a failure and that I can’t go on or I need to start over again. I so easily forget that I’ve already been making progress and that I can just pick back up again from where I was before life threw me a curve ball. I really can start again at 2:00 on Tuesday.
Life will happen. Things will come up. The more prepared you are for that, the better the chances are that you’ll see your goals succeed.
The Bible says that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). We’ve got to have a vision and plan for our lives. There is real, actual danger (the people perish!) in just letting life take us wherever it wants to go.
We should be the ones telling our lives where they should go. It is possible for us to have goals and plans that can actually be achieved and aren’t just useless wastes of time.
Make S.M.A.R.T. goals. Do what you can to avoid goal fatigue. Understand that life will happen … and that’s okay because you’ve planned for it and you know what you’re going to do when it does.
Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not our goals that are the problem. If we’re willing to put in a little work up front and continue that work throughout the year, we really can have the best, most productive year we’ve ever had.