As the New Year approaches I’ve begun to brace myself for the throngs of Resolustionists who will be flooding the cardio machines come January. Unlike some who consider these people a nuisance, I applaud their desire to improve their lives. I just wish they used a more successful method. I can’t remember the exact number of those who fail at their resolutions, but it’s close to one hundred percent. I’d like that to change.
I’m unique in that my birthday falls just after New Years (January 9 if you feel like sending me gifts), so instead of resolutions I set “Birthday Goals.” It’s a practice I started several years ago and a process I look forward to every winter. It starts in November or December when I begin to brainstorm the things I’d like to accomplish over the next year. In 2011 I had one goal and that was to lose thirty pounds. The next year I added more goals to the list and eventually decided my max number of goals would be ten. Once I’ve chosen my ten goals, I write them down in a notebook and then every day for several months, I rewrite them as if I were a naughty student writing sentences on the chalkboard.
Through this process I’ve discovered several methods for setting goals that work and several that don’t. For some insight, I thought I’d share some of my goals from the last two years, the Pros and Cons of each, and what I’ve learned from them.
I will help my wife achieve her personal and professional goals.
Every year I make my number one goal to help someone other than myself. This goal meets that criterea, but it’s not specific or measurable which are two factors that are very important. Regardless, this goal turned out to be a success and our marriage is stronger because of it.
Goals 4, 6 and 8
I will master the guitar neck.
I will learn After Effects and Swift Code.
I will learn to play drums.
The “master the guitar neck” and “learn to play drums” goals should have been more specific and measurable, but overall, this is a classic case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach. All these goals required lots of time, which was lacking for me in 2017. Considering After Effects, Swift Code and Drumming were all brand new skills, I’d simply cast my net too wide. I would have been better off focusing on one new skill in addition to improving as a guitarist. On the bright side, I practiced guitar every day in 2017 and sharpened my skills immensely. I even learned some After Effects but I still know nothing about Swift Code or Drumming
If I gave myself 1 point for each success, half a point for each mixed result and 0 points for each failure, my score for achieving my goals in 2017 was 4.5 out of 10. After reviewing what worked and what didn’t, I tried to refine my process in 2018, and the results swung heavily in my favor.
I will help my wife make 100% Club (a specific designation within her company).
This goal is great because it’s not about me, AND it’s specific and measurable. My wife had her best year ever in 2018. This is far more indicative of her than me, but the process was easier on her since I was helping rather than hindering.
Goals 3, 6, 7 and 8
I will record an EP with Kid Nebraska (my band).
I will play 100 total shows.
I will earn my Brown Belt in Jiu Jitsu.
These are all superb goals because they’re specific, they’re measurable, and because they’re building upon things I was already doing. None of these goals forced me to widen my focus and in fact the opposite was true. All these goals forced me to narrow my focus on the most important things and make significant improvements in them. I’m proud to say I achieved all these goals in 2018.
By the same grading standard as above, my score for 2018 would have been 8 out of 10. A vast improvement from the prior year. 2018 has been a challenging year in many aspects, but I consider it the year I finally figured out how to properly set goals.
If you’re having trouble sticking to your New Year’s Resolutions, I’d encourage you to try this method. Here are the rules I’ve learned to follow:
- Choose up to ten goals you’d like to achieve. Write them down and then rewrite them every day for several months.
- Make at least one goal to help someone other than yourself.
- Make your goals specific and measurable.
- Don’t choose too many goals that force you to widen your focus.
- Choose several goals that force you to focus on improving the areas of your life that are most important to you.
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