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Life By Design Blog

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10 Tips for Resolving Resolutions

Hi everyone. Happy New Year, I hope the new year is treating you well.

January is the time of year when people tend to set new year's resolutions so I thought I'd share some ten tips about how to set better resolutions and set goals that you're more likely to stick to throughout the year.

You can listen to the blog here

1 Don't leap into action

Most people are leaping into action straight away, ready to hit their goals every day in January but the best thing you can do, if you want to achieve what you want this year, is to stop and slow down rather than speed up. Think first about what it is you want to achieve. Think about ‘your why’. Once you’ve achieved your goal what are you going to get out of it, and is what you're going to get out of it worth the extra time and extra effort? It's worth taking a moment to step back and think about your values, what's important to you in your life, and how this new action that you're going to take on is going to help you get there and serve that purpose.

2 Don't set goals for the year

If you think about trying to climb the Empire State Building by the stairs and you think about climbing every flight of stairs in that building in one go, it's going to feel pretty overwhelming. That, in turn, kills your motivation. We tend to try and set goals for doing something every day for the entire year. But we might be better off just trying to set goals for just the next month, or the first quarter, or the first six months. For example, you may wish to take the first step in the next three months and then set new goals for the following quarter (and so on so forth). You don't even have to work in quarters or months, you can use days, weeks or whatever time period of time that you want. So have think carefully about the time period that you want to measure your goal over and break down your goals into small steps. Just aim for the first hurdle and then take it from there.

3 Separate achievement and fulfilment

I was having a chat with some friends yesterday about the difference between being and achieving. Being is about how you feel. It's about the feelings and the emotions that you experience. Whereas achievement is about the things that you do.

Achievement and fulfilment are not the same thing. Most people want fulfilment, a state of being. That's why they set goals. They think that goals, once achieved, are going to give them fulfilment. However, feeling fulfilled is something that you could possibly have now if you chose it. You could allow yourself to feel fulfilled without the goal. Sometimes, even achievement wont make you fulfilled if you are missing something in your life, it’s just proves to be a temporary distraction.

Aim for what's going to make your life better. A simple way to do this is to think about what you want your life to be like. So rather than the setting goals in your career, or setting goals for fitness and weight loss etc take a step back and think about your entire life. Consider every aspect, your health, your fitness, your personal growth, your spirituality, your relationships and ask yourself: in 12/24/36 months time (or the period you're using) what do I want my entire life to be like? Then, set your goals based on that.

4 Lower your expectations

This one might be controversial with some people but a great way to tackle your goals for the year is maybe to lower your expectations. Now that might seem odd as we live in a culture where we're all convinced that we're supposed to be reaching for the stars, or taking moon shots and creating stretch goals. But when we're not happy in life, it's not always because we need to do more stuff or take on more goals or be more successful in order to be happy. Quite often, when we feel frustrated it's because our life isn't matching our expectations. That’s not necessarily because what we're doing isn't good, or that we're not good enough or we're not working hard enough. It's because our expectations are way out of check. If you think about the workplace or in social media, or just the people around you, we are usually comparing our inside to other people's outsides. We make pretty poor comparisons between where we are and where other people are. We tend to have our expectations set far too high. So this may not sound very inspirational but I would suggest maybe thinking about lowering your expectations rather than taking on too much. It may lead to being happier and more fulfilled as the year progresses.

5 Think about what to lose

Most of us take on more things in the new year. We start a diet, pick up a fitness regime, fill in job applications and on what we're going to get. But rarely do we think about what it is we're going to stop doing. If you take on new activity and devote more effort, more time and more energy and passion into pursuing a new goal, you have to remove something else from your diary and you have to free up your mental bandwidth. So if you take something else on, what comes out? Is it less time with family and friends, less time on social media or using your phone or is it less time sleeping? You're going to have to make that exchange. Think about what you're prepared to give up at the same time. When we have a conflict between what we want to achieve and what we already have, what we already have tends to win.

6 Focus on your strengths

When setting resolutions most people focus on what they're lacking. The weight they haven't lost, the fitness they don't have, the money or the job that they haven't got yet or the talent or the skill that they don't yet possess. We look at the problems and then set resolutions in order to solve them.

For 2019, I would absolutely love it if people would focus on their strengths. You already have a lot of success and do so many things really well. You already have a lot of talents, skills, and great personal qualities to equip you for the year ahead. Which of those could you do more of? Which of those, if you were to spend more time focusing on them, would make you more successful, more fulfilled, and more happy in the coming year?

Neuroscience suggests that when we focus on our strengths (what we're good at and what we're passionate about) our reward response is activated and we tend to be more successful than when than our threat response is activated (which is what happens when we focus on problems). For this reason, focusing on our strengths is more motivational, meaning that we are likely to keep going and this creates an upward spiral of success.

7 Appreciate what you already have

Usually when we set resolutions, we want to change something and make our situation different to how it is at the moment. Of course, there's nothing wrong with personal growth but it might be worth investing more time and appreciation for what you already have. Which relationships are already working for you? What are you happy about in your life? What are you grateful for? What already brings you joy? What do you want to keep hold of?

Also consider how you could be grateful for the problems in your life. I know that sounds a little bit weird but it's a good question to ask yourself. So ask yourself how could you be grateful for the problems that you have and just let your mind ponder the answer. Being happy and fulfilled is not necessarily about creating resolutions it’s about appreciating what we already have.

8 Don’t share your goals

There is conventional wisdom that says if you share your goals and you put them out there in public, people know what you're doing and therefore they are more likely to hold you to account. The theory is that you try and save face and this forces you to stick to your goal. This is true. But the problem with this is that the minute people stop looking at you or the minute you think that people won't pick you up on your lack of effort, you're likely to lose that motivation. You’re looking for external validation of of how you’re doing.

However, if you want to be successful with your resolutions and goals, you also need intrinsic motivation. We need that internal satisfaction of just knowing for ourselves that what we've done is good enough. We need to want it for ourselves. Think back to tip number one and think about ‘your why’. If you've got a really good ‘why’ and you know the purpose of your goal, that should be enough to keep you going. If you're really excited about it you shouldn't need to share your goals to keep you honest. Of course, if you also have that intrinsic motivation, there's no reason why you can't share your goals but don't rely on it.

9 Measure by inputs, not outputs

This might fly in the face of a lot of self improvement advice but I think it's a really interesting point of view. Some people will tell you to aim for a goal, like getting a promotion, and that even though you can't control whether or not you get that promotion as long as you aim for it, work hard, do your research and do your prep, you're more likely to be successful than if you aim low.

This is partially true. However, you're not in control of whether or not you get that promotion. Maybe your boss doesn't like you. Maybe there are lots of really good candidates for the role. Maybe you're not suited to the role or culture. Perhaps you’re boss is in a bad mood on the day of the interview or maybe you have the misfortune to look like someone that bullied them at school. There are so many factors that you just can't control. This might lead you to feel like you failed if you haven’t been unsuccessful. But that doesn't necessarily mean that what you did wasn't good, or that you didn't benefit from it in some way.

There is another approach. Try measuring success by what you want to put into the endeavour rather than by the results. I was chatting to a friend yesterday about her goals for her social media account (it's part of her job). She was tracking her success based on likes and comments, which can be a useful metric. However, her resolution for this year is to track the quality of what she puts in. So if she's happy with photography, she knows that a picture is good and it meets her own standards, she's not going to let the likes and comments be the measure of whether or not she did a good job. She's going to decide for herself. This will be far more motivating and much, much less stressful meaning she's likely to stick out her goal in the long run.

10. Track according to motivation

This is a point of view on motivation that I've discovered recently.

The advice is to not only track what you've done, but also consider what's left to go and switch between the two at the halfway point. Here's an example: let's say your your goal was to run a 10 mile race. For the first five miles count your progress upwards so you feel good about what you’ve already achieved. After you get to the halfway point you should start to count down (four miles to go, three miles left to go, two miles to go etc) so that you see that number decreasing. This helps you feel like you're getting closer to your goal you’re more likely to feel motivated to get over the finish line.

All the best😀

So there we go. 10 tips and slightly different viewpoints on how to set resolutions or goals for the New Year.

If you're setting some goals I wish you all the best and if you're not setting any and just appreciating what you have, then I wish you all the best with that too. Take care everybody and have a happy new year.