The New Year, 2011, is just around the corner and, now that Christmas is over, a lot of people are beginning to contemplate a New Year’s resolution. I like the idea of a fresh start, but winter isn’t always the easiest time of the year to accomplish some goals, for example, weight loss, at least not for me.
According to last year’s Marist Poll (and I am sure they will be coming out with a new one soon), nearly half of Americans are likely to make a New Year’s Resolution; of those who did, 65% said they kept their resolution for at least part of the year while 35% ended up giving up. Not surprisingly the top three goals were: Lose weight, stop smoking, and exercise more. I was actually surprised at how many people claimed success, but as indicated in the report, it only represented partial success (they kept the resolution at least part of the year).
Losing weight is hard, a few years ago I resolved to lose twenty-five pounds I had hung onto since my last child was born, and it was no easy feat. Without having enrolled in a strictly monitored “fitness challenge” at the local YMCA, I am not sure I could have lost all twenty-five pounds in 4 months. As a college student I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day by the time I reached senior year and “quit” at least four times before I gave up smoking for good. I have conquered two of the most popular resolutions but not until after failing first.
I no longer make New Year’s resolutions the standard way, by choosing a goal and declaring it a hell or high water, do or die mission. Every year, right before the new year begins, I purchase a special hard cover journal and I begin to record a sort of “bucket list” for the year on the first pages. The journal isn’t just a resolution or goal journal, it’s about my life in that year, and I add to the list throughout the year. The real goal is to progress in my own eyes and enrich my life.
I am about to go back and look through my journal for 2010. I will check the first pages where I wrote my wish list to see how many goals I have checked off. If I haven’t checked them all off, I don’t sweat it. I see progress and I see a lot of new experiences and lessons learned. Each year since I started a New Year journal I have accomplished or tried things I never would have if I hadn’t planned for them and used the journal to stay motivated and inspired.
In this journal, goals like losing ten pounds might really be a goal within a goal like completing a marathon. Weight loss happens naturally during part of a marathon training program that includes eating properly (one goal), running longer distances (another goal), and losing more weight (if I accomplish goals one and two, goal three, weight loss happens as well). Getting to the start line of a marathon is a very concrete goal with a deadline. Success happens when large, not clearly defined goals, are broken into small enough steps, like a marathon training plan—with daily goals and weekly goals. And probably most importantly, I always make room for failure, as long as I stay the course 90% of the time, the occasional failure doesn’t matter and maybe it’s critical to a goal’s success to realize that.