Many people believe that if they don’t start their resolutions on January 1, a whole 364 more days must pass before they can give it another shot. While I do like the idea of starting off the new year with a “clean slate,” and fresh, new goals, I can also attest to the benefits of taking on a challenge later on in the year. (Not to mention that my rosy picture of an slow and peaceful introduction to January is usually thwarted by one factor or another.)
If you’re feeling “left behind” in the wake of a busy holiday season and didn’t get a change to think about ways to move forward for the new year, here are some ideas that might help push you forward:
1. Focus on just one “new thing/area” at a time.
I tend to get distracted by wanting to pursue about 10 areas I want to change, all at the same time. I want to work on a better exercise routine, redecorate my entire house, organize every nook and cranny, simplify and get rid of all the clutter, write a book, planting a garden, designing websites, and…and…squirrel!
I’m realizing that I’m a renaissance soul (and I’m reading a book by the same title right now, too). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. But, being interested in a lot of areas means I have to prioritize my interests and pursuits, and realize that if I want to make progress, I need focus.
This is a concept that Gretchen Rubin uses and recommends in her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. She lists several areas of change she wants to make, and then chooses just one for each month. Of course, it may be a broader concept that includes multiple subgoals (e.g., health means eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep), but they all work together, instead of ending up as ten unfinished projects.
My Past Project As Example
This is the concept that I’m using this year (I’m currently in the midst of my January-long goal), and one that I’ve found successful in the past. For instance, I made goals for 2012, mostly up through May; but after having a baby in the middle of the year (May), I had a lot of areas I wanted to work on once I started to come out of the post-baby
fog bliss. Among those were “the body” and “the house” and “income.” I felt scatterbrained trying to do all at once. So, I first started with “the body” in October in hopes that the energy reaped from improvement would carry over into other areas. Many a time that month, I was tempted to pick up a paintbrush, or go out and go shopping for home decor items. But, I continued to remind myself that that was not my focus that month. Meanwhile, I did collect ideas on Pinterest, and come up with mental images of some of the improvements I wanted to make.
During October, I did end up improving my health, and losing about 8 pounds from a healthier diet and exercise routing (weight loss was not my ultimate goal; health and wellness were). November came, and I ended up postponing “The Month of the House” due to a death in the family, and traveling half of the month. But, when December came, everything fell together quite easily (not to say it wasn’t hard work!) when it did come time to take on redoing our living room.
2. Stick with it for at least 30 days–change takes time.
It is human proclivity to be impatient, not merely cultural. At the same time, so much of our technology and access to information does get us used to repeatedly being able to get what we want very quickly. Not seeing results immediately can be discouraging, especially if we’ve found ourselves frustrated by failure in the past.
When working toward goals that move us toward change, it’s important to stick with it, even if we don’t see the results right away. One way to do this is to realize that each day is moving you closer toward your goal, and allow that realization to energize and empower you to do the same thing again and again until you reach your 30 days. If it’s something you’re wanting to add to your life long-term, this also reinforces the habit.
If you’re still at a loss for goals, Matt Cutts, an engineer at Google, recommends picking something you’ve always wanted to do, or have hoped to do but put off, and just do it for 30 days (obviously, there are limitations). He gives a great talk on this in this brief 3.5-minute video:
3. Ready? Set Goals!
Set it, and go! It can be disappointing to look back and realize you haven’t moved forward. Set a goal, and go for it. Even if you don’t perfect it, you’ll likely move forward from where you started. But, you have to start.