I don’t dislike the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. We humans need milestones to chunk up continuous flow like time. So we can wrap our heads around a particular period, reflect, evaluate, and set intentions.
That said, like many I struggle with goal setting. Many have gone unaccomplished — some for years and years. Goals are a fine convention for focusing one’s activities. But like many things in life, one approach doesn’t fit all.
So here are the approaches I’m employing currently, to create focus in ways that work for me.
Conventional goal setting calls for a particular outcome / result. And they say to make it measurable, so you have clarity about when you achieve it. Things like, I want to lose ## pounds/kilos or, in my case, I want to hit ## subscribers on YouTube.
The idea is that once you set an intention, the path will emerge. Not without effort of course, it’s important to be realistic about how you will achieve them.
I tried that, and I have to say I failed, a lot.
Here’s how my mind worked in those situations. I see a goal, and I start to think about how to best achieve them. My focus falls on efficacy, efficiency, how failproof my methods should be, and so on. The whole effort hinges on the question: will I produce the intended result?
If that works for you, you are doing great! Don’t change what works. Skip the rest of this section. 😉
If it doesn’t, let’s think about it. An outcome / result is a dot, a milestone. A point in time. It comes and goes. Yes, if you meet your goal it’ll be a boost to your confidence and a sense of accomplishment. But the moment passes, feelings change. Soon you will find another goal and off you go.
What about the time it takes to get there? That’s a line, not a dot. You spend far more time on the journey than the destination. And how do you feel about the experience of the journey itself?
See, for me if I focus on the outcome, I tend to disregard the process or the experience. I engage in activities based on my belief that they will get me to the destination. My enjoyment of it becomes a secondary concern, if at all. Which can turn my goal into a burden, something I’m trying to cross off. And the activities to get me there, a chore.
Along the way I learned an important lesson: life is what happens while you’re on the way.
It works better for me to focus not on outcome, but activities that bring me energy and joy. If I am consistent enough, then outcomes will come.
So this year my goals focus on engaging in activities. One example: I intend to go swimming twice a week, for 40 weeks this year. Because swimming is my favorite exercise and I miss it if I go too long without it. I’m investing in myself with that YWCA membership, so I better go often, dummit ✊
Make It Easy to Win
Now, notice I said above, “for 40 weeks.”
I am setting the bar low.
Another of the lesson I learned is: make it easy to win.
If you are the kind of person who can set lofty, ambitious goals and have enough personal accountability to rise for the occasion — I respect you. A lot.
I don’t have that strong of a will. And when I feel challenged in meeting my lofty goals, I start slipping under the weight. Once I start falling off the horse, it gets harder to get back on.
I have to be careful what I set up as my normal. I find energy and momentum in the culture of winning, not of failure.
Translation: it works better for me if I set super easy goals. Especially if I am trying to build new habits and patterns. For exercising, I used to say, it is a success if I show up for 5 minutes. And my recommendation is to really, count it a win even on days when that’s literally all you did.
I may even recommend that you forbid yourself from doing more in the beginning. Keep the bar low, do nothing but meeting it. Until the desire to go above becomes so unbearable that you can’t help but do so.
Normalize sticking to your intentions, by starting out with super easy, achievable goals.
Now, I have built myself a successful culture of exercising. Many weeks I do 5-6 times of 30+ minutes each. My counting app tells me I did 228 sessions in 2022. That’s 4.38 sessions per week if I count all 52, but 5.7 sessions if I count 40 weeks. I spent some weeks lying down in mental health episodes / recovery, not to mention getting COVID and its shots (each shot knocked me out 3 days).
So I’m still setting the bar low. I think about what feels reasonable / achievable, and then take it down a notch or two. To the point where I feel very confident. Barring some catastrophe there is no way I won’t be able to achieve it.
For 2023 I said I’ll exercise 4 times a week, 40 weeks, for total of 160 sessions. For intense exercises 20 minutes is enough, for lower 30+. Things like going skiing or walking a lot while traveling for my job totally count!
I wouldn’t set these goals if I were starting out in my fitness journey. I have been on it for some years and am feeling good about the strides I made last year. And still I set the bar lower than what I accomplished. It’s because I am excited about crushing this goal, knowing I’ve done it before!
Should I Tell, or Not?
There are two types of people in the world, and it helps to know which one you are.
The first type gets energized by sharing their goals with others. Asking them to help you stay accountable. Get energized by sharing of intentions.
The second type gets energized more from keeping goals a secret. Some people pre-experience their achievements simply by talking about them. Which takes away from the motivation to actually achieving them in real life.
I’m actually more of the second type myself. The goals I shared on this post, I did so only because I am very confident about them. Even though I set my goals “easy to win” by sharing them I’m increasing the pressure. If I keep them a secret, then I’m pursuing them simply because I want to. Not because I told someone about it and now I’m bound to my word.
I have some non-fitness intentions that are super exciting for me. Therefore, I will keep them a secret for now. 😉
Does It Energize You?
If you can’t tell already, I am actually excited about 2023. And my intentions for this period of time.
I recommend you re-examine your intentions if they don’t energize you. It doesn’t matter how good you think they are. Do your resolutions help you get out of bed in the morning, or do they feel “ugh” and make you want to stay in?
This was a recent lesson for me as well. Before my goals were a list of “shoulds.” Requirements I set so that I can feel good about myself.
Wait, if you don’t feel good about yourself to begin with, that’s a whole separate area to explore. Which I needed to, and I have, and I turned some corners in 2022. Now I am able to choose goals that feel fun and exciting, not because my self worth is riding on them.
If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this: create intentions that energize you. Otherwise, you are adding more things that are weighing you down.
Ready to Go!
I got so excited about my intentions for 2023 that I started working on them before the year began. 😛 And I couldn’t wait for the holiday season to be over and the year to turn.
What goals, resolutions, intentions or visions do you hold for 2023? Let me know — I hope it’s better than 2022! Here’s to making 2023 the best year yet!