I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It may be a nice time for a status check, and maybe some corrections as a result. In fact, I suspect that’s where the idea came from in the first place. But the idea of turning over a new leaf just because it’s a new year is kind of silly — much more the idea that one time a year is appropriate for this.
But because it’s New Year’s Day, and because people tend to make resolutions, I’ve decided to play along with my topic today.
We have plenty of opportunities for checkpoints — birthdays, New Year’s Day or any holiday that results in some time to reflect. Take the opportunity for a status check. Am I who I want to be? Am I who I should be? What are my goals? Am I on the correct path to achieve them?
Of course, you must have some goals in the first place, and they need to be achievable. If you have no goals, you’ll achieve exactly that: nothing. Without a course set, you don’t go anywhere. Or worse yet, you go blindly wherever.
But unattainable goals can be just as bad, if not worse. What’s the most common result of a New Year’s resolution? “Ah, forget it.” Why? Because unrealistic goals were set. If your goals are too lofty, you’ll set yourself up for failure, which can feel much worse than wafting in the breeze with no goals.
If you look at your life on New Year’s Day and think perhaps you haven’t done what you thought you would by now, try setting some simple goals. Pick something reasonable. Is there something you want to learn? Some attitudes you want to adjust? Great. But give yourself a chance to succeed.
First, do your research. Find the next step. If you decide you want to become a plumber, don’t set your initial goal to opening your own plumbing business. Maybe trade school should be your first goal. Whatever it is, you need two pieces to be correct: an attainable goal and a plan.
What’s a reasonable goal to expect in the next year? Or maybe the next few months? That should be your goal. Then lay out your plan. Find out what it takes to get there and plan your next steps accordingly. Schedule it. Put it on your calendar.
Just as importantly, you need checkpoints. If you wait until New Year’s Day rolls around again, you’ve probably already failed. Checkpoints give you the opportunity to evaluate your progress. Are you where you expected to be? If not, why? Did you slack off? Did you get distracted? Did something come up that left you no choice?
Failure is a difficult beast. Failing to reach a goal is sometimes the result of having to settle for a different goal. For example, financial problems forced me to choose a different goal this year. I didn’t come anywhere near finishing my second fantasy novel. But I didn’t go bankrupt either. I may have failed to reach my original goal, but I met my emergency goal.
And that’s why checkpoints are so important. They allow us to make reasonable decisions along the way. They remind us what we ought to be doing. Don’t use them as a chance to offer excuses or give up on your goals. But make adjustments where appropriate.
Just remember, resolutions are usually announcements about what you will fail at this year. Instead, set reasonable, achievable goals. And don’t limit your checkpoints to New Year’s Day. Check your progress regularly, and don’t be afraid to adjust your plan. Forward is always a better direction than nowhere.