Resolutions can lack resolve. Aspirations and goals are more manageable. In this New Year, make plans for change instead of resolutions.
The best thing about the start of a new year is hope. Each new beginning brings hope: Hope for a better year, hope to be a better person, hope for lasting happiness.
Instead of making unobtainable resolutions, make reasonable, achievable and, most importantly, measurable goals. What you can measure, you can obtain.
The most common resolutions are vague improvements like “lose weight, save money or get in shape.” Those are also the most commonly broken resolutions. Without a measurable goal, you can’t measure your success. Be kind to yourself if you ‘backslide’ and miss a day at the gym or commit some other treason against your resolution. Everyday is a chance to start over, so embrace it.
A new beginning is a great time to review where you are and where you want to be. If you long to travel, look at the steps you need to take to make that happen. Each step is a mini-goal in your path to where you want to be. It might mean reviewing your budget and developing a new saving habit. Maybe you need to renew your passport and review where you truly want to visit.
Each step brings you a little closer to your goal. These mini-goals are achievable and each one you meet gives you a little taste of success and encourages you to keep working toward your big goal.
It only takes 21 days to change a habit. If you want to start exercising or save money, planning in 21-day steps can help you achieve your goals. Start small for the first 21 days and establish the foundation of your new habit. For a savings plan, that might mean keeping a spending journal to learn how you spend and analyzing it to see where you can cut back. Your next 21 days might be integrating the budget cuts into your life.
If you have multiple goals, take them 21 days at a time. Decide which is first and tackle them one at a time. When you are comfortable with the first and have met your mini-goal and completed your first 21 days, then begin the foundation for the next. Too much change too fast may be hard to maintain.
Making lifetime changes takes time. Be patient and accept that each small step is important. It might be cliché, but the fable of the hare and the tortoise has endured hundreds of years because there is truth in the tale. Slow and steady is how you make life changing habits. If your goal is to lose weight, remember how long it took to gain it and consider that when you set your goals. It may seem frustrating to plan in these long chunks, but three weeks is a blink in the span of a lifetime.
When taking stock of your life, remember to count the good. It is easy to look at what we want to change and see only flaws, but remember what you do well and give yourself credit for what you have gotten right.
Let go of worry. Accept your flaws; they make you human. In Japan there exists the art of embracing flaws. It is called wabi sabi and it is about accepting what is and seeing the beauty in imperfection. The practice is embodied in repairing cracked pottery with gold. This leaves a visible and striking shimmery line in place of the crack. It takes the broken and makes it not only usable, but beautiful and unique. We are like that too. Use this New Year to fill your flaws with gold.
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.