Happy New Year...Resolutions, Anyone?

With a new year right around the corner, lots of people are talking about their goals for 2020. I've been asked countless times what my New Year's Resolutions are. My answer? I don't have any.

Sound unusual, especially for an Organizer?

Not really. It's nice to imagine that setting a goal that starts precisely at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st, will be successful. We can "start fresh," "really focus," and "have a clean slate."

Experience, and lots and lots of research into goal setting, in particular with regard to New Year's Resolutions, tells me something different.

There are many reasons why approximately 85% of New Year's Resolutions will fail, but I believe the two most common are the following... we either set too many goals, or we set goals that are too specific without a plan of action.

I love making all kinds of lists. They help clear up the clutter of things rattling around in my head, and allow me to budget my time and focus more effectively. My "to do" lists are often very long. Some items are time sensitive (return permission slip before Friday), some are specific (go to gym at least 4/5 days this week), and others are long-term (order tomato seeds by March 1st). I write them on a single page of a notebook, and one day each week (Thursday), I flip to a new page and re-write all the items that I still need to complete. It doesn't stress me out, I find I generally get my time sensitive items done, and re-writing an unfinished goal week after week is often motivation enough to get it completed!

In regards to setting goals for a new year, many people have long lists as well. Many include losing weight, eating healthier, and exercising more, connecting more frequently with loved ones, or increasing performance at work. All of these goals require a lot of energy and change. Psychologists say that having TOO MANY goals can exhaust our efforts and motivations enough to make reaching ONE goal nearly impossible.

If your goals are too specific ("I will lose 30 pounds this year"), and don't include a clear plan, it is easy to skip a day or two because of a busy schedule or a holiday weekend, which becomes easier to do, which leads to frustration, and BAM, there goes THAT resolution. Setting small benchmarks along the way helps keep you on track.

Setting goals is a valuable process. The setting of goals has been shown to increase (employee) motivation and organizational commitment (Latham, 2004). Additionally, goals affect the intensity of our actions and our emotions – the more difficult and valued a goal is, the more intense our efforts will be in order to attain it, and the more success we experience following achievement (Latham & Locke, 2006). Being successful increases confidence, and helps push our abilities to the limits.

If you enjoy having New Year's Resolutions, whether you've had success of not, I'd recommend the following two articles:

This article from PositivePsychology.com is very comprehensive, and offers several different "templates" on goal setting, so you can make a decision on what works best for you (here). It is entitled "What Is Goal Setting, and How To Do It Well."

The article entitled "A Scientifically Proven Framework for Achieving Goals," from PsychologyCompass.com (here) offers one effective way to set goals, and gives extensive scientific information on why it works.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not set New Year's Resolutions. In lie of this yearly ritual, I have developed a personal mission statement, which is written in the back of the (above mentioned) notebook. It encompasses big themes that are more overarching and goal-related. I visit this page often, usually in the morning, which sets the tone for my day, eliminates distractions, and guides me.

A good starting point on personal mission statements, written by Christopher Friesen, a forensic neuropsychologist, gives a clear guide to writing your own (here). It is a valuable, and more comprehensive way, to living a purposeful life.

Whether or not New Year's Resolutions are your thing, my hope for you is a meaningful, fulfilling, and joy-filled 2020. Here's raising a glass to YOU. Happy New Year!