New Year’s Resolutions aren’t SMART
It’s February, and it’s now a month out from the last day of 2015 — the day when you swore that 2016 would be different. It either came came in the form of setting a New Year’s Resolution (e.g. I want to lose 10lbs. this year), or as a more general yearning to be better version of yourself . Personally, starting a new year or new semester presents me with some complex feelings. On one hand you feel as if you have a fresh new start. Notes that have been scribbled on and have coffee rings are replaced with fresh, blank notebooks, and coming off of winter break I’m feeling eager to jump into school, work, see friends, etc. While all that is great, I can’t deny a little anxiety as one more year of my life becomes a chapter of “the past.” New Year’s can be a time we are confronted with the parts of ourselves that we wish were better or with things we wish we would have accomplished by now… so we set a deadline for the next year.
For example, for the past couple of years I’ve wished that I knew how to cook. No longer dependent the university meal plan, and cooking for myself, I’ve found that mac n’ cheese multiple times a week gets real old…real fast. Despite my wanting to learn to cook, I never put in an honest effort, and instead just became frustrated the next New Years when I realized I couldn’t cross “learn to cook” off on my list. While my frustration came at the end of the year, many’s frustration comes even earlier when new habits they’ve hoped to form aren’t sticking. It’s in our nature to always want to be improving — to become better versions of ourselves — and it can be frustrating when we don’t live up to them. And that’s probably a good thing! It’s good to feel motivated each day, to have goals and aspirations, and to feel disappointment now and then that urges you to try harder the next time.
While I think it’s admirable to always be aspiring to better things, all too often I think our culture gets wrapped up in the new, different, and changed. I realize I’ve never once asked myself at New Year’s:
What do I want to be the same next year? What great things are already happening in my life? What do I like about myself, and how can I continue to be that person?
Saying hello to 2016 doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to 2015. We don’t have to close one door to open another, because our lives our more continuous when we don’t think of them in year-long chapters. A good friendship made in 2015 hopefully carries into 2016 and beyond, as well a hard learned lesson.
So what is the point of writing a New Year’s blog a month late? Well statistically speaking, if you set a New Year’s Resolution by now you either gave up on it a few days ago, or are about to — unless you are the strong-willed minority (which if so, kudos to you). But more realistically at this point you’ve slacked a little here or there, or have altogether dropped the ball only a month after the ball drop.
I’m here to tell you It’s. okay.
Now, start it up again.
It might seem like you can’t possibly gather the motivational momentum that the New Year brings, but when you accept new goals — regardless of the time of year — you empower yourself to create your own beginnings. It doesn’t matter if your New Year’s Resolution maintenance has been successful or unsuccessful. You might find it more meaningful to make smaller, more regular goals in your life. Smaller and regular goals also help ensure that you are being realistic and are making goals that respect you. One way to think about making your next goal is basing it off the SMART goal-setting image below. SMART goal-setting encourages you to make goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Making a goal that is SMART respects yourself as it considers if your goal is reasonable, worthwhile, and will meet your needs — instead of leaving you disappointing and frustrated with yourself at the end of the year.
All in all it’s important to find a healthy balance. We want to be aspiring to better things and be better versions of ourselves, and the right kind of goal-setting can get us there. At the same time it’s important to recognize how awesome you are and how many talents you possess in this present moment. Take inventory and be grateful for all the things that make you amazing, and have your goals/aspirations come from a desire to make that person happier and healthier.