People are pretty split on the concept of creating resolutions at the beginning of the new year. Some people think it promotes the unhealthy habit of yo-yoing; that is, going all in on something (usually nutrition) for a short period of time, then boomeranging back the other way and falling off the deep end. A good way to avoid this impulse is embodying an 80/20 mentality, which I wrote about last week.
And so, if you are properly maintaining this 80/20 mindset, and you are at a low risk of yo-yoing, I am all for New Years Resolutions. I am a big self-auditor (another thing I wrote about on this blog) and the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to call your medium-term goals into check.
A goal is no good if it just exists ambiguously in your head. Furthermore, a goal is no good if it is vague and not actionable. So allow me to show you the process I go through when creating, reviewing, and auditing my yearly goals.
Step 1: Review Previous Goal
If you had a yearly goal at the beginning of last year, revisit it and see how you did. If you’re feeling ambitious, journal about it for 20-30 minutes and really break down how/why you succeeded or did not succeed at the goal you set for yourself last year.
If you did not set a yearly goal at the beginning of last year, you get to skip this step.
Step 2: Create SPECIFIC New Goal
Again, not a super complicated step, though it requires a bit more up-front work. For starters, you need to do a little visualization. Place yourself at the beginning of next year. Where do you want to be? What do you want to have accomplished at this point? What do you want to look like? What do you want your surroundings to look like? By answering these questions, you should be able to formulate a specific, actionable goal/resolution for the next 12 calendar months.
Here is an example of a bad resolution: Lose weight
Here is an example of a good resolution: Lose enough weight to fit into the pair of jeans I used to look really good in.
Here’s another bad one: Start going to the gym consistently again.
And another good one: Start a 2x/week training program for at least 1 hour per training session. Record all workouts and weights used during the workout.
Step 3: Write your Resolution Down
On paper. With a pen.
I like to use notecards. You can use anything besides a computer. Perform the physical act of writing words down on paper by hand.
Step 4: Create Actionable Steps for your Goal
This is why I like to use a notecard. Across the top of the card, I’ll write the goal in large lettering. Below it, I’ll either use numbers or bullet points, and list out the 3-5 steps that will be required for my resolution to be achieved. This is the most important step. If you can’t think of at least three action-steps for your goal, then go back to “Step 2” and reconfigure your resolution, because it is either not specific enough or it is too specific.
For example, let’s revisit the sample resolutions from before. If my resolution is “lose enough weight to fit into my old jeans” then my action steps could be:
- Stop eating food after 8pm
- Limit alcohol consumption to 1-2x/week (no exceptions)
- Make sure to get 25g of protein with breakfast every morning
- Eat at least 80% home-cooked meals
- Lift weights 2-3x/week minimum
Now I have a clear action path to my goal. After all, goals are worth shit by themselves.
Goals + Action = Results.
Goals + Inaction = Wasted time and energy.
Step 5: Put Your Goal on Display
This is the final step, and it can be done in a number of different ways. Some people are best motivated by public accountability. For these people, it may make sense to post their goals on social media. This way their friends and family can help make sure their actions stay aligned with their goals.
For those that are more intrinsically motivated, place your goal (written on a notecard or sheet of paper) somewhere you see it often. In the past I have taped notecards to my mirror, used them as a placeholder in my daily planner, taped them to my bedside table, and taped them face-up on my desk. All have been effective in their own way.
Not only will displaying your goal help you remember what it is you are trying to achieve when motivation gets low, but it will help you repeat this cycle with “Step 1” when the next year comes around.
. . .
If real habit change is your goal, this form of annual auditing can be incredibly helpful. By using these methods, you can give yourself a leg-up on people who are setting meaningless resolutions that will never be actualized.
Sure, the concept of a “New Year’s Resolution” can seem a little hokey or silly, but if you have a big change you are trying to make, why not use this opportunity to finally act on it? Nearly everyone who reads this will have Jan. 1st off from work. So take an hour, do some soul-searching, set a 1 year goal, and lay out the path you are going to take to annihilate that goal.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb