One resolution is made every second around this time of year. It is not a hard fact, but you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to believe it. I do not typically make resolutions at this time of year. I resolve whenever I must. But there is a freshness about the New Year that compels us to clean ourselves of past faults.
Why New Year’s resolutions?
This is the time to finally do away with the stale goals cluttering your headspace. This version of New Year’s (Jan 1), as opposed to the countless others that exist in our time, is the most prominent and commercial in our modern world. The global recognition makes it easy to believe that this day really is the start of something new. Everyone else sees it as a fresh start, and so do you. It is the arbitrary date that we’ve agreed to use for tracking the growth of our culture. Your birthday supposedly tracks your personal progress, but New Year’s gauges the entire world’s (or at least those who operate in our globalized calendar).
For a more historical reason why we make resolutions on New Year’s, look to the ancient civilizations’ traditions: The Babylonians made resolutions or promises for their gods as a contract promoting human prosperity. However, they celebrated this in March to mark the spring harvest. The Ancient Romans followed these traditions centuries later, but later moved up their celebration to January 1. This was possibly to shift attention away from a month named after a god of war and to one that signifies peace at home, reflecting their growing pacifist philosophy.
How to make good goals
Making goals is easy, but making good goals is straining. Large, vague goals offer no direction and will easily drown one’s motivation. Make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based… make your goals SMART. The letters in SMART refer to each of the goal traits some organizational connoisseur thought up to help you make better goals:
SPECIFIC: Make goals detailed and use numbers to describe the goal, e.g. “exercising for 150 minutes a week” instead of “exercising more.” These might seem like small goals, but they lay the foundation for the bigger picture.
MEASURABLE: Make sure you can track your progress, e.g. log the minutes you spend exercising in a notepad instead of your head.
ATTAINABLE: In other words, be REALISTIC. You say you want to be the king of Mars, but is Mars even a monarchy?
RELEVANT: Do your goals match your lifestyle and your overall life goals? Sometimes certain things need to be done at certain times. If you want to become a computer engineer in the near future, first focus on goals that will get you that career.
TIME-BASED: When you are assigned a paper, one of the first questions after “Why” is “When is it due?” Many of us work off of deadlines and assigning deadlines to your goals makes them more concrete. A good deadline is a specific date. A bad deadline is “when I feel like it,” which is more commonly uttered than you think.
Maybe you feel a bit flustered with all this goal talk. Maybe you don’t know what kind of goal to set? Thinking of goals should not be hard because they should naturally be the things that interest you. Everyone has certain things they like and dislike; spend time on what you like to do. There are plenty of resources, like resolution lists, that can guide you when choosing a focus goal. You could also see what the successful people are doing and model your goal-setting behaviours after them. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, Melinda Gates picks a word to influence her behaviour throughout the year. This is a unique way of approaching resolutions that may be more powerful for some. A static list of goals may not be right for everyone.
Even if you don’t believe the statistic that 88% of resolutions fail, realizing that resolutions should be made more than once a year can be much more helpful than the yearly hooey. Committing to monthly goals, or as one experts puts it, a “monthly dashboard,” parses large, looming goals into more manageable bits. The monthly review also forces you to regularly examine your progress, which is critical for success. One of the biggest obstacles in achieving goals is a lack of willpower, but regular reviews could replace that with energy and resolve.
Whether you want to eat healthier foods or court more people, try starting off the year with the right resolutions. Check them each month and see your progress. Sometimes you may need to change your goals to match changes in your lifestyles. Sometimes goals made in the beginning of the year do not reflect the dreams you have for the rest. Know the difference between what good you want and what good others want for you. Then you will know which resolutions to keep and which to rattle off on cue.