It’s hard to believe it’s the end of the year already. Feels like we were just here, and yet here we are, preparing for another end-of-year video montage and the start of a brand new year. For a lot of people, a new year is a chance for a fresh start; it’s an opportunity for a clean slate, a time to make changes, to set goals and reconcile with people from the past. It’s a time to move forward with positive intentions and productive plans.
And this year is no ordinary New Year. It’s a NEW DECADE. Yes, as 2019 comes to a close, we prepare to enter a new decade of our lives. Sure, it will take us all a little time to get used to writing “2020” or saying “the 20s” (is that what we’ll call it?), but with those minor inconveniences comes an epic opportunity for change, so let’s make the most of it.
Research Shows That Resolutions Often Fail
Raise your hand if you’ve ever set a resolution only to totally give up on the goal after a few weeks, or at best, a few months. All hands should be up right now — raise ’em high, because research shows that the vast majority of resolutions fail. According to the U.S. News & World Report, about 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, and most of that failure occurs by mid-February. And time management firm Franklin Covey found that about one-third of resolutions don’t even make it past the end of January.
So clearly, if we fail to deliver on our goals, we are not alone, and perhaps we are not the problem. Perhaps the very tradition of setting unrealistic resolutions is the problem, or maybe the way we go about those resolutions is what isn’t working for all of us.
Experts suggest that the reason so many resolutions fail is because they aren’t the right resolutions. We could be setting our intentions with the wrong reasoning behind them. For example, setting a goal to live up to someone else’s expectations will never end well. Or setting vague goals rarely leads to success. Committing to drastic life changes and expecting that change to occur overnight is unfair and sets you up to fail.
And as we don’t just kick off a new year, but a new decade, don’t we all want to start on the right foot, prepared for positive change, a positive attitude, and a chance to start fresh?
Before Change, You Need Closure
The end of a year is kind of like the end of a relationship — to move forward you need to move on, and that’s pretty hard to accomplish without closure. As you embark on a new year, think of it as a chance to wipe the slate clean. Give yourself a break if you didn’t accomplish everything you hoped to accomplish in 2019; cut yourself some slack if things didn’t turn out exactly as you hoped they would. (Things rarely do.) Consider for a moment that maybe that’s okay, and maybe things will unfold in new and exciting ways in the future, but only if you can loosen your grip on what you were disappointed by in the past.
A good place to start would be to make peace with any items on your to-do list that didn’t get done before New Year’s Eve. Didn’t lose the five pounds you were hoping to shed? That’s okay. Didn’t get around to cleaning out your storage closet or reaching out to an estranged cousin? That’s okay too. Still working on that job promotion or writing the draft of your debut novel? It’s all good. Just because you weren’t able to achieve something last year doesn’t mean it isn’t still a priority for you and it shouldn’t be something you focus on in the new year. So instead of feeling guilty or like a failure, take a deep breath, put those items on your list for the future, and focus on what you DID accomplish in 2019. Choose happiness. Decide you’re going to be at peace with how things ended up, and then dedicate your attention and efforts towards the future. Harping on the past won’t get you anywhere, so tie up loose ends, make amends, apologize to loved ones, apologize to yourself, lift your head up, and start to look forward.
Start By Thinking Small
Don’t think of New Year’s (and the new decade) as an opportunity to completely overhaul your life. It’s also not an excuse to focus on only one area of your life and vow to change it entirely, forgetting about your other overarching goals. That’s not what New Year’s Eve resolutions are supposed to be about. New Year’s resolutions are a time to reflect and think about positive changes you want to make. It’s a time to think small and recognize where you are starting and where you want to go. “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” suggests psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D. for the American Psychological Association. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”
Be Specific and Write Resolutions Down
Make sure that your goals for the new decade are SMART. This useful acronym was coined in the journal Management Review in 1981, but it’s still as relevant and helpful as ever. It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Setting clear, specific goals forces you to really think through what you hope to achieve and how you want to get there. Make sure your goal is measurable so that you can assess your progress along the way, which will allow you to both celebrate your success and readjust your plan as you go if it’s not working for you. And be realistic about your timeline and how much effort and energy this resolution will require — if it’s not going to fit within your larger life plan, it won’t stick.
For example, saying “I’m going to stop eating carbs and lose weight” is not a reasonable resolution. Carbs are delicious and losing weight takes time. Saying “I want to incorporate more fresh produce into one meal each day, and I want to lose five pounds in the next two months” is a far more specific and realistic plan that can have lasting effects on your life.
Make Your Goals Meaningful If You Want Lasting Results in 2020 and Beyond
If a resolution is not inspired by a relevant, meaningful purpose that is important to you, then it will never last. Simple as that. Set goals that matter to you and that will help you feel a sense of joy and accomplishment. Don’t do it for anyone else, and don’t commit to something that doesn’t feel right or that you don’t actually care about.
And remember, it’s never too late to edit your resolutions. Yes, setting the right goals is important. But these goals are not carved in stone or written in permanent marker. You can adjust and reassess as you go; in fact, you really should evaluate your progress and your evolving goals as the year goes on. The vision you have for yourself today is not necessarily what you hoped for back in 2018 and it is most definitely not going to be what you’re working towards 365 days from now. And not only is that okay, but it’s amazing — it means that you’re growing, you’re evolving, you’re constantly trying to be better and improve your life where it matters most. And those are the kinds of resolutions that will make 2020 and the next decade your most meaningful yet.