Like many others, I've never had great success in keeping New Year's resolutions. I love the idea: starting fresh, new energy, new commitment. But then, something happens, I didn't come through as I had planned and they fell to the wayside.
I was struck with clarity about this while reading the book "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. In her year-long quest to find out what makes her happy and how to increase her happiness, Rubin writes about how the expectations with goals and resolutions are different. That sometimes the important distinctions get lost.
We hit a goal, we keep a resolution. Running a marathon is a good goal: specific, measurable and when you do it, you have met your goal.
To be a healthier person, to eat less fast food, to live more authentically, those are better defined as resolutions. You don't achieve them; you resolve to do them everyday, always.
If the goal is met, then what? Do you stop running or set new goals?
Each day we have a fresh opportunity at striving to live up to a resolution. Some days we succeed, some we may not. We don't expect to be done with our resolutions so, she says, we don't get discouraged when they remain challenging.
I was setting New Year's goals where resolutions would serve me better. I got discouraged by not meeting my goal and sacrificed my resolution. I was perhaps getting caught up in the ritual of the "New Year's" time stamp.
When I took my first Zilch to 5K class, I didn't do it because I wanted to run a 5K. I was confident my body was not going to let that happen actually. I didn't tie myself to my outcomes or set goals for weekly distances. I showed up, did the best I could and ended up running the full 5K much to my surprise and exhaustion. But, had my goal been to run the 5K, I would have felt like I'd barely met it and been more discouraged.
The class provided the structure to supporting my resolution of improving my health. Had I tied myself to the pressure of goals that, at the time, my schedule would have challenged - such as meeting daily running or weekly distance goals - I may have given up when I didn't meet them. Instead I felt like I had done something I thought impossible and it encouraged me to keep going.
This doesn't work for everyone or in every situation. You have to take into account what drives you and what you are trying to accomplish. Goals are an important tool of measurement. They are part of what helps us succeed in our resolutions.
I can't help but wonder as I've listened to people frustrated or giving into not meeting their New Year's resolutions if perhaps the focus was too much on the goal and not the bigger picture.
If your resolution is to be healthier in 2017 - and many of our resolutions revolve around this - say, for example, your goal is to run five days a week. The January cold could keep you from succeeding in your goal, but we can make many other choices to support our resolution.
As we head into the new year contemplating our goals, take a step back to see what we want as our ultimate outcome, what does our goal support that we are ultimately striving for. Keep your eye on that if you don't quite reach your goal; don't lose sight of your resolution.
Happy and healthy 2017 to all!