Most everyone has weighed in by now. To resolve or not to resolve, you’ve probably already made up your mind. Maybe you made it up last year or a decade ago; you don’t do resolutions.
You’re not alone.
Statistic shows that less than half of us are making resolutions. If you aren’t jumping on the bandwagon, joining in the hype, then you are in the majority. Yet one statistic won’t leave me alone. “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” (sited here)
Oh, well, there’s that.
So most people don’t make resolutions. Most people don’t keep resolutions. But if you are intentional about setting them, specific about setting them, you are 10 times more likely to achieve them. Ten times. I like the odds.
But there is a catch; it’s not about odds. We often look for a formula to create our own easy button but there is none. Sure we can make it easier, but there is no easy. We can choose a path of less resistance, a path for greater success, but in the end we still have to do the work. There are no magic unicorns. Sorry.
But what can we do to make the work easier? I like what Jeff Goins has to say about creating habits rather than resolutions. I agree. However, sometimes it still feels like rhetoric, like semantics, both of which make us feel better about setting goals, making resolutions, forming habits, whatever we want to call them, but do nothing to help us live that out.
One small hack
So this year I’m starting small. Really small. I’m thinking of the big picture and narrowing it down to baby steps. Dave Ramsey does this with his debt snowball, instructing his followers to start with their lowest loan balance and smash it. He doesn’t move at the pace of numbers, getting you to figure out which interest rate is highest so you can conquer the beast from there, he moves at the pace of our brains, hunting down the small and fast wins.
Success breeds success. Dave Ramsey knows it and so do the millions of people who have knocked out their debt following his lead. So I’m looking at resolutions in the very same manner this year.
Science seems to approve
In an article on the neuroscience of perseverance Christopher Bergland discusses the dopamine release, that natural feel good chemical, our bodies reward themselves with when we achieve our goals. Score. God figured this out before Mr. Bergland and the rest of the scientists did. How about we make that work for us?
Science also tells us through the law of inertia that objects in motion will stay in motion. I think that might just apply to people as well. When we get moving toward our goal, when we work for small successes and that dopamine, in turn, works in our favor, we are more likely to keep on going. Make sense?
The other day I was listening to a podcast in which they discussed why so many people fail to finish what they start. They were speaking mainly in the realm of product creation, but my brain went broad with the concept as well as their insights. They concluded that people often fail to finish because they are looking for perfection. They shoot too high and never make it there. What if, as Sheryl Sandberg says, done is better than perfect?
Might that apply to our goals as well?
What if we fail because we often set our resolutions a bit too high? I know I do. Sure you want to get in shape, to train for that half-marathon, to start a new business or dive into a budget and you have all the motivation to start cracking at that on January one. But what about January 7, February 18, June 30? What if we set small goals, really small goals and hung out there for a month. What if we leaned in lightly for a good thirty days or so and pushed a just little harder the next month? Maybe we could move that mountain one spoonful at a time.
I don’t know if it will work friends, but I’m trying it.
I find myself needing a kick in the pants to stay healthy and take better care of my body this year. But I’m not setting that goal on paper. On paper I’m taking the smallest steps this month: 64 oz. of water a day (a habit that I somehow lost over that past few years) and 10 minutes of exercise each day. That’s a not a typo. 10 minutes! That’s not approved by the American Heart Association or anyone else for that matter, but I’m running with it.
And here’s why.
I don’t always have 30 minutes to workout every day. But I have 10, everyone has 10. So I’m marking out a goal of 10 minutes a day. That’s doable, easy even. And you know what? I bet most days I’ll beat that. I’ll do 15 or 20 or go until whenever the podcast I’m listening to is over. That’s goal crushing with no guilt, friends.
Likewise, I stood in front of the bookshelf with my four year old, the baby, a few weeks ago and started to notice every book I have never read to that kid. That’s a fun mom moment. I prioritized lap time reading with my older kids but somehow we moved on to chapter book read alouds, life got busier and I’ve completely neglected reading picture books with the 4 years old.
So I’m wrangling that guilt with a small goal. One book a day, each day, every day, just me and him. Sound small? It is. Sound silly? Maybe, but it’s winning to me. It’s one-on-one time that is hard to come by. It’s trading guilt for action. I wrote it down and I’m checking it off my list daily. More dopamine, please!
And lastly, I’m writing out scripture daily. The challenge to get serious about memorizing scripture came from a friend of mine and I’ve always liked the concept of writing The Word so I’m combining the two this month. The first few minutes of each day are spent jotting down the words I want to cement in my brain. The words I want to write on my heart. And then I’m checking that small goal off my list for the day.
That’s all there is to it! Three small goals for January. Three goals I’ll reflect on in a few weeks as the month comes to a close, and grow a little, but just a little, for February. And we’ll see what I can tackle this year. One small step at a time.
What about you? There is something equally fruitful about blasting your goals out on the interwebs. It’s that accountability thing. Have some goals you are brave enough to share? I’d love to hear them!