You must be wondering why I am writing an article about New Year’s Resolutions in the month of July. But I think it is only fair to take an account since we have just gone past the “half-term”. And may be for some of us, this is a good time to remove the cob webs from some of those shiny New Year’s Resolutions and start taking action on them.
The Buzzwords – Resolutions, Goals and Habits
When I think about setting life-altering action plans in my life, there are 3 buzzwords that pop into my head – New Year’s Resolutions, Goals and Habits.
Let me tell you first my definition of each of these:
- New Year’s Resolution is a promise or a pact of self-improvement that you make with yourself for the year with the firmness of purpose (e.g. lead a healthy lifestyle or be a writer)
- Goal is a result that you aim to achieve after a prescribed period (e.g. lose 25 lbs of weight or write a book)
- Habit is a behaviour you acquire through regular practice until it becomes an involuntary action (e.g. doing 20 push ups or creative writing at the beginning of the day)
As you would have gathered by the examples, all 3 aspects go hand-in-hand. There cannot be goals without imbibing habits and resolutions are unattainable without goals.
Why do we fail our New Year’s Resolutions?
A BUPA New Year Resolution Survey that was conducted in UK in November 2015 showed the following results:
Of the entire British population, a quarter of adults say they made a New Year resolution last year (26%), while 74% did not. Taking into account those who did not make a resolution, only around one in eight British adults successfully kept a resolution last year (12%). Among those who have failed to keep a New Year resolution in the past, the most common reasons for giving up or not achieving a New Year resolution were a lack of commitment and a loss of motivation (both 50%).
You can also see some interesting statistics on a survey conducted in USA here.
Now you know why some of those New Year’s Resolutions fail. We set up some lofty resolutions on December 31st or January 1st and then conveniently forget about them. And even when they pop into our memory someday, we drive them away thinking it is too demanding and we are just 4 months away from the next New Year when we can hit reset again. I have been there and done that, believe me!
So should you have a New Year’s Resolutions?
I think we should all have at least two New Year’s Resolutions that you can focus for the year. Then keeping those resolutions in mind you can set some goals for the year. The goals needn’t even span the entire 12 months. For example, if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is “Push My Body to the Limits”, you can start with a long-term goal to complete a triathlon in the next two years. Then you can have short-term goals to train for swimming in the winter months, cycle during spring and finally get your running boots on during summer. Further on, to achieve these goals you can set up some habits like swapping the car for a cycle on your way to the local newspaper agent or swimming every Wednesday.
The key thing to note here is you are never done with a resolution. You should have attainable goals and you should form habits that help you reinforce lifelong changes. But it will be the resolution that drives the goals and the habits. Each day you wake up and try to live up to your resolutions. Every day is a fresh opportunity and a chance for a do over!
My Recent Experience
Last Christmas Holidays, while away in New York on a trip, I had a considerable amount of time to review 2015 and set some goals for 2016 in alignment with my New Year’s Resolutions. And then after March, I lost focus on some of them. But thanks to a monthly review, I decided to get back on track and work on them.
Setting up my new website was on my Goals for 2016 list. I even had a clear vision of having 200 articles posted on my website by the end of the year. And then I took no action until May. Now that I am 5 months short of time, I do wonder how I will get there. But all is not lost, goal getting is very much about the process than just the end result.
If I can do it, so can You
Let me wrap up by telling you about one of my fun New Year’s Resolutions I made in 2006 – Be a Globetrotter.
With a work visa and one year in UK, I was all set to travel the world. I had 365 days and a lump sum saved up (in my very naive mind). But (yes, you guessed it!), I did not hit the mark – not in 2006 nor the next 5 years.
I travelled to half a dozen European cities during this period but I longed for more. But there were always other commitments and obligations that took priority – work, home, fear and other conflicting goals!
In 2010, I was writing my Bucket List – 28 things to do before I die. And that was when it dawned on me. I had to be more specific about my goals. If I wasn’t travelling because of work commitments, it meant I had to plan my leaves well in advance. If I did not have the money, I need to make the money.
5 years later
So in 2011, I set my first long-term goal for this resolution as “Travel to the 6 inhabited continents before I got married”. But this time I set some short-term goals too, because I knew there was no way I was going to do that world tour in 2011. So over the next two years, I had set myself 3 goals and embraced one habit.
- Goal 1: Get my British Passport
- Goal 2: Save up for 6 trips over the next 3 years
- Goal 3: Research and Plan the dates in (at least the months and years)
- Habit: Pray about this! (Yes, seriously! I was going to travel by myself to 6 different continents and I wanted His guidance and support. I was not ready to leave anything to luck.)
2013 – A Splendid Year
And then came 2013, and I set myself two goals – Europe and North America. I decided to take a couple of months off work and informed this at home and work almost half a year in advance. I then went on a trip across USA in May followed by a Europe road trip in June. The British passport gave me access to the countries, my savings helped me afford the trips without a huge dent in my pocket and planning ahead of time meant I could get in touch with a lot of friends and family during my trip across the 16 countries.
The Europe trip was life altering as I met people from across the world and from different walks of life. It fuelled my travel dreams as I realised that now was my chance to do it all before old age and more commitments piled up. As soon as I got back from that trip, I booked my next trip to Singapore and Australia for December-January. Singapore-Australia trip felt like an icing on the cake as friends and family started calling me the “Globetrotter” and “Jetsetter”. Proud and humbling moment!
Oh boy, 2013 felt so refreshing! My perspective about the world and people changed. My own priorities changed. Achieving goals in this area gave me motivation and momentum to look at some of the other areas in my life. I had jumped off a plane and scuba dived the Ionian sea. I travelled alone with strangers first and then I learned to make friends with strangers. I let go of my fears – not just in the area of travel, but in many other areas!
2014 – Success Continues
In 2014, with only 2 continents left, I confidently set the two goals – Africa and South America. I had been researching both Egypt and Kenya. Researching the stories from the Bible propelled me towards Egypt. So I set out on making it happen before the dry and sandy Egyptian summer kicked in. Meanwhile, I was anxious about the riots and the situation there at the time. But finally I decided to take a leap of faith. And I am glad I did, because that was another thought-provoking holiday in Egypt. Unlike my previous trips, I had no proper internet or phone. I felt so disconnected to the world, and yet connected to the people in it at the same time. The ancient temples and the burial grounds gave me a new perspective about religion and death.
I was determined to be in Rio de Janeiro in time for the FIFA world cup. But it started looking highly unlikely because I did not have a ticket to any of the matches and the flight prices were over-the-roof and more than what I had estimated. This is where the “Prayer” habit came in handy. A very kind friend gave me a sponsored ticket for FIFA World Cup Finals in Rio. Then, another kind stranger from a travel website gave me a voucher for a hotel in exchange for an honest review. Everything else perfectly fit within my budget. Could I be more blessed!
And true to my goal, less than a year from the trip, I married to the love of my life who enjoys travelling too! 🙂
And it continues…
The story doesn’t end there. In 2015, I set up a new long-term goal “Get Married and be Globe Trotters”! 😉 In 2016 alone, we are 3 continents down, and 3 more to go! Little did I know in 2011 that a fun resolution I made then would help me feel so accomplished half-a-decade down the lane.
So what are you waiting for? It is time to review some of your New Year’s Resolutions. Set sail with some goals and lets all be Goal Getters; not just goal setters. I will be writing a lot more about goal getting this month based on what worked and did not work for me over the last few years. So please do check out my other articles on this topic here.