A little disclaimer: I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. But I know a lot of you do and I totally get that innate desire to make a change. How we make that change is totally different for everyone. Which makes me wonder: are there any universal truths about achieving our goals, whatever time of year we happen to set them?
The strategy of a clean slate
Have you heard of The Four Tendencies? It’s a framework created by Gretchen Rubin which basically theorises that people tend to fall into one of four personality categories, and those categories determine why we act and why we don’t act. In terms of New Year’s Resolutions, the four tendencies gives some interesting insight into how our personality type determines how we should approach our goals.
For example, according to The Four Tendencies Quiz, I’m an “Upholder”, which means I “respond readily to inner and outer expectations”. This is great as it means I’m pretty reliable and avoid letting people down, but it also means I might pursue obligations, even ones that seem pointless.
One of the strategies that works for upholders is the “Strategy of the Clean Slate”: take advantage of a big life change – new house, new job, or new relationship – to start strong with a new habit. I know the changing of the year isn’t exactly a big life change, but there is something about the holidays that creates a convenient mental distinction between the old and the new. So even though I don’t “do New Year’s Resolutions”, I can’t help but feel the sensation that this is an opportunity to smash some of those goals that have seemed so elusive this past year.
Success begins with setting the right goals – unfortunately most of us are getting that part totally wrong!
This year I started working with a really cool company called Mindset Rx’d who specialise in mindset coaching for “functional athletes” (i.e. CrossFitters like myself, which is how I got involved). I’m helping out with the tech side of things which has had the fortuitous bonus of reading and learning about loads of mindset strategies that athletes use to achieve their fitness goals.
What struck me from the get go about the Mindset Rx’d methods is that they’re pretty universal to all areas of life, not just fitness. This is particularly true of their approach to goal setting, and why the usual rules of setting “SMART” goals aren’t necessary effective.
Here’s a few excerpts from their goal setting guide that pretty much describe the nuts and bolts of achieving goals:
To achieve your goal, all you have to do is perform the behaviours which prepare you for it. It’s that simple…
Do something on a daily basis which reminds you of your direction and puts you in the necessary mindset to take action…
The “something” is creating a vision of what success means to you. Asking yourself who do you want to be? Not what do you want to achieve, but who do you want to be.
That last part is pretty crucial and was a bit of an a-hah moment for me. I’ve had this litany of goals I’ve been wanting to achieve for years… for example
- Lose 5 pounds (typical)
- Become a certified Mountain Leader
- Launch a new website about outdoor eating
Until reading the Mindset Rx’d Goal Setting Guide, I hadn’t given proper pause to consider who I want to be. I’ve only been focused on the minutia of the WHAT, and then giving myself a hard time for not doing those things.
The thing to do was to actually sit down and define WHO I want to be, and what are the core principles that will make me that person. For example, part of my self vision is:
Inspire other people to think differently about life and living by feeling fit and healthy, and having a career that brings meaning to that.
By creating clarity around my self vision I’ve been able to define some core principles and small daily or semi-daily actions which will help bring that vision to reality. Some of those things are ….
- Get plenty of sleep
- Wake up early (I’m a morning person!)
- Commute by bicycle wherever possible
- Drink plenty of water
- Walk up a big hill at least once per week
- Spend time in nature every day
My list of core principles is pretty long, so I’ll stop there – hopefully you get the idea. The point is this: knowing WHO I want to be makes it a lot easier to do those small daily actions that will get me there, and help avoid feelings of impatience about not being who I want to be NOW.
Whether you’re goals are fitness oriented or otherwise, I highly recommend giving the goal setting guide a quick read. The guidance around identifying your own self vision is invaluable.
Success also means giving yourself a break, because actually who you are NOW is OK too!
This is definitely something I have to work at because I’m the worst when it comes to giving myself a hard time about things.
We all know most New Year’s Resolutions go unfinished. Maybe it’s just not the right time for those goals, or maybe we didn’t set the right goals in the first place (see above!). Regardless, we should all resolve to give oursleves a break in the new year, and set some goals that are actually pleasant and highly achievable. I’m thinking things like….
- Visit Exmoor (one of the UK’s great dark sky areas, how have I never been?!)
- Make a cozy space at home for reading, writing, and relaxing (candles and Hygge books included)
- Do more coastal walking, particularly in Pembrokeshire (I’ve already booked an trip for January!)
- Indulge in one of the spa breaks available in Cheshire (I spend most of my leisure time getting dirty and pummelling my feet on the trail – I should really take better care of myself!)
- Re-learn to play the piano (I brought my Roland keyboard back from the States last October but I have yet to use it – time to find a piano teacher?)
And so it seems that the party line is this: who you are now is exactly who you should be. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t change certain things. But you’re the person you are now for a reason, and all that happened in the past – good and bad – has brought you here. No mistakes. It just is. And that needs to be OK.
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
Don’t be one of those people! Though I won’t hold it against you if you are – this is a work in progress for me, too. But the more I learn, read, act, and do, the more I realise that I’m my most successful when I’m also my most present. And in fact, reading some of my core principles above, I’m pretty happy to notice that most of them are not actually about losing 5 pounds or achieving my dream career, but are actually about living in the moment. This is great news because it means I can actually start smashing those New Year “goals” now. And what better time to be in the present than during the holidays?!
Have you set any New Year’s Resolutions? Any insights about goal setting? Inspiring books? Jedi mindset tricks? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!