Why Small Goals Matter More Than Big Resolutions

Do you want to get your goals met? Then stop making BIG promises.

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With the new year coming in strong, many people start to think about the habits they want to change in the upcoming new year because that’s what a “new year” is, a time to think about change. It’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh, to start what you’ve been meaning to do all year but just never got around to it. It’s time to start…period.

The problem is, we set ourselves up for failure right away. Let’s say your goal is to start writing your own blog. You’ve been thinking about for months now and everybody tells you to do it because it’s all you talk about. You just haven’t started yet, and all you need is that extra push and you’ll begin. So you decide to make a resolution. It goes like this: I’m going to start blogging from January 1st, and I’ll do it once a week.

Then, after setting up your host server, installing WordPress and you use a free theme to start with you set out to get some blogging done. No problem. It’s new and fun. You are enjoying the moments o creativity. You write a few posts and then motivation starts to take a decline. You get busy [as we all do] and you miss a week. But that’s okay, next week you’ll double up and write two blog posts. But you struggle because you’ve never blogged before and you’re not even a good writer. You might even hate it.

Are You Pressuring Yourself to Succeed?

The pressure is on to do. You have a resolution to keep; it’s your big promise for the year. If you stop doing this, you fail, and all the people holding you accountable are going to know. But every time you sit down to write, the ideas aren’t there. You have nothing to say. Then you forget about why you started blogging in the first place. You think about changing your resolution because this one isn’t fresh anymore. But you can’t. You made a few promises that this is going to be the year you make it, finally stop procrastinating, and get some real shit done.

Does this story sound familiar? I know it does for many people. It’s a common pattern when we lock ourselves into tough commitments for the new year. That’s why i stopped making resolutions a few years ago. I’m not saying you shouldn’t because they can work, but here is the problem. We go into it with an all-or-nothing mindset.

For example, I’m going to quit eating junk food on January 1st. That’s it; no more; finished. But how realistic is it? If you’ve eaten sugar and junk for years and your body screams for it at a certain time of day because you’re a sugar addict, making a hard-line decision to suddenly quit won’t matter. Within a few weeks [and for most people a few days into the new year cycle] you’ll talk yourself into eating something sweet and then…

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You will have failed. Or so you think. The problem with all-or-nothing thinking and setting up BIG resolution promises is, we hold ourselves accountable to the extreme. It’s like Yoda said: “Do or do not. There is no try.” While that’s good advice for a young Jedi, most of us are just trying to get through life and make a few changes along the way so that we can double or triple our quality of living. Changing old ways can certainly do that. Setting a hard-core resolution with no room for maneuverability won’t. You’ll slip up, eat that chocolate cake for dessert because “just one piece” won’t kill you, and then beat yourself up for days for failing again.

The majority of people who make over-the-top resolutions fail after the first two weeks. They take on more… Click To Tweet

This is why we can turn a resolution into a long-term goal that gets results. To do this it does need some planning. But spend a few minutes on your plan and you’ll be able to accomplish anything in the new year, or, anytime of year for that matter.

For instance, my long-term goal for this year is to write 2000 words a day for my blog and books. I’m already doing 1000 words a day, but I do miss the occasional day because of family, other commitments that need my immediate attention, or…some days I just don’t feel like doing it. When I miss a day, I miss a day. I don’t promise to make it up the next day because when you pile up your losses on one day to make up for it the next, you’re putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.

If you fail to meet your goal the first time, how will you feel again if you can’t follow through? Most likely you’ll give up. What’s  the point. I knew I couldn’t do it. Then the guilt sets in. You soon find reasons why you can’t do it. You decide to give it another shot from this Monday but your confidence is already shaken. You get busy doing “other stuff”.

Get Out Of the Guilt Game

When I miss a day writing [and I do] I don’t guilt myself and start the verbal beating. I know I can write. Just like, if your goal is to lose weight and you suddenly find yourself eating a cream pie after dropping five pounds, you’ll be tempted to go back to the way things were. Gorging again until all your weight is back.

The trick to getting resolutions done is to make a habit of doing something that contributes to your success gradually over the long-term. If you want to lose weight or write a blog, it doesn’t matter “what” the end goal is; what counts is the “how” of getting there. You’ve heard of mini-habits or goals? It is the perfect antidote to getting your BIG goals accomplished by doing little stuff.

You want to write 2000 words a day? Start by writing 500 a day. Don’t try for 2000 right away. Build up to it. On one day you might 300 words and not the 500 that you were aiming for. Okay, so what? The point is you did something. The all-or-nothing-approach is a recipe for failure. It’s for perfectionists. This is why I failed for years to do anything or make any changes. Stuck in perfection I couldn’t get beyond the sticking point. Until I started doing little things in a big way.

Build Your Momentum with Small Habits

You know what happen when you roll a snowball down the hill? By the time it gets to the bottom you have a massive ball wth some serious weight behind it. We can get our goals done for the new year just the same. Start small and build big momentum over time. Soon your actions will become that snowball

You want to lose weight? Don’t go cold turkey on junk food, stop eating at fast-food restaurants and avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants all in the same week. Gradually cut back. Gradually take small actions as opposed to one massive “I’m going to do it all this week” approach. Habits form after months of practice; and then you have to keep working at it, but they get easier.

You want to get into shape? Start by doing some simple exercises at home. Lise Cartwright has a book called No Gym Needed – Quick & Simple Workouts For Gals On The Go: Get A Toned Body In 30 Minutes Or Less!

You want to save $5000 this year? Start by putting away $3.00 a day. Check out David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire and start saving small.

You want to write a book? Commit to writing those 500 word a day. If that’s to much, do 300. Break it down into bite-sized actionable chunks that are manageable. Check out Chandler Bolt’s Book Launch: How to Write, Market & Publish Your First Bestseller in Three Months or Less AND Use it to Start and Grow a Six Figure Business.

Whatever you want to do this year is possible. But avoid the hard-line approach that it has to be done perfectly. Perfection is for people who dream about doing things someday but never get around to them because the time is never just right. Gradual progress over an extended period is far better than massive progress in a short amount of time and burning yourself out.

The time to start is today. You don’t have to wait for the first of the month or the next lunar eclipse to tell you to get going. What is your goal for this year? What do you really want more than anything?

Action Steps

  • Make your goals for the new year. Write these down.
  • Then, take the goal that will have the most significant impact on your life. Is it losing weight? Getting into shape? Saving money for that dream trip or a dream house?
  • Make a list of small steps. these have to be manageable action steps. Do what is possible and don’t try to do too much.
  • Build up your momentum over the weeks and months ahead. In six months from now, when you look back, you’ll feel like a mountaineer looking down the mountain they’ve just ascended…one step at a time.

About Scott Allan

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