Now if you love New Years resolutions and they work for you, who are we to rain on your parade? Keep doing ’em! But as always, we love to take a critical look at common themes and trends to see if they’re really all they’re cracked up to be.
So if you feel the pressure to do New Years resolutions each year but find them frustrating, constrictive, or like you can never achieve them, this episode is for you. We’re all about goal setting, just not of the New Years resolutions kind, so we’ll also share tips and advice for making goals that work best for you – and how you can go about achieving them in 2021 (and beyond).
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And now, onto the blog post!
Successful Goal Setting without New Years Resolutions
Before we get into our issues with New Years resolutions, let’s talk about what we do instead when it comes to successful goal setting and achieving. AKA: why listen to us?
When looking over Our Year in Review: 2019 blog post, we realized that we’d actually achieved most of our goals that we set for 2020. The only ones that we did not achieve were ones that we couldn’t due to the covid-19 pandemic. We’d set certain blogging and income goals, travel goals, and the goal of starting a podcast – all of which we did!
The only goal we did not achieve was extensively promoting our book, The House Sitting Handbook. It just did not make sense considering that no one – ourselves included – could house sit.
So being critical of New Years Resolutions doesn’t mean that we’re anti-goal. We do set goals and achieve them, just on a rolling basis. There are so many things we’ve set out to achieve and we absolutely have gotten them done: living abroad, house sitting full time, creating a viable business together, fitness goals, etc.
Problems with New Years Resolutions
We’ll say it straight out: New Years resolutions are lame and ineffective. We prefer to not structure our life goals around an arbitrary timeline.
Now if you are using New Years resolutions as a tool to help motivate you and truly achieve positive change in your life, go full steam ahead. We’re not trying to poo poo anybody’s successes in life. But overwhelmingly, most people don’t stick with New Year’s resolutions. In fact, over 80% of people don’t follow through on them.
But what’s really at the problem here? Is it because everyone’s lacking motivation? Is it because everyone doesn’t know what they’re doing? Or is it because we’re signing up for things that we don’t know we’re signing up for? It’s a very complex issue, which we’ll dive into more.
New Years Resolutions are on an Arbitrary Timeline
We just suddenly choose a certain time of the year to set these resolutions. And this is a time of year that comes right after the holidays, when we’ve decided to let go for a bit of time. This combination leads to a lot of self-flagellation and a lot of shaming in general.
I’m gonna use fitness as an example. Because let’s face it, almost all of us always have fitness goals. The vast majority of us don’t achieve them. That’s just the honest truth, myself included for many years of my life.
Resolutions are completely arbitrary and obscure our own personal journeys towards achieving a new goal.
If you’ve never enjoyed being in the gym – myself included – and you decide to start going to a gym as a New Year’s Resolution…on day one do you know what you’re doing? Do you even feel comfortable there? Do you know where you’re even headed? There are so many things working against you when it comes to picking up a new habit that helps you move towards a goal.
Resolutions are Often Externally Motivated
There’s so much discussion online around New Year’s about New Year’s resolutions, goals for the new year, etc. And the common goals are discussed so much that I think people feel like those should be their goals regardless of if they actually have a personal connection to those goals or whether they actually want to achieve those goals.
Common ones like to lose weight, work out more, etc. A lot of the goals that people set for New Year’s resolutions are things that they feel they should do rather than what they really want. I’m not saying you can’t feel that you should do something and you also don’t want it. But New Year’s resolutions are more often externally motivated based on all of the noise that comes out at this time of year.
But when goals are externally motivated, when we don’t truly own that desire, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Resolutions are easily influenced around the end of the old year and start of the new year by companies who want to capitalize on people’s internal frustrations. Companies know that people are feeling especially vulnerable this time of year. Gyms offer free months at the start of the new year and there are end of the year sales on everything from clothing to electronics. People are constantly told to throw money at the problem by joining a gym or purchasing this or that gadget to help them achieve their goals.
Then a couple of months later, the goal falls by the wayside.
How to Set Successful Goals
Clearly Define What You Want From Your Goals
When setting goals, it’s more important to say, “What do I want to get out of my life? Would I feel like my life is missing something if I didn’t have that?” So let’s say you have kids. Some people care about being fit because they want to be able to play with their kids and not be out of breath. Let’s say you want to be able to engage physically with your kids, how do you achieve that? Do you need to go to a gym to do that?
You’ve got to clearly define your goals. If you don’t clearly define the changes you want to make, you’re going to struggle.
Often we don’t think about what we actually want to get out of these goals. This obscures our motivation and you find yourself on a treadmill in a gym without thinking about the bigger picture of why you’re there.
The quintessential image of a new year’s resolutions is people on treadmills and they look like they’re having a horrible time. How long do you think you’re going to stick that out when you don’t have a way to measure progress and you don’t even have a goal to which to measure?
Set Goals at Whatever Time of Year Works Best for You
Don’t wait for the new year to go forward with something. Start a goal whenever you feel motivated to do it, because having that motivation is super important.
When you wait till the new year, you lose a lot of precious time you could have used to already be working towards it.
Any significant changes or goals we have made have always come at different times throughout the year, never at the new year. When we made big fitness changes, that happened in the fall. When we started our blog, that happened in the spring. We launched our podcast also in the spring. When we jumped into the digital nomad life, that was in the summer.