Welcome to 2020! It is officially the new year, and as we all know, the new year is a time for a fresh start. In some cases, we shed the identity of 2019 in order to remold and reconfigure ourselves in the new year. In other cases, we simply continue shaping our identity to how we want it and continue the current trajectory, good or bad. Most of the time, either way, it requires some sort of resolution. In fact, making resolutions has become part of our global identity. In this blog post, I want to offer “Resolution Writing Tips” on how to craft your resolutions, so that you can succeed in this new year.
Before I get into the tips, I want to talk about the inspiration behind this blog post: my sister. I called her the other day, we talked about things and life, and at the end, I asked her about her resolutions. This is how she responded: “I am going to organize things more. I need to spend more time listening to the Bible. I have to apply to some jobs.”
Many times, this is how we respond to such a question when asked what we are going to do. She told me she is going to be more organized, she is going to listen to the Bible more (for context, I got her the audio version of the Bible as a wedding gift and she has yet to listen to it), and she is going to apply to some jobs. However, never did she mention when, where, or how she is going to achieve those goals. In essence, she gave a blanket statement instead of targeting exactly what she needs to accomplish. I feel many of us do the same thing, and that is why we see so many people fail.
To further prove my point, let’s take, for example, the most common resolutions typically heard: “I am going to get in shape this year,” “I am going to quit smoking,” “I’m going to make more time for myself,” or “I’m going to travel more.” All of these are great goals, but all of them share the same similarities as my sister’s goals; that is, they are vague.
With that being said, let’s get into how to write a proper resolution and some tips on how to succeed in achieving those resolutions you write.
Writing Tip #1 –
Begin With the End in Mind
Anyone who has read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey knows that this is the second habit of the seven. There is a reason why I begin with this habit in writing our effective resolutions. That reason is, we have to see the bigger picture if we truly want to know what resolution to put down. What good would a resolution be such as “I am going to learn Japanese” when I’m currently living in China and have no intention of going to Japan? Now, on the other hand, perhaps by the end of 2020, I already have a job lined up there? Perhaps I am about to do a master’s program in Japan or some type of schooling? With these scenarios, I’d have a reason to NEED to learn Japanese.
In essence, when we start with the end in mind, we become more focused on what our goals should actually be. Now, this may be common sense, but there is more to this than you think. Below, I’m going to tell how to succeed in this writing tip.
How to Succeed
First, we have to realize that we are not one individual. What I mean by this is that we wear different hats. The Michael Thies who you are reading now is my author self. I also have a teacher version that functions much differently. I have my gym self, my church self, my party self; you get the point. So, to succeed in successfully writing our resolutions we must first think about who we are, or, who we want to become (it is the New Year after all, so perhaps you want to change your identity and eliminate some of your bad habits). Once we figure that out, we can then decide upon our goals.
So, let’s take two examples here. I will use my “party self” and my “gym self.”
- Gym self: “I want to get into better shape this year.”
- Party self: “I don’t want to get as drunk as much this year as I did last year.”
So, there we go, we have an end game. However, what are we missing? If you just answered specifics you would be correct. Enter writing tip #2.
Writing Tip #2 –
It is great to have umbrella-like goals for each of our identities, but as we are crafting our resolutions, we should also be thinking about how we are going to measure our success or failure at that specific goal. In essence, we need some sort of criteria that we can hold ourselves accountable to and some objective, measurable device to judge whether or not this is obtained or not.
Let’s take the two examples above and further detail them with specifics.
- Gym Self: “I want to get into better shape this year by being able to lift more weight in deadlift, bench press, and squat.”
- Party Self: “I will not get as drunk this year by going out less.”
How to succeed:
While the examples I gave are slightly more specific, they do not answer essential questions that you should be asking yourself. Firstly, what does it mean to “lift more weight?” What does it mean to “go out less?” So, when we craft these statements, let’s not only focus on the how but also on defining what that “how” means.
- Gym Self: “I want to get into better shape in the gym and be able to lift 240 kg in deadlift, 160 kg in bench press, and 200 kg in squat.”
- Party Self: “I will not get as drunk this year by only going out once per week.”
Now, I have standards for how I can define whether or not I achieve that goal. Great! This is looking much better than previously. However, there is still a problem. What if I told you that I was an alcoholic? (I’m not, it’s just a hypothetical situation). What if I told you my current personal record (PR) for deadlift was 200 kg, or that my PR for bench press was only 140? In both of these situations, we should realize that the goals that we have set for ourselves, albeit specific, are not realistic. Enter tip #3.
Writing Tip #3 –
It’s awesome that you may want to quit smoking or that you may want to quit drinking and get sober if you’re an alcoholic. However, very rarely does going cold turkey work. Instead, we have to be honest with ourselves when we are making goals. We have to be honest in who we are as an individual, the type of intrinsic motivation we have as an individual, and what our current situation is like. Without being completely cognizant of who we are as human beings, we may set ourselves up for failure, which in turn may do more harm than good in damaging our confidence and our self-esteem.
With that being said, if we are an alcoholic, chances are it is not realistic that we are only going to go out once per week. In fact, even if we aren’t an alcoholic, chances are that “special occasions” come up and you forget about that resolution you made months back and you end up going crazy one week because it’s your “birthday week.” In order for us to truly keep our resolutions in mind, we should focus on crafting them in such a way that is realistic to our expectations.
How to succeed:
In fact, while self-examining who we are and envisioning who we want to become by the end of 2020, it is important to keep in mind the zone of proximal development. I have mentioned what that is in an earlier blog post here. In summary, this is the zone where we make the most growth as individuals and it is a zone I always keep in mind when thinking about the education of my students. Something too easy for them will bore them, while something too difficult will make them fail before they even begin. This is where realistic expectations have to come from. So, using the two examples from above let’s craft them in this way instead.
- Gym Self: “I want to get into better shape in the gym and be able to lift 220 kg in deadlift, 150 kg in bench press, and 180 kg in squat.”
- A little bit of context here with this one. Currently, my max weight in each of these exercises are as follows: 205 kg, deadlift; 140 kg, bench press; 180 kg, squat.
- Party Self: “I will not get as drunk this year by only consuming no more than five drinks in any given night.”
- A little context here. I can party hard. At least, I used to party hard. Recently, I have been focusing more on my self-development and writing and getting things done. Being obscenely drunk limits my effectiveness the following day, not to mention the night I go out, so many things could be done during this time, and a lot of money could be saved. That is why, instead of limiting the nights I go out, I switched to limit the number of drinks that I consume. In general, I don’t plan on going out more than once a week anyway, but I know that five drinks will not get me plastered, so I can maintain good composure for the next day.
Writing Tip #4 –
Quality not Quantity
This tip goes hand-in-hand with being realistic. Many times we have such grandeur visions of how we want to reinvent ourselves for the New Year that we want to do it all. However, this isn’t realistic.
Imagine your resolutions kind of being like your first time in a new city that you only have one weekend in. How would you spend your stint? First, of course, you’d research on what the main attractions are. Second, you’d make a plan of attack in order to accomplish visiting those attractions. Third, you’d be realistic in understanding that you cannot visit EVERYTHING all in such a short time. Which brings us to what you’d do forth; you’d prioritize what you want to see. You’d accomplish the ones that mean the most to you or the ones you’ve thought the most about. You want the best quality time in your city, and by doing too much you may experience “burn out” and what could have been a fantastic getaway (just relaxing enough) turns into a hectic mesh where your vacation doesn’t feel like a vacation at all.
How to Succeed:
Personally, I will not create more than three to five main resolutions (or one main resolution for each identity I defined in step 1). Definitely, I may have more identities than five, but I need to focus on the most important ones. This means I have to prioritize. This is also why self-introspection and reflection is so crucial for crafting successful New Year’s Resolutions. If you do not know who you are now, you can never know who you will want to become by the end of the year. Furthermore, if you have no baseline to begin with, you can never judge how a year is “successful” or not.
Writing Tip #5 –
Hold Yourself Accountable
Many times we do not hold ourselves accountable, meaning we let ourselves slip and do not reprimand ourselves. This can be detrimental to our goals. On top of it, sometimes we forget that vision that we have for ourselves at the end of the year. Or we give up because it seems too daunting (which is why tip 3 is important) or because of life. You can see this exact thing happen all the time in gyms when it is PACKED during the month of January and February but by May everyone has given up.
That is why it is so important to hold ourselves accountable, to never let our resolutions slip, to make them a habit. Now, of course, that is in an ideal situation, but there are situations that come up so we need to be realistic in this as well. We don’t want our resolutions to take over our lives and make us boring or completely different; we just want to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year. That is why, when making something a habit, we have to just do things more often than not. There should be more checks in the (did) column than the (didn’t). Creating a habit is about repetition, not about length or duration. A book I would recommend to help in habit formation is Atomic Habit by James Clear. Find it here.
How to Succeed:
There are many ways that we can succeed in holding ourselves accountable for our resolutions.
- First and foremost, we should write down our resolutions and put them in a spot that we visit every day—the refrigerator, for example, or maybe the screensaver of our laptop or phone. By always having access to it, by always seeing it, we will have a constant reminder (subconsciously or consciously) that we need to accomplish that particular priority.
- Second, develop a series of checkpoints. Many times, a resolution is a goal that cannot be completed easily. It takes perseverance, diligence, and in some cases, a complete rescripting of habits or identity. Nothing happens overnight. This is something we must realize (in our attempt to be realistic). So, if my goal, for example, is to get a new PR in deadlift and lift 220 kg and I currently have a PR of 205 then maybe in March or April I try to do 210; in July, I go for 215; in September I go for 220, and if I fail, then I still have December to try again. Progression is key in holding ourselves accountable in accomplishing our goals. As long as we are making progress, we are bettering ourselves.
- Third, establish a series of rewards. Work, work, work, work, work, is no fun. Sometimes we need a break. Imagine a lumberjack hacking down a tree with an ax. If he continually just swung the ax, the ax would eventually get dull and be less effective. Every once and a while, when sufficient progress has been made, the lumberjack will take some time to sharpen his ax and then go back to work until the tree has been cut down. We can use this analogy to think about how we approach our resolutions as well. What good is having a resolution of losing a bunch of weight and dieting when right afterward we regain all of that weight? (That’s why most diets are unsuitable for the long run). Cheat days are important. But, again, we have to hold ourselves accountable to getting things done; habits are formed by repetition, so while you may have a cheat day, it’s important to always remember that the days you spend dieting are significantly higher than the days you don’t.
- Fourth, obtain a “resolution buddy.” Resolutions don’t just have to be done by yourself. Instead, what you can do is write down your resolutions and exchange them with a close friend of yours or significant other. When you let someone else know how you plan on changing yourself this year or what you plan on accomplishing, they can help hold you accountable. Likewise, you can help hold them accountable. This establishes a buddy system of sorts and also makes the idea of tackling a resolution for enjoyable because you have someone constantly in your corner pushing you to achieve your goals.
At the end of the day, we all want to succeed. We all want success. Personally, these are five ways that I have found my life changing for the better upon the implementation of these ideas.
- Begin with the end in mind
- Be specific
- Be realistic with yourself and your goals
- Quality not quantity
- Hold yourself accountable
This is a new year, which means this is your chance to rescript yourself. Who you were in 2019 doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be that same person in 2020. We are always changing and growing. Resolutions are simply the destination, these five tips will help you calibrate your GPS so that you can successfully get there by December 31st, 2020. Good luck!
In the next blog post, I will be sharing my own personal resolutions for the New Year. Look for it next week. And, if this post helps you at all, please feel free to share it with your friends, family, community and for more great content follow my blog!