Though many of us have been focused on parties, festivities, and winter activities, there is another tradition looming just around the bend: New Year’s Resolutions. And rather than let this tradition sneak up on us, I am suggesting that we try to look at this tradition in another way.
I think it’s time to drop these traditional New Year Resolutions entirely in favour of something a bit more attainable: let’s call them New Year’s Ambitions.
The word resolution invokes the tried (and often failed) tradition of making solid goals that most often are forgotten about by February or March.
I know first-hand the effect that a very specific resolution can have on people. A few years ago I decided that I wanted to reach many of the usual goals, get fitter by losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking and getting out more.
Well, I knew deep down that getting all those goals sorted in a specific time frame was unlikely at best, since there are so many factors that can affect you. Not only that but the moment you try and do all these things at once it becomes a chore, a burden and you can end up miserable and beating yourself up at the first sign of failure. This in turn leads to the often known practise of just abandoning the resolutions and pretending you never made them.
I’d glad to say that now I have lost weight, stopped smoking and am exercising more, not because I made resolutions but I looked at them in a different way, I didn’t associate them with 1 specific year. Before, when I cared so much about a specific goal in a specific time frame, I was too afraid to fail and then berate myself for not getting to the finish line in time.
Don’t let resolutions limit you
My story demonstrates how extremely specific goals may limit us from taking action in the right direction and making any progress at all. Sometimes “all or nothing” thinking paired with goal setting is just as bad as low motivation. Neither end of the goal-setting spectrum allows us to move forward and get closer to the lives we want.
So now I propose making ambitions instead, because unlike an unattained resolution, an ambition is an on-going effort. When you stray from an ambition one day—i.e. pigging out with the girls or postponing the job search because things are hectic at your current job—you can come back to it the next day and pick up where you left off with new commitment to your aim. It’s a more realistic approach, because, let’s face it, life throws things at us at times that will set us back.
You will stumble
When you set a resolution, you often put specifics into the goal. Stop watching TV, go to aerobics twice a week, lose a stone, get a better job by March, etc., all have specific guidelines that need to be met in order for the resolution to be fulfilled. This often is not realistic for those of us who are constantly moving and changing.
When an ambition is made, however, we can change those strict resolutions into more flexible, achievable versions of the same goals. For example, we can try to be more active and eat better rather than trying to lose a specified amount of weight by a specific date.
And when we find ourselves scoffing the chocolates Valentine’s Day, we won’t beat ourselves up or throw in the healthy ambition towel completely. We can just acknowledge that we didn’t fulfil our ambition to the fullest on that day and cut back the day or week after.
There will be changes
We may also find that at some point later in the year we may want to change our ambition. Or circumstantial changes in life may mean that what was a goal on January 1 is no longer realistic (this could be for financial, health, family reasons etc).
Rather than lose 2 stone we may find that losing 7 pounds leaves us feeling pretty good!
In this case we won’t have to qualify why we didn’t meet our resolutions. Instead, we simply fulfil the intention of being healthier and feeling better in a new way.
Small change is still change
Last but not least, the great thing about ambitions is that it allows you to see all progress as a good thing. If it takes you longer than you’d like to meet a resolution, it’s easy to get discouraged. But when you approach your life changes from an intentional point of view, you can see how far you’ve come from where you started and celebrate that as success.
This positive approach to intentions is often more effective (avoiding that burnout factor that resolutions have) and kinder. It allows you to celebrate the journey, not just the destination.
We all hope you have a wonderful New Year and any goals you may wish to achieve make you happy, whether you reach them in full, in part, or at all! Remember to be happy!