1. Constructing a better New Year’s Resolution

    Most people dread the new year’s resolution. To be exact, they dread the inevitable failure of those goals. Over the years, I’ve learned some great tricks for keeping my resolutions.

    First, let’s explore the problem.

    America has a problem with portion control. We put too much on our plates. I mean this in both the figurative and literal sense. Many resolutions start with something relating to a person getting “in shape” or being more “doing more work”. Both of these common resolutions set a person up to fail, reinforcing the futility of resolutions and driving a person further and further from their goals.
    Before you can make goals and keep them, you have to change the way you set those goals… and that is where we find ourself.

    Stop biting off more than you can chew

    I love to see the optimism that people demonstrate going into these resolutions. I hear things like, “I’m going to lose 20 lbs” or “I am going to find ‘Mr. Right'”. It’s great to see optimism, however, if a person is setting goals that are beyond their realistic capabilities, they are again, setting themself up to fail.

    Set realistic goals

    If your goal is to lose weight, set a goal that is realistic for both your lifestyle, worklife, and physical abilities. Weight loss is a beast, and most people aren’t aware of the amount of dedication and endurance that is required to follow through to the end.

    Sprints vs Shock

    Instead of setting huge blanket goals like “I am going to lose 20lbs”, you should start with some baby steps. Maybe you should try “I am going to only drink 1 Soda Pop per week”. You can start a lifetime of amazingly good habits by setting small goals that change the course of your life over time instead of huge drastic changes that are a shock to your current way of life.

    In the project management world this would be called a “sprint” approach to milestones and GTD. It allows you to set short term milestones, and sprint from one to the next, focusing on completion, and “success” instead of focusing on what is left. Not only is this an effective method for personal health, it’s also a great method for maintaining the quality of just about every aspect of your life.

    Building on Success

    By focusing on sprinting from each short term goal to the next, you’re going to start experiencing a new feeling, success! In order for you to get the most value from this experience, you must follow each successfully completed goal with another. This will keep you moving forward toward the final result that you’re looking for.

    Some Suggested Goals & Timeline for 2010

    1. I will only eat fast food 1 time per week – A great goal, one which I can’t recommend enough. The amount of empty, worthless carbs that people eat each day, let alone in a week is disturbing.
      Bigger Picture: Phase out unhealthy food, one week or month at a time. Try eating healthier food, and smaller meals. Your body will start to crave these healthy foods and replace your desire for fatty foods.
    2. I will walk the dog 3 days a week – Not only will you be helping your dogs health, you’ll also be getting outside, doing some modest cardio, and giving yourself and your spouse some quality time.
      Bigger Picture: Get exercise to be apart of your LIFE, not just something you do to stop feeling fat. It’s not a chore, start small, and do more and more as you get into it.
    3. I will put $5 into savings per week – Get a big jar, and throw $5 into it, per week. If you make this a habit, you can develop some great habits for saving!
      Bigger Picture: America has become too dependent on credit and many don’t have the skill a discipline to save money for hard times. Start small, and learn how to invest wisely in long term savings.
    4. I will leave work on time at-least 2 days a week – For the workaholics out there, this can be difficult. However, learning to stop, and go home can be one of the greatest things you can do for your sanity.
      Big Picture: Learning out to separate your work and your personal life will not only increase the quality of your life but your work as well.
    5. I will do provide a helping hand or service to my fellow man once per month – There is nothing like the feeling you get when you give of your time to help another human being. Start simple, volunteer an hour or two a month, or join a service organization.
      Big Picture: There is nothing more rewarding than a life of service to others. Learning how to stop focusing on yourself, and lending a hand to someone in a difficult situation, or to a group that provides support to the community can set you up for experiences that will guide you and reward you throughout the rest of your life.

    These are some sample goals that you can set for yourself. Note that they don’t focus on the bigger picture, but are instead a first step towards reaching that big-picture goal.

    I’ve been using this approach in my own life for the past 3 years and have reach new levels of personal success that I would not otherwise reached if I had stayed in the rut I was in. The satisfaction of looking back and seeing how much you’ve changed, and the new directions your life has taken just can’t be beat.

    I hope that this rough guide gives you some inspiration, and you’re able to set some realistic goals for yourself in 2010. Please feel free to share your own techniques and experiences in the comments below!