The Secret to Keeping a Resolution

The calendar has just turned to a new year, and I am curious…have you made any resolutions? I have been asking people this for the past few years, and very few have responded with specific goals or desires for the coming year. Most people just shrug, or say, “Nah, resolutions never work” as if it was the resolution's fault :). I love any opportunity for a fresh start. Call me weird, but I kind of miss my college days, when every semester was an opportunity to start with a blank slate and set new goals or challenges, and see what else I could learn or experience. At the end of the semester, I could reflect on a relatively short time and assess how I did in meeting my goals.

In the many years since college, I have had wildly varying success with setting and achieving my goals. I was often frustrated that I didn’t achieve them “perfectly”, forgetting that it’s “progress, not perfection” that keeps us moving forward. A few years ago, I realized I hadn’t set any goals in some time. With no kids at home, and calendar demarcations like “summer” or “school starts–aka, mommy's vacation”, I had somehow stopped setting goals. Had I learned all there was to learn? Had I become what I loathed…the person who had slipped into middle age, content to just settle for status quo? Oh, heaven help me, NO!! As I thought about goals again, I often found myself overwhelmed by options. Some have likened this phase of life to a 2nd adolescence. I would have to agree. I don’t have any desire to dress or act like an adolescent again—but the seemingly limitless options can be paralyzing.

So, I have played with different versions of resolutions over the years, because let's be honest, 12 months is a long time to stay focused. I have tried focusing on learning 1 new skill/month. I have set out to have one new experience/month–that was the year I shot a handgun and visited a pawn shop in north Texas in successive months–-wasn't liking where that year was headed! I have tried focusing on various parts of the self–physical one month, intellectual another month. However, none of my attempts seemed to last beyond a few months at best.

Last year, I chose 2 words that I wanted to live by until they became so familiar, I wouldn't have to think about them–Grace and Gratitude. Grace for the times I want to snap someone's head off, and Gratitude for all that God has provided for in my life, regardless of circumstances. It's amazing the power words have when we plant them in our conscious mind, and allow the roots to sink deep into our subconscious. Not saying I handled everything with Grace and Gratitude, but I catch myself more often when I want to retaliate (the opposite of grace) or grumble (the opposite of gratitude).

This year I am trying a different tact–I am setting a measurable goal for each month, along with 1 or 2 measurable things I’ve been saying I want to do. For instance, I’ve been saying for years that I want to finish watching Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary, which I started years ago. Not a life changing goal, but those that have researched goals have found that we are more likely to remember the things we HAVEN’T accomplished, than the things we HAVE. So for me, it’s a way of clearing the subconscious of nagging undones. But mainly, I'm focusing on ONE thing per month.

The key to any successful goal is that it be SMART.

Most people have seen this acronym:

Specific (What? When? Where? How?)
Measurable (instead of “lose weight”, “I will lose 2 lbs. this month.”)
Achievable (Do I have the skills, or do I need to focus on some skill building first?)
Relevant (Is this REALLY something I want to do?)
Timely (How to schedule to make this happen?)

Every month will be a new opportunity to review and reset. Maybe one month has a theme, i.e. Healthy eating, and the focus is on trying new recipes that support a healthy lifestyle. Or another month is photography–finally tackling Photoshop (I don't know why I have such resistance to PS, but it overwhelms me!)

Will you join me in this experiment, and use this community to hold each other accountable? Focus on whatever you want each month, and at the end of 12 months, hopefully you have taken steps in a relationship or a hobby or a project. The point is, we do best if we focus on one thing at a time.

Remember the line from City Slickers, when Curly asks Mitch if he knows the secret of life?
“It's one thing. Just this one thing” Curly says.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.”

This is actually the very thing that keeps most people from making New Year's resolutions, or any change for that matter–we make a list of very good intentions, but being creatures of habit, we fall back into old habits and patterns after a few weeks. It takes about a month of daily focus to establish a new habit.[tweetthis]It takes about a month of daily focus to establish a new habit.[/tweetthis]

So choose something, anything (but keep it SMART) and work on that ONE thing for a month.

I'll go first–write 4 blog posts in January. This is 1 of 4 🙂

Question: I would love to hear your goals–posting in the comment section is a great way to start accountability (I'll follow up with you in a month!) What is one thing you want to focus on in January? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: In the spirit of developing a respectful community, I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, snarky or disrespectful. If you wouldn't say it to your mama, don't say it here.