Usually, I hate New Year's Resolutions. All that false hope makes me feel ill. I mean, really, it doesn't matter how many times I vow that THIS will be the year I get fit / get skinny / get rich, the truth is I'll no doubt have forgotten all about my resolution before January is even over. Chances are I'll have scuppered the get-rich plan by blowing a large amount of cash on gym membership and vanilla lattes which will serve no other purpose beyond making me feel guilty all year that I'm still not fit or skinny either.
Last year I forgot about the resolutions and just scribbled down a couple of work-related goals. It's the first time I've ever done anything like that but by some remarkable twist of fate I reached each goal and even managed to exceed some of them. Now that's a lovely feeling. Way better than spending the year mourning my lack of will-power when it comes to resolutions.
So this year I'm doing the same. My only resolution is that I’m not making any resolutions. Instead I’m setting myself some goals in the hope that I’ll get the warm fuzzies all over again when I hit them later in the year. As I’ve said, my goals were mainly work-related but this year I’m going to use the same approach to set some targets in lots of different areas of family life that could do with a shake-up. If that appeals to you, here are some ideas for making 2010 a resolution-free zone but a year in which you make some real, lasting changes.
1. Be realistic
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I’m not going to argue. Besides, it’s a cliché that lends itself to my point. Few good things in life can be attained easily or quickly, so take that into consideration when you set your goals for the year. Don’t set your expectations to high. Not because you won’t succeed but because you might lose heart along the way and a goal should be something that energises and motivates you, not something that makes you feel like a failure. If your goal is to create more ‘me-time’ start with once a month. A weekly time out is probably unrealistic to start with but once you’re hitting that monthly goal you can always move the posts and go for something more frequent.
2. Reach for the stars
Ok, so I know the first point was that goals should be realistic and achievable if you’re going to stand a chance of reaching them. That’s true, but yearly goals also need to have a little bit of s-t-r-e-t-c-h about them. They need to be at least just a tiny bit out of your reach at the start of the year if you’re going to keep motivated. If they’re too easy, chances are you’ll get bored and give up. It’s that sense of momentum that keeps you going in those moments when you doubt whether you’ll ever reach your goal.
The best goals aren’t entirely out of reach but they’re things that would bring about real, discernible change. Losing a stone is do-able, much more so than losing ten, but even that first smaller step will reap big rewards and motivate you to go further and achieve more.
3. Keep track
Revisit your goals throughout the year and revise them as appropriate. If something changes so that one particular goal loses relevance - change it, don’t just abandon it.
4. Celebrate the successes
Don’t just dismiss the goals you reach as having been too easy. That’s another reason to make sure they’re not too easy in the first place. You want to feel like your achievement is something worth celebrating because that’s the feeling that will keep you going when the path to your goal gets tough.
5. Don’t lose heart
I had some darker days this year where my goals just made me feel silly. At those points it was tempting to abandon them altogether or at least pretend I’d never made them. But actually getting to my goals – getting that feature idea commissioned, or getting to write for a particular magazine – felt ten times better because of those moments when I had doubted I would ever get there. Keeping the longer-term perspective of 12 months to reach your goals also helps keep the pressure off, and gives you something to look forward to.
One final thought. Kids love goals. So whatever yours are, it’s worth considering involving the rest of the family, either in helping you support your goals or even in setting their own. If you want more you-time explain how they can help support that by putting their laundry in the right place or helping to clear the table after tea.
If your goal is to enjoy more quality time as a family, explain that to the children. They’re bound to bring it up at the most inopportune moments, like when you’re shouting at them or rushing them through bedtime, but even those inconvenient reminders can help refocus you on your goals. And by making your goals for 2010 a family experience you can keep each other accountable for your progress and celebrate the successes together. I’ll raise a glass or two to that.