This year, I’m doing New Year’s resolutions differently. Why am I publishing this in February? Well, that might give you insight into how my resolutions are going so far.
I intended to publish this in January, you know, when everyone’s thinking about resolutions. I was thinking about them to, but didn’t implement them as quickly as I would have liked to, specifically writing.
So you could say I’ve already failed – I couldn’t even write and publish an article in the month of January. But this year is different. And so far I’m succeeding.
Well, that can be explained in the first change:
I’m using dates as catalysts
January is great time to start new habits. But so is February. And so is March or April or May.
We place so much importance on the month of January for resolutions to start new things and build new habits. If we don’t start something in January, or we can’t sustain something throughout January, then we feel like we’ve failed.
I had intended to write this article in January, and make a habit of writing an article once a month going forward. After I missed the January 31 deadline – I’ll be honest, I felt like scrapping this article completely. I even felt the temptation to give up on writing in short-term, and maybe try to pick it up again later in the year when I have more time.
Maybe that’s you. January feels like do or die, and if we can’t produce, then so much for the “new you.”
But… it’s February, and that is a new month. As of writing this, it’s the week of Chinese New Year, so I’m making this my new year. One article down – success so far.
Dates are intrinsically arbitrary, but if certain dates have significance to us, it’s worth using that as a catalyst to take action.
If you miss a seemingly significant date for starting something, just go to the next one. There’s the first day of spring or the first day of summer. There’s the first day of school or the first day of school break. There’s your birthday, or Mother’s and Father’s Day, or Independence Day (for any country you want). There’s Groundhog Day and Boxing Day. There’s simply next month.
Our calendar is full of potentially significant dates throughout the year that can be catalysts for change. Just pick one and make it meaningful.
I’m using milestones for momentum
There are so many articles and news segments out there about how many people quit their New Year’s resolutions before January is over. Most of those percentages are made up.
The problem is how we’re defining quitting or failure. If you intend to do something on a regular basis, but don’t follow through on it the entire year, you’ve quit and failed. For some reason, a year has become the ultimate standard for measuring success.
But why not a month or a season?
It’s like if you’re going on a road trip across the country and you stop for a bathroom break, and someone says you’ve failed in your roadtrip. That would be ridiculous.
Like any trip, the path to growth and change needs to have milestones along the way. It’s hard to commit to anything for a full year, but a week or a month is more attainable.
I’m going to focus on this next season. If I’m going to write one article a month, then I just need to get through March, April, and May. That’ll take me through spring. My February article is done, so now I just need to think about an article for March. Not all of 2022, just March.
Then when June comes, even if I’ve written 2 out of 3 articles, that’s great. I made it through spring writing the majority of the articles I intended, and I’m starting a new season fresh.
Which leads to the next point.
I’m prioritizing progress over perfection
Setting goals is great, and it can be really helpful for achieving high level results. But goals can also be the enemy of progress.
Within goals, there’s this assumed requirement of perfection. Either you achieve the goal or you don’t. And if you don’t, then you’ve failed. And if you’ve failed, then it’s not worth starting over.
Have you had that thought pattern? I have, and it’s been a hindrance in my personal growth.
Instead, I’m just focusing on improvement. How can today be better than yesterday? How can this week be better than last week? How can this month be better than last month?
So I didn’t publish anything in January. I just did in February, so that’s an improvement.
Instead of obsessing over hitting each goal every single time, strive to reach more goals over time.
Progress kicks perfection out the door and makes room for failure. As long as you’re succeeding at least 51% of the time, you’re making progress and moving forward.
It’s incredible how quickly success can compound and grow in the absence of perfection.
I’m going for habits, not goals
Why am I trying to write articles consistently this year? It’s because in general, I want to be a writer. Not necessarily someone who writes books as a profession, though that may be nice in the future. But simply someone who contributes valuable thoughts and ideas to the world through writing.
In setting goals, I think we’ve lost the reason we created them in the first place. We make goals to achieve things because we want to be the kind of person who does those things. At the core of goal setting is identity formation.
But we let the action, and the high standard of consistency for that action, define who we are. The inability to meet that level of consistency leads us to feelings of failure.
If you play music and you play most days, but you skip a day, it doesn’t make you not a musician anymore. You are still a musician because you’ve played music in the past and will play music again the next day or the following day.
Rather than measuring your identity by what you can do, decide who you are and let that guide your actions. Who you are will keep your habits consistent and growing. And you won’t worry as much when you skip or miss days that you intend to do that action, because it’ll be easy to pick that back up.
That mindset changes everything.
I was feeling so much doubt and failure at the beginning of the year in setting this writing goal. It’s because the last time I published an article on my blog was last January. It had been over a year since I had written an article, and I felt guilty for even thinking that I was any kind of a writer.
But then I remembered that I had actually written a lot on social media that past year. Some posts were just a few sentences, and other posts were a few paragraphs. Yet I was still thinking about the issues in the world and in my own life, and was attempting to share something of value with the world through writing.
I am a writer, and therefore I will continue to write, though the medium may be different from season to season. The goal of a monthly article is a nice benchmark for me, but what I’m really after is growing the habit of just writing, wherever that may be.
I’m getting help
One of my resolutions this year was to read more books. Last year I read one book, so this should be an easy one to crush. Hopefully.
The first one I decided to read was “Atomic Habits” by James Clear; it seemed a fitting one to start with. And it’s already provided a lot of great insight on developing my habits this year, from actually reading that book to writing to a few other habits.
Much of it I already knew from reading other books and articles. I’ve even written articles on personal development and habits. But I’m obviously not a pro at it.
It would have been easy to just say I knew enough and tried to do the resolutions thing again this year. But growth comes in realizing there is always a lot more of it ahead than behind.
So whether its through articles or books, through videos or conferences, or through coaches and mentors – find ways to grow and learn.
Will all these strategies work? Will I develop habits that stick around for longer? Will I see personal growth in life? Maybe.
But I’ve just written this article 13 months after my previous one, so that’s a start.