January 1, 2017

Ah, the New Year.

Maybe it’s because my birthday falls within a couple weeks of the new year, but I feel like I spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on my achievements and growth moments from the past year to think about what my goals are for the next one.

I’m a bit of a sucker for a check-point or fresh-start, and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. It seems like everywhere I turn, I see or hear some mention of new year’s resolutions. Seeing so many people stoked to take on new challenges is exciting and pushes me to try harder.

Unfortunately though, New Year’s resolutions have become somewhat trite, and many have given up on the idea all-together.

And rightfully so.

I’ve seen articles citing numbers as high as 80% of people that undertake New Year's Resolutions ultimately give up or report feeling as though they did not achieve their goals.

OMG, how devastating!

I couldn’t do it.

I could not keep coming up with new targets if I was always falling short.

This brings up to the million dollar questions-How is success defined? And, when is it reached?

Often, articles will reference the idea of SMART goals, which is any hodgepodge of the following acronym-

  • S - specific, significant, stretching
  • M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
  • A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
  • R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
  • T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

In general, this is a good start, but sometimes we can become too clear-cut about our goals and it can easy to lose perspective. So, if whatever specific goal isn’t hit, then why even bother.

Goals that will have a long-term impact, whether New Year’s inspired or not, need to be fluid and used a fuel to continuously try to be better while acknowledging and respecting we’re all doing the best we can in the moment. Not the simple markers of success or failure they’ve become.

This looks different for everyone, and can even look different depending on the week.

When I started this site, I was so overwhelmed with where to even begin.

What was my branding going to be? What about tone? How varied were the blog topics going to be? How would I get readership? Tag-line or no tag-line? How many pieces of content should I have before launching? What about social media? Should I focus on followers first? I could go on.

So, I did a quick reality check—was this something I was committed to, willing to struggle with, and learn from? One thing we often forget about resolutions is that they’re growth points, and growth means pain. Knowing this helps re-set expectations and makes rebounding from the tough spots easier.

Once I confirmed with myself I was in it for good, my very first step was to get my initial thoughts physically on paper. I spent a Sunday afternoon with a couple Bloody Mary’s free-writing every thought about this venture that came into my head. Suddenly I had all of my nervousness staring at me, as well as a brilliant plan of attack. I was going to knock out the setup and initial content development in a week, 10 days max. It was going to be awesome.

Spoiler alert—it took much longer than 10 days to launch.

And, if I had let the results of that initial specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-based (SMART) goal be the indicator of my success, I would have failed miserably.  

Instead of dwelling on the fact that things didn’t go as planned, I looked at the pieces I was successful with, and planned out how I could incorporate those pieces long-term into my daily habits right away. This meant that my blog was getting some sort of attention every single day.

Then, I looked at the pieces found myself actively avoiding. I considered whether or not these pieces were essential for launch, and if it was something that was just a one-time task or had to be continuously maintained. Suddenly, things like getting the Facebook group set up fall very low on the list, and it felt awesome. My whole to-do list was significantly smaller and much more do-able.

Then,  I started to do it. For a week, I tackled whatever action item seemed doable each day. I tried to sprinkle in the not so great tasks after a couple easy or fun ones, but for the first week, the baseline rules was to just do something. Sometimes that was writing a full blog post. Sometimes it was jotting down a few content ideas. One day it meant taking the plunge and painfully recording my very first podcast.

After a week of the “something is better than nothing” method, I instituted an hour a day minimum rule. That was low enough it allowed me to get it done either daily, or if I needed to miss a day or two, I could spread the missed time out throughout the rest of the week and still hit the larger goal.

Ultimately, no matter how much I wanted to set up a “step-by-step no fail plan”, I knew that would only end in frustration and feelings of failure.  

But, being willing to go back to the basic “something is better than nothing” mantra and just doing something to get one step closer to the goal than the day before, helped me figure out how to build a whole new habit.