New Year’s resolution

With all the posts and articles floating around about everyone’s and their neighbour’s New Year’s resolution, it seems like a good time to post mine.

As every year, I’ve resolved to not have a New Year’s resolution this year. And with that, I’ve already made the resolution a success.

I never understood what the whole point of them was, anyway. Just recently though, I’ve come to understand why I don’t like them in the first place, and why the alternative is so much better.

Changing your life

Most people resolve to change something more or less drastically in their life.

  • "I’m going to stop smoking in 2011"
  • "I’m going to lose 20kg / 44lbs in 2011"
  • "I’m going to get more active"
  • "I’m going to post at least one article on my blog every week"

Even better, some resolve to change a lot of things in their life. Usually, the way to stick to these resolutions is to change one or more habits. However, changing a habit takes up mental energy. To understand what it takes to change a habit, go over to Ian Newby-Clark at “My bad habits" and start with the "Diary of a habit changer" (coincidentally, Ian also has a post about New Year’s resolutions). In and of itself there is nothing wrong with the idea of making the start of a new year the point of change for something in your life. Just make sure that you tackle only one problem at a time and make corrections to it.

"The idea is to take the most important correction needed and just focus on that one thing. Attack it from different angles if needed, but be tenacious on correcting the biggest fault only.” (crossfitexcellence.com)

Make it a goal

I am a very goal oriented person, I like competing a lot … even or especially competing against myself. For me, having a goal is more attractive than saying “I will do X in 2011”. So instead of having one (or worse: more than one) New Year’s resolution, I’ll happily set a goal for myself. What’s the difference? Goals ought to be SMART:

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Attainable
  • R - Relevant
  • T - Time bound

Therefore, before setting your goal:

  1. Be sure to formulate your goal in a very specific way.  Instead of getting more active in your life, you might want to just go running twice per week (there, that’s also measurable)
  2. Do some research about what’s attainable. Is it realistic to lose 50kg in a year if that means losing close to half of your body weight? Maybe, maybe not.
  3. Be sure to make the goal relevant for you. Do you want to lose weight, because someone else said so? Do you like your body, are you healthy even with that belly that you don’t really care about? Is it maybe more relevant to you to spend more (how much more? Make it measurable!) with your family instead of with your job?
  4. Give yourself a time frame. By common definition, a New Year’s resolution last for the whole year, which makes it time bound. But is December 31 of the year really a good time to reach a goal? Maybe it is better to have posted 2000km on the bike by September 30 of the year.

Agreed, just formulating the goal in a SMART way doesn’t get you anywhere. You have to have a plan as well. How are you going to safe up the 10.000 EUR for the dream vacation in the year after this one? Where can you cut back? Can you cut back at all or is the goal just not attainable?

Give it a name

I like how J.D. Roth of GetRichSlowly.org dubs a whole year with his goal (2010 was his “Year of Fitness”). By that, you’ll be easily reminded about what your focus should be on. You can still have minor/smaller goals that you want to accomplish, but giving your main goal a name makes it stick out.


My goal this year

If I would have given a name for last year, it would have been “Year of getting back on the bike”. I managed to accomplish that goal, logging about 1500km from May to November (yes, I was on the bike November 14), the longest being a 112km ride. While I’ll continue to get out on the bike, maybe even logging more than 2000km (time permitting), I’d dub this year “Year of getting flexible”. Yep, throughout all the years on the couch or in front of the computer the notorious bad flexibility of my joints and muscles got worse. In order to avoid getting all sorts of problems again, I need to work on my flexibility. So by October 31st, 2011 I want to be able (among other things) to reach down to the floor with the legs straight (yes, I can’t do that right now and you really don’t want to know how much is missing).

  • Is it specific?
    Very specific; I might have only named one particular movement that I want to improve, but there are more … I just left them out of this post to not completely bore you
  • Is it measurable?
    Very much so. I either will be able to reach the floor or not.
  • Is it attainable?
    Past experience tells me that it is attainable. It won’t be easy, though.
  • Is it relevant?
    For sure. Again past experience tells me that I get severe problems with my knees if I don’t work on this.
  • Is it time bound?
    Yes, October 31st, 2011 is the date.

There you have it, my New Year’s resolution goal for 2011.

What is your main goal for 2011? The one thing you really want to accomplish or change?