The keys to successful resolutions — incremental, measurable, achievable

As we prepare to step into a new year, I often do the resolution thing. I know that most resolutions that most of us set for ourselves don’t make it past the first few weeks of January. But that doesn’t make resolutions a waste of time. What it suggests is that we over-commit, try to change too many things, and are far from practical about what we should focus on changing.

Change is important. None of us has arrived.

And although there’s something forced and clichéd about New Year’s resolutions, there’s also something helpful about having a set time on the calendar for making changes. So, why not take advantage of a fixed cultural expectation to make changes now?

So, how do we go about doing this in a way that will actually work? Because if you’re like me and most others, you’ve had your fair share of failed resolutions and may even have given up on them because of those failures.

Our problem is that we set ourselves up for failure by the way we go about it.

Nothing breeds success more than success.

We are emotional beings and we need to feel successful in order to be successful. To succeed at our resolutions over the long haul, we need to succeed at them quickly to get that feeling of success. So, any attempt to make a change should have small and measurable steps that ensure success.

For instance, if you’d like to get your blog up and running, set a small and measurable goal for yourself — one post in January. Really! Anyone can achieve that goal. If you want to start painting, set a goal of painting one piece in January. And voila! You’ve done it!

Now that you’ve got success under your belt, set the next small and measurable step.

Rethinking our weight-loss goals is similar. Instead of setting a goal of losing 10 or 20 pounds, it’s far better to set a goal of skipping the pastry when getting coffee at Starbucks. Or why not just skip Starbucks altogether and brew coffee at home? A friend lost 20 lbs. simply by cutting out all soft drinks for two months.

Similarly, with exercise goals it’s far better to bite of something that will bring success and encourage you to continue. So, instead of setting a goal of running a marathon by June, set the goal of running to the local elementary school and back each morning for a week. Once that’s achieved, lengthen the route for the next week. Soon, you’ll be running a 5K, then a 10K and so on.

These are the three keys: Incremental. Measurable. Achievable.

Make changes in small steps. Make sure those steps are measurable, not feelings based. Make sure that each step can be achieved quickly and be celebrated swiftly.

So, here’s how I’m going about it this coming year.

1. Declutter. One of the goals I’m really looking forward to is declutter my life. I’m not a hoarder, but I’ve got way too much stuff.

So, in preparation for the new year, I just finished listening to the audio version of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It’s a quick listen or read and quite worth the time. She’s methodical in her approach, breaking down the cleaning up process into steps that are all measurable and achievable — by everyone.

According to Kondo, an uncluttered home makes for an uncluttered heart, an uncluttered mind, an uncluttered soul. Using her approach, we are given the opportunity to face every item we’ve gathered over the years, thank it for the joy it gave us along the way (even if it was simply the joy of buying something we never ended up using), and say goodbye. We are left only with those things that are essential and bring us joy right now. And that sounds super great to me.

So, I’m so psyched about this, I have already begun planning the process of tidying up and uncluttering my home. That is resolution number one, with its many measurable parts.

2. Exercise. I have done lots of exercise programs in the past to good effect. With a friend, I sweated through P90X a dozen times and on my own I’ve blasted through Insanity almost as many times. This coming year, I’m looking forward to using a TRX rip-off that uses a simple strap system and my own body weight. It’s amazingly uncomplicated and adaptable to where any person it at physically.

I have a specific time and place to exercise, and I’ve got a simple program that I know I can succeed at (even moderately) right from the get-go.

3. Spiritual reading and recording. My third and final resolution (I never do more than three) has to do with spiritual reading. I’d love to do a lot beyond my basic Bible-reading and I do get in a fair number of audiobooks in this area, but I need to set a doable goal for what I’m after this year. Not only do I want to read a book, I want to record an audiobook of it. So, I’m setting a goal of just one by the end of June. If I meet it, I can always set another goal.

So, my goal is to read, reread, and record P.T. Forsyth’s The Soul of Prayer. It’s both profound and in the public domain, so I’ll have both the motivation and the legal right to record it. I’ll let you know when it’s available, both on this website and on Audible.

So, those are my three incremental, measurable, and achievable goals for this coming year. What are yours?

We’re never done growing and changing, so let’s keep setting goals we each can accomplish.