Ditch your New Year’s resolutions and try this instead

Making a New Year’s resolution is good in theory, but often falls flat when it comes to practice. Instead of getting hung up on its often overly-zealous reputation, try aiming for smaller, attainable goals – and maybe even skip the “New Year’s resolution” label altogether.
Use these tips to set actionable and attainable goals instead of lofty New Year's resolutions

Wait – but didn’t another person just write a post about creating New Year’s resolutions on this same blog?” Yes. Let me explain what I mean.

It’s natural to find ourselves caught up in the allure of a new year – a year holding new challenges, hopes, and full of promise. Don’t lose that feeling. What I’m interested in is why we make far-fetched declarations that hardly ever pan out (are you visiting the gym in August with the same gusto you had in January? Ummm, no). We all have good intentions but let’s face it; we set ourselves up for failure.

In college when I’d travel back to school after the new year I’d write out about ten New Year’s resolutions while listening to my Walkman (Bob Marley, cassette). Most of my resolutions were highly personal like to raise my hand more in class or stop eating dessert every day. Looking back, these resolutions were an attempt at me trying to be a better me, figure out who I wanted to be and put these “goals” in writing. It was a way to self-reflect and ask myself what I wanted. I was working on my own development before I even knew what it was! But during the year I never revisited them they were really just an exercise (never mind the failure I felt when I didn’t achieve them).

When you set unrealistic New Year’s resolutions you put pressure and formality around your own development in an informal, private way. It’s almost like you create a “pie in the sky” list of your dreams and desires. Some find this technique motivating (for like one minute) but is it successful? No – because it’s not sustainable. By the time December 31 hits, I’m still me and I haven’t thought about those resolutions since January 2. And most of my resolutions require me to make big changes to who I am. Why should I have to do that?

I shouldn’t.

So I’m taking the pressure off this year and not making New Year’s resolutions – what a relief. I guess you could say I’ve accepted who I am. Flawed, imperfect, always learning and trying to (cheesy warning) live in the moment. Not a bad place to be, right? Right. So what can you do instead of aiming for these overzealous New Year’s resolutions? Work on one thing at a time.

Here’s how:

  1. Pick one thing you want to improve, learn, do, see – whatever you feel most passionate about
  2. Write it down (I like post-its) – this makes it real
  3. Hang it up someplace very visible (like your desk at work or on your fridge) – or several places!
  4. Work on it, think about it, revisit it – find a way to make it part of your normal routines/habits
  5. Don’t start a new one until you feel like you’ve made progress and are ready for the next challenge

I believe in self-improvement but I think taking it one step at a time yields more success than trying to achieve a list of changes you want to make. 2016 is going to be a great year.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.



Meredith Mascolo

About Meredith Mascolo

As a Senior Technical Program Manager on the Engineering Excellence team, Meredith provides opportunities for Nuance technologists to collaborate, innovate, learn and engage across divisions. She is the editor-in-chief of the internal team blog, Utterances, which highlights technical topics such as leadership, programming, research, Nuance case studies and more. Meredith received a B.M. in music education from Oberlin Conservatory and a M.S. in Administrative Studies, Innovation and Technology from Boston University. She is a classically trained violinist who enjoys playing in bands (Dave Aaronoff and the Protagonists) as well as solo for yoga classes. She loves reading, cooking and yoga.