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Why I’m Not Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Woman in a really cute cardigan stands in the middle of the street and ponders on her New Years resolutions
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Like any good control freak, I began thinking about 2016 in October. I pre-ordered my planner, bought a beautiful wall calendar before it could sell out, and started thinking about the things I wanted to accomplish in the new year. Just a few of which are moving to Europe, finishing my novel, and dropping those last five pounds that just won’t take the hint.

As I thought of these things and how much better my life would be once I had accomplished them, I stopped to consider how well the traditional New Year’s Resolution thing had gone this year. FYI: Not well.

As I started 2015, I was just starting to use my Day Designer planner and dove headfirst into the goal setting worksheets. And I mean head first. I’ve never been one for dipping a toe into something. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal (or so I like to tell myself), so I was going big in 2015. It was my first full calendar year post-grad, and by golly I was going to be successful QUICK. Let’s all have a moment of silence for my sweet, naive 23-year-old self. Naturally, life tied my shoelaces together and watched me trip and tumble my way through the months. I worked on those resolutions, and I definitely lost a few pounds, but I didn’t complete them.

Guess what? That’s okay, and I realized pretty quick that it didn’t mean I was doomed. In the process of dealing with the mess of my young life though, I figured out that I did much better by implementing a monthly resolution and goal-setting process for my health and fitness goals.

Ladies, this was my lightbulb moment!

It all started when I signed up for the 2015 Tone It Up Bikini Series. The challenge requires participants to write down their goals for the coming eight weeks and track their progress throughout. So I did. I set my goal of running/walking/biking 100 miles in eight weeks, completing a morning workout everyday, and following the Tone It Up Meal Plan.

Of course, there were some slip-ups, because it was spring and well, margaritas. However, having shorter goals that supported my overall goal of a healthier and hotter body was eye-opening. After the challenge ended, I decided to set goals each month for my diet and exercise routine. I wrote them down, taped them to my fridge next to a monthly calendar and mile tracking sheet, and then played Mulan’s “Let’s Get Down to Business.” I would mark off the miles and cross out the days I worked out so I could get a visual of just how much I truly went to the gym. Let’s just say I was ashamed that first month. Honestly, this process feels more like forming habits than sticking to goals, which might be why I’ve actually stuck with it for once.

So how does that relate to New Year’s Resolutions?

Well, I’m going to do the same thing in 2016 for ALL of my goals and intentions for the year, and I’m going to change and track it all each month. I know, that seems a little strange, right? How could I possibly stay centered and achieve anything? Well, it’ll be an experiment, but I have a feeling that it’ll go just fine based on my success with fitness goals.

Essentially, I plan to set smaller, more attainable goals each month that support things I want in life. For example, I want to be healthy and active for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be a certain size by the end of 2016; I just want to be healthy and active, so my monthly goals will reflect that lifelong intention.

I also want to have a sizable and stable retirement when I finally crest “the hill,” so I’ll include smaller goals to save all of the spare change I get during the month or to cut back on the coffee runs. Doesn’t that sound more achievable than “Save $300 this month?”

Now, don’t get these life-goals confused with New Year’s Resolutions. That’s not what they are. I don’t want to work on these things for a year and then be done forever. These are things that are important to me now, and will continue to be important to me for years to come. However, not setting New Year’s Resolutions doesn’t mean I’m going to scamper through those 12 months like a squirrel who couldn’t care less about hibernation.

I know what I want in my life (a svelte bod, a book deal, and a puppy, to be specific), so setting smaller goals each month helps me recenter to reach those goals every 30-ish days, and I get some much-need wiggle room for those months when I need to focus on something else. I’m so Type A it hurts, and even I’ve learned you can’t be rigid about everything all of the time. You have to have some flexibility, and I think monthly goal-setting provides the structure for that.

Here’s my exact plan.

My game plan for setting monthly goals in 2016 is going to be a little different than my fitness goals have been. Currently, I set three or four goals for the gym and my diet and then track them in my planner and on my fridge. But since I’ll be doing this for all of my goals for the year, the process needs to be a little different. I don’t want to overwhelm myself or shoot too low, so there’s a good chance I’ll tweak things after a month or two.

For January, I’ll set one goal for saving money, two for my personal writing projects, and then three for health. I know that seems like a lot. However, this is the first test. I want three health goals because it’s hard to get results when you aren’t combining healthy eating with exercise and mental health. I’ll have two goals for my personal writing projects because I have a blog and have been working on a book, and I don’t want either of those to fall off of my radar. And then my one financial goal is intended to make saving money easier and less scary.

If you want to give it a shot, then identify your main three categories and the item(s) you want to focus on for those categories.

I’m setting a word for the year as well.

On top of the 25 New Year’s Resolutions I set for 2015, I also chose a word for the year. My word was “mindfulness” because I wanted to be more mindful in what I did and how I did it. It was a decision that has served me well this year, especially when setting my monthly fitness goals. I haven’t settled on a word for 2016 just yet, but I have a list of contenders. No matter what I decided, I intend to tape it to my fridge and cover my work space in sticky notes bearing the magical word (You can never over-do reminders.).

If you want to do this too, then think about what you want for the coming year. After you’ve narrowed in, brainstorm some words that you think will keep you accountable. Think of the word as a buoy in the middle of the ocean. I clung to my word when my life was stressful, emotional, and utterly out of control. You need a word you can cling to. One that will keep you afloat through the crashing waves of life (Deep, I know.). Remember that the word is only effective if you actually use it. You have to make an effort to think of the word and apply it to your life if you expect it to guide you at all.

This isn’t code for “be your own worst critic.”

I feel like I need to note that setting smaller monthly goals doesn’t mean that you need to accomplish them 100% each time. That’s not realistic. After doing this for several months, I know that it’s impossible to be perfect with anything. I’m going to have a cupcake at some point, so not every meal will be on track. I’m going to skip the gym when Midol fails me.

I’m not going to berate myself for it at the end of the month or feel like a failure. I’m just going to set new goals for the next 30 days and try to do better. I’m approaching 2016 with this mindset because 2015 taught me there are times when you need to move things to the back burner when something more important pops up.

Maybe this experiment will fail, or maybe it’ll be a wild success and lead to the most fulfilling, happy year of my life so far. I’m hoping for the latter. Don’t worry, I like to talk so I’ll definitely keep everyone posted.

Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3

Last modified on March 16th, 2017

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