With the beginning of every new year, I’m sure most of us make an entire shopping list of resolutions- wake up early, work out more, eat healthier, read more, laugh more, stress less and so on and so forth. And yet within a few weeks, if not days, most of us have reverted to our pre-new year selves.
When the excitement of the new beginning wears off and the dull thudding of everyday routine sets in; with festivities far behind and holidays far over the horizon- it isn’t surprising that we drop out of the resolutions race.
In 2017, for the first ever time in my life I actually achieved a new year resolution to read 52 books. It was not the first time I had set myself a target to read books. Au contraire, I had been setting myself book goals at least since 2013 and yet a happy confluence of circumstances and will meant that 2017 was the year I achieved my book goal.
I felt that I had to share my learnings from this experience and help any readers who may be looking at formulating their own New Year goals.
1. Start simple and be honest to yourself: Caught up in the spur of the moment, budding with enthusiasm at the dawn of the year most of us set unrealistic goals for ourselves. In 2014 I set myself a target of reading 100 books. Seriously? Who was I kidding? Even if I gave up my day time job and became a full time book reader, I’d have trouble getting through 100 books properly in a year. A 100 book target was a sure recipe for failure and sure enough I had even forgotten about the resolution in a few weeks after having fallen behind target awfully.
In 2015, I set myself a target of 75 books but even this was unattainable. In 2016, I revised it to 52 which translated into about a book a week. With access to a library and lot more commute reading time I was able to make good progress and actually made it to 42 books at the end of the year. At the start of 2017, I resisted my urge to up the target once again and maintained the level at 52 and I achieved the target. What I realised was this, your mind is like a motor and it needs a certain level of priming. You cannot simply go from 0 to 100, but need to pace yourself, start small and pace yourself gradually. Once you get into the groove, your actions become habitual and achieving your target becomes much easier.
This doesn’t apply just for book reading but also to other things including eating healthier, working out more and so on. For the former you can’t just move from 100% junk food to salads in a day- you will hate your food and hate yourself. And with the latter, sudden bursts of workouts will tire your body so much that won’t be motivated to visit a gym for the rest of the year. Start with small portions (literally)- 5 minutes of exercise four times a week, changing to everyday, changing to 10 minutes and so on.
2. Be SMART- OMG! I hate myself for bringing in corporate jargon into my blog. Anybody who has had to go through an annual job review/ appraisal/ goal setting in the last decade or so would have encountered SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
What it translates to is this: don’t set yourself overly vague resolutions or unrealistic goals like “I will study 10 hours a day outside of the classroom everyday”. It always helps to define things a bit just so you have something to measure yourself to and feel happy about. For ex: “I resolve to donate $10 to charitable purposes every month” or “I will study a new language for 10 minute everyday”.
Realistically achievable goals help us boost our self confidence and help us eventually get to the ambitious target we planned for originally
3. Don’t make too many resolutions- the ideal number in my opinion is three. Seriously, I don’t think anybody has the mental bandwidth to do more than three new things in addition to doing what you do regularly (taking care of the house, job, studying and so on). Surest way to fail is to have a list of so many resolutions that it is impossible to make a significant dent on any of them.
4. Don’t give up – I had to try several years before I achieved my book reading goal. Unless you’re really good or you’re really lucky (most of us are not!) you don’t hit the target the first year. But if you keep trying enough number of times, you are bound to reach your goal.
5. You’re never too old- Well ok maybe if you are over 30 it might be a bit hard to become a professional ballerina from scratch but most other things in life are open and accessible to people of all ages. One of the best things about living at this moment of time in the world is the access that people have to knowledge (think internet and open source learning, networking with others around the world and so on). So make the best use of it!
That’s it, lecture over from me 🙂
As for me, I’ve tweaked my book resolution this year and have revised it to 30 books (I know!). BUT, I will read these 30 books more carefully- I did rush through a few books last year just so I could keep up the pace. None of that this year- I will read slowly, read more non-fiction and read more non-English books.
What are some of your resolutions? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?