We all start the year with a bang, filled with inspiration and dreams of how this year is going to be different.
This year we’re going to shed those extra lockdown pounds, find that perfect relationship, leave that dead-end job.
And each year, just around this time, as the grind of being back at work and the holiday buzz is starting to feel like a distant dream, our motivation starts to fade along with those warm, fuzzy feelings.
Those goals of running a marathon by the end of the year start to feel depressing and out of reach. Especially if you’ve been sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix for the past two years, being shamed by the pop-up “Are you still watching?” every few hours.
I stopped setting New Year’s resolutions five years ago for this exact reason. Each year I’d start with high hopes of how the new year was going to go, and each year I’d end up feeling frustrated, in a cloud of self-loathing, because I couldn’t meet my lofty standards and goals. The problem with New Year’s resolutions is they are usually either too vague or out of reach from where we are.
If you set a New Year’s resolution and your motivation is starting to wane, or if you’ve already fallen off the bandwagon, here are four easy steps to get you back in the direction of your dreams, without getting bogged down in the pressure of unachievable standards:
1. Focus on what you want to feel.
Step back for a minute. What is it that you want to feel by achieving this particular goal? If your goal is to lose the lockdown pounds, the desire behind that might be to feel more energetic, to sleep better, to have less aches and pains in your joints, to move easier. Maybe it’s simply to play with your kids without feeling puffed out. Here’s the desire behind what you want.
Being able to identify the feelings behind the goal gives us the motivation we need. It’s the first step in really lining you up with the energy of your desire.
2. Set an intention.
It might seem like semantics, but resolution is a loaded word. According to the Cambridge dictionary, a resolution is the promise to do or not to do something. That feels restrictive to me. I don’t like boxing myself in, so I set intentions.
An intention is defined as something you want to do or plan to do—“want” being the operative word. When we have desire behind what we are intending, we’re more likely to line up with the action. The intention is therefore: I want to move my body more. I want to nourish my body with good food. I want to feel energetic when I play with my kids.
When we give ourselves space to look at the intentions we set and access the why behind it, this allows us to gain more clarity around what it is that we are desiring.
3. Create a SMART target.
You’ve set your intention. That’s great; now it’s time to set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals around it.
Setting a target like “I want to run the New York marathon this year” (when the biggest distance we’ve walked is from the sofa to the fridge) will feel overwhelming, and we’ll naturally lose motivation. Achievable is the key word. When we set lofty goals, and then flounder because we feel overwhelmed, we end up in a spiral of defeatism and counterproductive behaviours.
Instead, set a SMART goal: I want to move my body more this year, and in order to achieve this, I am going to go for a 30-minute walk, three times a week, come rain, hail, or shine.
4. Take inspired action.
Integrity is important. When you set a goal, you are making a contract with yourself. We need to value ourselves enough to make sure we keep our word, and this is why really knowing the why behind our intention is important. This is the energy that will get us through when it’s pouring down with rain outside and all we want to do is curl up on the couch and watch another episode of “Young Sheldon.”
When you’re lined up with the feeling behind your goals—that feeling of being energized, of sleeping better, of running around with your kids and not being puffed out—you will find the inspired actions flow to you.
So, if you’ve already reverted to the bad habits you said you were going to quit at the beginning of the year, don’t despair. Take this time to really look at the intentions you set, see whether they truly align for you, and then allow the inspired action to flow from there.