New Month Resolutions - Creation.begins

New Month Resolutions

Spectacles and a small key lying on an empty, open, unlined notebook. Mug of coffee and cloth lie next to the notebook.
Engaging exchanges
17 December 2023
Low sunlight reflecting off a large crystal rock
Shining Your Light
1 February 2024
Spectacles and a small key lying on an empty, open, unlined notebook. Mug of coffee and cloth lie next to the notebook.
Engaging exchanges
17 December 2023
Low sunlight reflecting off a large crystal rock
Shining Your Light
1 February 2024

New Month Resolutions11 min read

We’re a month (or 117 months, depending on how January treated you) into the 2024th year since the English officially started counting. How’s it going so far? Do you meticulously set goals and strategies for the new year, or do you prefer to wing it?

For the longest time, tradition dictated that humanity kick off each year with New Year’s resolutions, all in the name of self-improvement and life enhancement. The issue with most resolutions lies in their lack of planning, often more wishful thinking than commitment. By the end of January, many have fallen off the wagon, defaulting to their habitual patterns. Sometimes, as the year-end looms, typically from September, these same people get a surge of motivation prompting a last-minute attempt to turn resolutions into reality. This is typical of most of our attitudes towards deadlines. We leave it to the last minute before even strategizing how to achieve our goals, if we strategize anything at all.

photo by Tim Mossholder

The Pitfalls of Yearly Resolutions

We all know that nobody just gets off the couch they’ve made home for a year and run a marathon the next day (unless you’re Barny Stintson [fuller story here]). It takes preparation, it takes planning, it takes consistent effort to evolve from a couch potato into a marathon runner.

This is the same with any goal and yearly resolutions are no different. Well-intentioned as they are, yearly resolutions often succumb to procrastination, unrealistic expectations, and the challenge of sustaining motivation over a full 12 months. Without a well-thought-out game plan, anyone can become overwhelmed and discouraged.

The trick is always to break things down into more manageable bite-sized pieces, whatever that may look like to you. Remember that we are all different in our capabilities and what might seem an adequate goal for someone else may still be a bit too ambitious for you. The same applies to the timeframe for resolutions, as the traditional annual cycle doesn’t align with the natural ebb and flow of most lives.

A more effective strategy to stay on track and achieve resolutions is setting them every 12 weeks rather than annually. This approach allows us to be more dynamic and adaptable in a smaller timeframe, allowing for more precise goal management and adjustments based on more real-time feedback.

I recently chanced upon “The 12 Week Year”, a book by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, that outlines a strategy for achieving results by focusing on 12-week periods instead of the traditional yearly goals. The book emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of urgency, focus, and accountability with shorter cycles, likening it to the intensity and productivity often seen in those last 12 weeks of the year-end push. By practically breaking down long-term goals into manageable segments, readers are guided through the process of setting clear objectives, breaking them into actionable tasks, and fostering a mindset of continuous improvement.

photo by Steve Johnson

Your right-now Resolutions

The strategies presented in the book may not be revolutionary, but they offer practical processes and steps employed in modern businesses, who we know are always doing their best to be ever more efficient. We can learn effective strategies from effective business and apply them in our own lives, achieving our personal goals.

It starts with knowing what you want. This should be easy and yet winds up being one of the harder steps for most. Take the time to pay attention to yourself and your life. You know where you are by paying attention to where you are in your life. You know how you feel about where you are by paying attention to how you’re feeling when you pay attention to where you are. You know how you would rather feel by acknowledging the feelings you don’t like, and acknowledging that you’d rather be feeling the opposite. And you now know what you want by paying attention to what your desired feelings indicate you’d rather have and be.

Make a list of these things as you become aware of them. They could be as general as “more love”, “more ease”, “more fun”, “more positive opportunities”, “more opportunities for adventure and travel”, “more friends”, “more career opportunities”, etc. or as specific as “increasing sales 100%”, “going on a 3 week holiday to the Maldives”, or “having a weekly date night”, etc.

You are always in control of your goals. Simply make sure that you are listing goals that make you happy and excited, and not goals that make other people excited while making you a little miserable. Try to find better alignment between doing more of what excites you in tandem with things that excite those people important to you. And if you’re doing things that make you miserable for people who are not important to you, make resolutions that, in time, take you closer to doing more of what you want with people you want to be around.

Advantages of shorter timeframes

If we were to have a shorter 12-week resolution cycle, our deadlines become more immediate and tangible. There is a greater sense of urgency to instil positive habits and routines in our day-to-day, to better keep engaged, and maintain momentum and focus. Of course, you can still have the greater goal of doing a thing by the end of the year, but then break that big goal down into four smaller goals, for each of the 12 week cycles in a single year. You will be better able to channel your energy into achieving meaningful progress every three months, and adapt as needed, as you observe your progress over those months.

Life is pretty unpredictable, and over the course of even a few months, you will encounter unexpected challenges or even unexpected opportunities that can derail your initial goals. A shorter resolution cycle makes it easier to spot deviations, evaluate, and adjust promptly, fostering a more sustainable and realistic approach to self-improvement.

It is even more advantageous to break your 12-week resolutions in smaller goals and tasks that you can do, and evaluate, on a daily or weekly basis. The shorter timeframe makes it easier to see when we’re off track so we can evaluate and adjust earlier. It also makes it easier to celebrate our accomplishments. Achieving milestones every 12 weeks or so provides us with a consistent stream of successes, reinforcing positive habits and boosting self-confidence. This positive reinforcement contributes to a more optimistic and sustainable approach to personal growth.

Many of us are also prone to delaying our efforts because of distractions and side quests. The book implies that procrastination thrives in the absence of urgency, and with a shorter resolution cycle, the sense of urgency becomes a constant companion. For some people this structure can help minimize the temptation to delay action, encouraging consistent progress and discouraging the procrastination that can hinder long-term goals.

For the rest of us, breaking down our goals into manageable daily or weekly chunks helps us be more consistent with doing these small, easy, perfectly whelming tasks. It can take a few tries to get it right on our own, but you will figure it out. The more manageable we make our goals, the easier it gets to identify the bites we can take and the bites that need further breakdown. And as we get better at bite-sizing, it gets easier to put in the consistent effort because the effort needed is within our own limits.

But, of course, no human is an island. Don’t do it all on your own. Seek help and coaching from actual irl humans, AI chatbots, or resources in the form of books, courses, and other media. There is a wealth of free information out in the world, and books like “The 12 Week Year” to guide you better. Use what you have access to, to make your life and goal achievement easier.

photo by Markus Spiske

Practical Implementation

Here are some basic guidelines to getting the most out of your resolutions.

Start each cycle with some self reflection. Take stock of where you are and what you want, and identify for yourself areas for improvement. Whether it’s fitness, career, or personal development, and set clear, achievable objectives. Be as specific as feels comfortable. As mentioned earlier, you get to decide on your goals. Make them possible for your circumstances. If you only have one hour of time to yourself in a day, set goals that can be easily done in that time, and/or set goals to help you increase your free time, if possible. Every goal should be measurable in some way. You must be able to see somewhat definitively whether you are progressing or not. Better clarity from the beginning enhances focus and facilitates effective planning, so don’t skimp on the reflection phase. Take as much time as you can to really clarify what you want and where you want to be in the next 12 weeks.

Dividing your overarching 12-week goals into smaller, manageable tasks cannot be understated. Your journey from where you are to where you want to be will be less overwhelming when you take a step-by-step approach. One step at a time, always.  Concentrate on one task at a time. The sense of accomplishment from completing your smaller tasks contributes to motivation and the overall progress of your main goal. Every journey of a thousand steps is achieved by taking one step at a time, one after the other.

Consistent evaluation is equally crucial. Schedule regular check-ins to assess progress, identify challenges, and give yourself the space to then brainstorm and make the necessary adjustments. You could do a check-in every morning or evening, followed by a weekly check-in, and a monthly check-in. This ongoing feedback loop ensures that your goals remain relevant and achievable, fostering a more dynamic and responsive approach to personal development. As always, rig the system to work for you. Enlist the help of accountability buddies. Make effective use of your therapist or coach. If a daily check-in is too much, do a weekly check-in on a day that you have the brain power to do so.

You will be adapting quite a bit at first, while you’re still finding your groove. Allow yourself some experimentation. Not everything your teachers and coaches suggest is going to work specifically for you, so be adaptable in your process, too. Even your goals may change as you progress towards them. You may, for example, have put down a goal to become manager of your team, and two months in realise you really don’t want to be manager, you just want more money, and so you adapt your goal to achieve a larger income in ways that don’t require a work promotion.

It is important to both celebrate your achievements as well as learn from your setbacks. Acknowledge and celebrate your successes for sure, and then take the time to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved. Embrace setbacks as learning opportunities, using them to refine your approach as you move forward. This continuous improvement mindset is key to sustained progress, and the sooner you pick up where adjustments are needed, you’ll save yourself on frustrations down the line.

photo by Echo Q

An Ever-evolving Quest

In the quest for personal growth, the traditional New Year’s resolution model may not be the most effective for the vast majority of us. Embracing the 12-week resolutions concept offers a more dynamic and adaptable framework, aligning with the principles of focus, adaptability, and continuous improvement.

Three months is a good timespan for most people to commit to and adapt within. Monthly resolutions may be a bit too short of a timeframe for many, but if that seems more suited to you, try it out. You are in charge of your journey towards achieving your desires. You get to decide whether it makes more sense to make monthly goals or 12-week goals or any other timeframe that makes more sense to you. Experiment and adapt and make this process your own.

By breaking down long-term goals into manageable cycles, you increase motivation, get to celebrate regular successes sooner, and maintain a more realistic and sustainable approach to self-improvement. It only makes sense since you’re doing this for you, that you make it as easy and as possible for you to achieve.

As you embark on this journey, remember that change is a constant, and your ability to adapt and evolve is a good measure of your success and progress. You could start with some resolutions today, why not? There’s really no reason to wait for the next popular resolution-making day; you can begin your next journey right now.

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