Setting focused goals can be exactly what you need to reset.
Stories Dawn Garcia
New Year’s resolutions are the thing everyone either anticipates or dreads. The promise of resetting after a month (or three) of overeating, letting the gym membership collect ample cobwebs due to its neglect, and indulging in sweets, cannabis, alcohol, or whatever else you’re into can be what leads to the urgency of a total body, mind, soul reset.
So, does fasting for a week or promising to hit that boot camp you’ve been eyeing really translate into life-changing results? Not so much, but creating a goal and taking all the necessary steps to get there absolutely can be the difference between proclamation and action.
According to motivational speaker Brian Tracy, setting goals is mandatory if you want to see results in your life. Author of more than 70 books on subjects ranging from productivity to public speaking, Tracy has become the resource for getting things in order—mentally, personally, and professionally. On his website (briantracy.com), Tracy lays out six steps of why setting goals is paramount to your life’s journey. “Goals help you measure success, stay motivated, keep you focused, help you beat procrastination, achieve more, and determine what you want in life. It is, therefore, the act of setting, achieving, and surpassing goals that makes living your best life possible.”
During the days when her show ruled the airwaves, Oprah introduced a concept of vision boards and manifesting the life you want. Her advice was to create a vision board with specific goals, wants, and successes. The thought process behind making a vision board is steeped in the law of attraction; that if you manifest it, you can attract it. While this is definitely not a practice that science will confirm as reliable and true, it caused a wave of people around the world setting specific goals and putting photos of things they wanted to attain on a board hoping to make those ideas a reality. Photos of supermodel bodies, a winning lotto ticket, your dream house, a new car, a happy family, whatever the ultimate “thing” you wanted to obtain in life, it was on that board. To this day people are firm believers in the power of vision boards.
According to an article written by psychotherapist Amy Morin in Inc. magazine, vision boards hinder more than help. “While my anecdotal evidence shows that vision boards backfire, research also shows that focusing on attaining your goal—as opposed to the effort it will take to succeed—will increase your chances of failure. There are a multitude of studies that show athletes, students, and musicians perform worse when they visualize themselves succeeding, as opposed to visualizing themselves going through the steps it takes to succeed.”
Morin cites a 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that found fantasizing about an idealized future decreases the likelihood that someone will expend energy trying to turn their fantasy into a reality. “Positive thinking only works when it’s combined with positive action,” Morin writes in Inc.
So why set goals versus making New Year’s resolutions? Let’s start with the reason we all make resolutions in the first place. Most of the time we make resolutions because we’re tired of a certain part of our lives. We’ve made promises to ourselves to diet consistently, work out five days a week (to look like we did when we were 18 and had no stress), eat more healthily (avoiding that trough of nachos), practice meditation (we swear we’ll do 10 to 20 minutes a day), stop falling in love with every person we meet (because, you know, Tinder), and not drink as much (because the year of drinking benders caught up to us), etcetera, etcetera. We make grand declarations, and we’re convinced this is the year we’ll stick with it and not quit—but sadly, studies show quitting usually happens before January ends. Yah, we’re not so great at resolutions.
In an article written in Lifehack.org by Daniel Wallen, he informs readers that 12 percent of people making resolutions will actually see them through. In doing the math, by his estimation, roughly 156 million people will give up their resolutions long before January sees its midpoint. Wallen’s piece makes some valid points.
“You’re treating a marathon like a sprint,” Wallen warns. “Start with something easy like committing to drinking more water that first week of the new year, and build from there.” In that same article he also reminds readers that the only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. In other words, take your time, have realistic expectations and don’t assume you can change every bad eating or workout habit instantaneously. Instead, try applying a Mister Miyagi–like mindset. Remember, the karate kid—Daniel-san—had to wax on and wax off a whole lot before he could successfully kick the Cobra Kai’s ass. Well, until the reboot anyway.
“Habits seem to be more than behaviors—they seem to be part of who we are,” writes Julie Layton on science.howstuffworks.com. “Changing a habit is never that simple. If it were, overeaters would all be thin, alcoholics would never relapse, and everyone would be up early enough to eat a healthy breakfast before work.”
So, this month while you faithfully commit to making changes, try setting goals instead. Once you know what you want, write down all the steps it’s going to take to make those goals a reality and start there. Lastly, don’t be in a hurry. The mindset of self-improvement is a day-by-day process and respecting that while making daily strides will lead you to being the best possible you imaginable.
Now go. Set the hell out of those goals.