I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. And new school year resolutions. And birthday resolutions. Basically any excuse I can come up with to set new goals for myself, I’m all over. I like to have those ideas on paper, tangible things that I can accomplish or grow into to become the “best version” of myself.
However, the reason I keep resetting my goals every few months is because I tend to fail at my resolutions after about three minutes. I then tend to get discouraged, and I promise myself that next time will be different, which, of course, it never is. You too?
This just leads to an un-fun and unhelpful cycle of planning, working hard, failing, repeat. So, I’ve decided that this year will be better, not because I’ll work any harder or actually succeed at my goals (I fell off my New Year’s resolution wagon on January 1st), but because I’ll handle the failure differently.
Quick news flash: you’re going to fail. There’s no way for you to do everything you set your mind to perfectly, no matter how much you want to. Thankfully, no one is expecting you to be perfect! Expecting that you’ll have bad days and slip up on your goals — to work out every day, to journal in the mornings, to go on a social media cleanse — offers you so much freedom when you do inevitably miss a day or two (or ten).
It can be easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset, especially with resolutions — one missed day on a diet feels like it ruins the whole thing. Once I fail at my resolution, I’ll pat myself on the back and tell myself that next week or month or year we can start all over. But the only way to really stick with something is to get back on track, not go back and start at the beginning. Habit-forming takes time, and it’s truly never too late to do what you set your mind to. It’s not about working harder or smarter, it’s about trying again (and again).
Evaluate the “Why” of Your Resolution
Ask yourself why you made this resolution in the first place: was it because you wanted to do something perfectly day after day? Or was it because you wanted to grow as a person? Probably the latter. It can be helpful to remind yourself of what the real goal is here — not perfection, but growth. And growth often involves failure (and learning that you’re just as fine and just as valuable when you mess up).
Evaluate the “How” of Your Resolution
I so often just set myself up to fail by setting unrealistic resolutions for myself. For instance, this year I wanted to read a book a week, which is a wonderful ideal, but totally unattainable with my work schedule, let alone my social life. I would’ve been more successful and less stressed if I had chosen to do something more manageable, like read a new article or short story every week instead. When setting up your goals, understand that you can’t change your whole life at once, so bite off what you think you can chew.
Adjust as Necessary
So now it’s long past those first few weeks of New Year’s resolutions and you’ve let your goals fade away. Hopefully you’re able to let go of some of the guilt or frustration you might be carrying concerning letting yourself down, and what’s more, you’re always free to adjust your goals. Even once you’ve adjusted your expectations to plan for mess-ups, it’s still totally up to you to adjust your goal to something more manageable or just let it go completely.
Failure is a pattern of life — it happens to all of us. Learning to expect it, accept it, and adjust your goals accordingly will lead to great success and greater happiness.