Tag Archives: Habits

Balanced and ambitious goals – new year resolutions for 2015

It’s part of the rituals for the festive period: once the days of over-eating and family visits of Christmas has ended and the New Year’s hangover is over, it’s time to work on the new and improved you in 2015: New Year’s Resolutions.

Define how you’ll achieve your goals

But setting effective New Year’s Resolutions is not easy: according to psychologists, only 5% to 30% of the goals will be reached. It helps to write down your goals, to spell out as in much detail as possible how you want to achieve them, and also to think to overcome possible difficulties. For instance, if you want to spend one hour a week to learn French, it’s best to set a fixed date (say Tuesday). And in case you happen to have a dinner on one particular Tuesday, you postpone your self-study to Wednesday. It’s good to set this contingency plans in advance!

My successes in 2014

When I set my goals for 2014, I also look back at my biggest successes for 2014. This helps me to realise where I am coming from and to build upon progress made last year. Some of my successes were:

  • I fell in love
  • I developed this blog further: I launched a newsletter, wrote several articles for other outlets, and spoke on the Wellbeing Forum in Mexico
  • I was promoted at work

It also helped me realised that some successes are sometimes at quite a distance from goals: I didn’t have the goal to fall in love or get invited for big happiness conferences. But I like to think it happened as a result of a bit of good ground work and some luck!

My goals in 2015

I have set similar goals for 2015. In some I’ll succeed, in other’s I’ll fail, but they can all help me to live a balanced (and ambitious) 2015 – and hopefully they’ll contribute to my happiness! As Life Coach Hub wrote on my blog before Christmas, it’s worthwhile to set resolutions that enhance happiness.

  • Live together with the girl I feel in love with last year
  • Track and improve my sleep
  • Expand my blog
  • Work on my health by running or by yoga
  • Celebrate my 30th birthday
  • Continue to do well at work
  • Travel to two new countries: Portugal and Bhutan (finally!)
  • Watch at least one new TED talk per week
  • Read novels and books about happiness
  • Become a better public speaker

When I look at this list, it seems to be quite a lot. But the good thing is, that for most of it, I’ve found ways to integrate them in my daily and weekly life, making it more natural. I think that this is the way in which resolutions can work. Achieving a goal often is about changing a habit – eating less, quitting smoking, doing more sports. Old habits die difficultly, as I wrote last year with the help of Radiohead and a pig / in a cage / on antibiotics. If habits die difficultly, improving my sleep might be the most challenging goal on my list. I’ll keep you posted.

But first, I’ll shut down my computer. It’s getting late, and I want to sleep well this year.

Fitter, happier

Fitter, happier
More productive, comfortable.
Not drinking too much.
Regular exercise at the gym (three days a week)

If you are like me, you’ve tried to start 2014 fitter and happier, like in the Radiohead song. Through New Year resolutions, we motivate ourselves to reinvent ourselves or to create a new and improved version.

Fitter, happier, more productive.

Evidently, New Year resolutions have something arbitrary: why would I quit smoking or start reading more often on the 1st of January? I can do that any day of the year. And psychology knows that the dark days of January aren’t the best time in the year to change a habit. Starting new habits just after the summer holidays seems to be a better moment. Still, the start of the year is a natural moment to evaluate personal development in the past year and set new goals.

But damn – does it require discipline to produce that improved edition of yourself! And I guess that by now, three weeks into the year, you might already have hit some of the dark moments. If you do, don’t fall for all the talk about Blue Monday, “the most depressing day of the year”, going around. Blue Monday is a scam, made up with the help of a fake academic to sell more holidays. And Monday is a better day than Wednesday, as I wrote before!

Instead, re-engineer your New Year’s resolutions.

Replace habits

In principle a new year’s resolution should do something very basic: replace a bad habit (like snoozing too long or wasting time on the internet) by a better one (getting up early or productively writing a blog post). But often our methods to attain these goals are unrealistic.

In this article – very much worth a read! – the author makes the analogy with a marathon. If you are training for a marathon, you don’t start your first day of training with a 30k run. You start with a couple of kilometres, and you gradually build it up until you are ready for that marathon.

So why should I suddenly spend one hour every day writing blog posts?

The point is: creating new habits is a tiresome process. You have to start slow. Start doing the activity five minutes a day (or one hour a week), until it’s a solid habit. And then increase the five minutes to ten, and so on, and so forth. That it gets done is more important than when!

In the words of US politician Horace Mann:

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day and at last we cannot break it.”

A pig in a cage on antibiotics

But it’s not only overly ambitious goals that may fail. Often resolutions are too vague, and require further specification. In my case, I’d like to keep better in touch with old friends across the world. If that’s how I formulate the goal, it’s easy to fail. But if I aim to write to at least three people I appreciate every week, it’s probably more effective.

Still, in a way, I actually don’t feel all too comfortable about resolutions. Do I really need all these targets and deadlines? Do they make me happier, or do I feel stressed by all my self-imposed rules? Does all this planning really make me fitter, happier, more productive?

Or do I create, as the Radiohead songs ends

A pig
In a cage
On antibiotics

If there’s one thing I don’t aspire to (apart from losing my enthusiasm and curiosity) it’s feeling like a pig in a cage on antibiotics yet. Therefore, one of the key parts of my resolutions is to allow time for a break in all of them.

Something has to happen every day. But not everything does not have to happen today.

And breaking the rules is just as important as following them.