Right Now: Stop it with the resolutions already

We’re into the third week of the year, which for most people means the new year’s resolutions are fading into the background.

And it’s no wonder, considering the mere statement of resolution is a bit lame and tame. “I resolve to…” Starting a plan that way sounds vague, almost wish-like.

And let’s be honest. If you do make resolutions, they can become high maintenance in a flash. They nag at you, remind you that you have unfinished business, and demand accountability – until you stop taking them seriously.

The reasons why resolutions tend not to work are many and varied, depending entirely on the complexities of the individual, but the fact that they transmute so quickly from imperative to ignored says everything.

Have I convinced you yet that I’m not a fan of resolutions? Good. Because I’m going to ask you to stop doing them. Right now. There are better methods out there that can help you chart a better course for yourself and kick your productivity into high gear.

Here are a few to consider:

Vision Boards

A vision board is a series of images clustered together, something  like a collage, that is used to help clarify and keep focus on the things you want to achieve or acquire. A vision board puts what you want into visual form. It’s not just written down: You can see it. There is something powerful about having your dreams in concrete form in front of you.

Benefits

  • Creating a vision board is a creative exercise.
  • You can change or update it as often as you want.
  • Working on a vision board can be revealing in that it might help tap into subconscious desires.
  • The vision board can double as a work of art. After you create it, put it on the wall.

Downside

  • It only shows the end results – the things you’re aiming for – without considering the means to get there.

How to get started?

Grab a poster board, some colorful magazines, scissors, some glue (or tape), and piece together what you want your future to look like.

Habit Tracking

Habit tracking is the act of monitoring specific things you do every day. These behavioral changes can help you achieve small goals that eventually add up to significant improvements in your life.

Benefits

  • Habit tracking provides the means to an end – or to other changes.
  • You can measure the progress you’re making; or, if you’re not making progress, the tracking might help you understand the reason why, and you can take steps to improve.
  • There are several habit tracking apps to help you keep track of your progress.
  • There’s a psychological reward in “checking the box” when you meet the goal.
  • When the habit is established (i.e., has become automatic), you can stop tracking it and move on to others.

Downside

  • Habit tracking is high maintenance, requiring constant monitoring and accountability.

How to get started?

Get a calendar, a dot journal, or a spreadsheet, and create a daily checklist of things you want to become a habit. Alternately, you can download a habit tracking app, and it’ll do a lot of this for you. Check the things you do each day; leave blank the things you don’t do that day. (Honesty is a must here.) Your progress will be easy to spot.

Intention Setting

Setting intentions is the practice of becoming “on purpose” in your daily life. With a starting point of “I intend to…” (and checking your fears at the door), your purposeful intentions essentially draw a map of where you want to go. Though they sound like resolutions, intentions are typically more positive-focused than resolutions and are therefore easier to commit to.

Benefits

  • Setting intentions helps bring your heart and mind into alignment, allowing you to consider the “why” behind your intentions.
  • Intentions begin with a focus on what you want to achieve, which can help you envision the means to get there.
  • You can develop a stronger sense of connection to your plans.
  • Intention setting involves appreciating the journey, not just arriving at the destination.

Downside

  • You must find a way to make the intentions measurable and accountable.

How to get started?

Open your journal book every day (I recommend doing this in the morning) and start with “I intend to…” and keep writing until all of your hopes, dreams, and desires are examined. Get into the “why” of it. Ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Why do I want this? Be ready to reconsider some of your intentions as you get the answers to these questions.

Goal Setting

At first glance, goal setting may sound like intention setting (which itself may sound like resolutions), but there are differences – the key difference being that goal setting is specific and defined, whereas the other two are often broad-based and vague.

Benefits

  • Goals involve specific achievements, which help lay out the path to get there.
  • Goals require action, which keeps them from being pie-in-the-sky wishes.
  • Goals are typically time-bound, which means there will be a deadline to meet.
  • Similar to habit tracking, there’s a psychological reward in “checking the box” when you meet the goal.

Downside

  • Depending on how many goals you set for yourself, you might become overwhelmed, creating unnecessary stress and pressure.
  • The goal must be attainable within a reasonable amount of time or you’ll set yourself up for failure.

How to get started?

Whether you use a calendar, spreadsheet, chart, or some other tool, there is one thing you must do: Write it down. Goal setting does not work if you keep it all in your head. Write down what you want to achieve, make plans for how and when you’ll work toward that goal, and track the progress. My personal favorite tool for goal setting is the comprehensive checklist I created, which you can check out here.

Test these out and see which fits your style. And you don’t have to limit yourself to one. You can do a vision board and goal setting, or habit tracking and intention setting. Or all four.

Whatever you choose, go with it at full speed and full confidence.

And remember what Mark Twain said: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

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