From now until 2013, we’re going to take a look at some New Year’s Resolutions and a Gear Diary way to help you keep them.
New Year Resolution: Attain My Goals in 2013
It is not breaking news that most New Year resolutions are broken – in fact at this time of year there are as many articles about how most will fail their resolutions by the end of January … and loads of advice columns about how to make yourself different.
All of those columns are loaded up with analysis of why the typical resolutions fail, and also some thoughts on how to change your thoughts and patterns around resolutions to help you succeed. The few I read while writing this were simply too long and meandering and vague – like most resolutions. Here is my basic thought:
Resolutions are too vague and will almost always fail … but GOALS are things we can attain.
So the first thing to do is toss out the word ‘Resolution’ – what you REALLY want to do is set Personal Goals for 2013. And in business there are loads of books and articles and courses telling you how to write attainable goals: make them S.M.A.R.T. This acronym stands for:
Specific – you have a numeric target or a detailed milestone you can write down. In other words, ‘lose 50 pounds’ rather than ‘lose weight’.
Measurable – there are objective standards to assess performance, such as a log for tracking progress or a scale.
Attainable – if you want to climb Mount Everest, but have only seen the top of Mount Washington (NH) by car, you might want to set a multi-year goal.
Relevant – is this something you care about? If you are with a group that seriously needs to cut down drinking, but you only have one or two drinks a couple of times a week (usually with them), is that somewhere to focus energy? Fortunately most resolutions come from a place of seeing changes we want to make.
Time-Based – even as we age, the end of the following year seems like a long way off. So it is easy to set goals ‘for the year’. But if you want to eat better, lose weight, get in shape, quit smoking and drinking … sitting on the couch on Thanksgiving in a turkey coma with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other, barely able to see the runners passing your window over your belly and thinking ‘I should be out there’ is a bit late.
Anyone who has done a Project Management course has seen these, and as someone who works in a corporate engineering division working on numerous projects it is part of my daily life. How can you know you are done without them? How can you prove to your boss(es) that you are accomplishing stuff otherwise?
Putting My 2012 Experience in Context
But the reality is that setting vague resolutions is easier and more common – but so is failure. As an example, here are mine for 2012:
– Lose weight
– Get in shape – Start running again and be ready for the Wineglass Marathon in late September
– Spend less time at home on electronics
– Re-learn my guitar chops including sight-reading
– Engage in NaNoWriMo and write a book this year.
Can you spot the two that go beyond the terrible vagueness of ‘lose weight’? That is right – I set a goal to write a book for NaNoWriMo, and took a challenge with my brother to join him for the Wineglass Marathon on September 30th. Everything else was vague and basically meaningless.
Yet even the two goals really needed sub-goals. Would I just suddenly be running 26.2 miles in late September when I hadn’t run even 4 days straight or even two weeks in a row between January and March?
And the NaNoWriMo was a better example – I hit November 1st without a plan, without a framework, without anything more than a basic idea in my head. I ended up with three ‘plot sketches’, and one with some outlines for characters and sections. But by failing to see it as a year-long event with focused effort in one month, I had totally set myself up for failure. But honestly, as I will describe, by that point I wasn’t too worried as I was an over-achiever in my other goals.
In January I used some gift card money to help me pick up a new guitar. The old one was in rough shape, and the electronics were only semi-functional. I also bought myself a book of the complete Hal Leonard Guitar Method. I had started on guitar as a kid before switching to bass – I played in a rock & fusion band in high school as well as the school jazz band (even picking up a couple of awards). My sight-reading was never great, but I wanted to improve it – on guitar. And I wanted to re-learn core guitar skills. After noodling for a couple of months, I set a goal: at least 10 minutes practice per day, and a chapter per week in the book. By year-end … I haven’t always stuck to my schedule, but I am now playing guitar at least as well as at any other time in my life. As a result, I have satisfied some parts of the goal, but it leaves me plenty to do in 2013.
With electronics, goal-setting involved boundaries. Simply – no laptop in bed. Sure I brought my iPad, but I would typically read or play a bit of a game and little else. And I always have my Kindle at my bed, so it ended up as nice time to read and share rather than losing me to electronics. And leading by example we were able to get to ‘electronics free days’, or ‘gadget lite weekends’ where there was a much greater focus on together time … and all of us saw the benefit.
As I mentioned, I had failed at restarting my running during the first few months of the year, and actually managed to gain weight as a result – I would reward myself with eating for even a modest run. It was over Easter that I realized that the little runs I DID complete were only ~2.5 miles, and I was taking 40 minutes to do them. Do the math – yeah, that is slow! Apparently it was the wake-up call I needed.
Starting that week I declared I would run 25 miles per week, and would adopt the Weight Watchers method of documenting my eating. Seeing what I was eating makes me less inclined to eat it – and having it available for others to view makes it even better pressure! First week, I did all five days at ~5.25 miles … and boy did it SUCK! Not easy at all … but I did it. Then another week, with improved eating habits and some immediate improvement in how I felt running. A couple of weeks later a colleague told me about the Komen 5k in our area, and well … I have documented the rest pretty thoroughly for the site!
Right now I am on a ‘Running Streak’ goal, which will have me running at least 5 miles per day (except 4 miles with my brother on Thanksgiving) EVERY day – and I will have done 53 days straight on New Year’s Day with an average distance of 7.5 miles. And as I say, previously I hadn’t even done 7 DAYS in a row, let alone 7 weeks. I am by far in the best shape of my life – as my brother noted after a 6.5 mile hill run where he was totally spent and I wasn’t breathing hard. Also, I have lost more than 90 pounds this year, down to the lowest weight since I was in junior high school and was still growing.
The Key is to Set Goals
But as I say … I was well on my way to failure after a few months, but then I started setting goals for myself. As I ticked off each goal I would set a new one, and another and another. Where I set goals and sub-goals I succeeded, where I didn’t I failed – it is really that simple.
One important thing to remember that I didn’t realize was an issue for so many was that success is local, not global. In other words, my success with weight loss and getting fit didn’t suddenly make all of my financial worries go away. But I know for some the good feeling of success in one place makes difficulties elsewhere feel even worse. All I can say is that in the same way you break a goal into sub-goals, remember that life is full up with challenges, and you need to break down each one individually and they each have ups and downs.
Here are my 2013 Goals
– Maintain running at least 5 miles per day, 5 days per week all year long. Stretch goal – hit 2,000 total miles in 2013 (in 2012 I will end up with ~1975)
– Run at least 2 full marathons. Stretch goal – run one ‘ultra’ marathon.
– Maintain weight at target for the full year with variations no more than +/- 5 lbs.
– Keep laptop out of bedroom throughout the year.
– Complete Hal Leonard Book #1 by end of Q1, Book #2 in Q2, Book #3 in Q3. By end of year be able to sight-read a moderate level guitar piece of music.
– By end of Q1 decide on a story for NaNoWriMo, by Q2 have all main characters described along with a ‘one pager’ for plot. Have a beginning-middle-end level outline for the story in Q3, and complete a readable first attempt during NaNoWriMo.
Those goals are still a bit vague, but they fit the basic S.M.A.R.T. guidelines – and I feel confident I can succeed! But also, note that I have 6 goals, and I know I will be shifting projects at work during the first quarter. That could well mean needing to focus on some goals and letting others go – and the first to go is guitar: so long as I spend time away from the computer and noodling on the guitar all year I will be happy … I will just be MORE happy if I hit my targets.
What about you? What are your goals for 2013 and how will you attain them?