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    5 Steps to Making New Year’s Resolutions that Work

    January 1, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    I really love making resolutions each January. The New Year comes to me like a blank canvas, and its potential is almost overwhelming to me. I can’t wait to plan and dream because, to me, it’s a lot of fun … even if it doesn’t all actually happen. I enjoy the mental exercise of seeing the possibilities, and I’m convinced that a lot more happens in my year when I dream a bit at the beginning, than on the rare occasions when I don’t, even if I don’t actually reach my goals.

    Somehow, the act of making a goal is, in itself, a game-changer for me.

    So today, I’m going to share how I make a New Year’s Resolution. It’s not the only way, but it’s my way, and I’m pretty happy with it. This process works for big visions as well as small ones, which is why I like it so much.

    New Year's Resolutions

    Step 1: Name Your Categories

    Get out a blank sheet of paper and write a list of all the different areas in your life for which you want to make a goal or resolution. Some people like to be really simple and have a list of three, such as “mind, body, and spirit,” or “personal, familial, and occupational.” I tend to be really thorough and name all the different parts of my life I can think of. I’ll even identify categories for each of my children and make a goal for each category of each child…

    It’s a little crazy, but, like I said, I love to dream. I especially love to dream when there are no obstacles. Which brings me to the next step…

    Step 2: Remove Your Obstacles

    This is the dreaming stage. It’s my favorite part because I’m not a very practical person. The key to this stage is to get rid of all the things that usually hold you back. So, I ask myself the question, “Were money, time, energy, resources, [enter other limitations here] no obstacle, what would be my goals for this area?”

    I have found that certain limitations in my life make me ignore what I really want, or what I think would be ideal. At the outset, I say, “Oh, we could never afford that” or “I could never pull that off” and completely avoid the entire topic. But not only is that no fun, it means I’m not really pinpointing what I think is best for that category.

    It’s true. I might write down something so crazy that it really is impossible. But even those things tell me something. For example, maybe I wrote down, “Family trip to Europe.”


    Can you say financially impossible at this time? Because that’s true! But perhaps this dream tells me about certain things that I could still make happen this year.

    Step 3: Examine What These Goals are Telling Me

    Sometimes, there isn’t anything to ponder. But other times, it’s worth it to take a second glance. For example, let’s say Mary wrote down “get healthier” as a physical goal. In this step, Mary writes a list of what “healthier” really means for her. This isn’t the how of getting it done, but more along the lines of painting a fuller picture. This is important because the how will be different if by “healthier” she means gain or lose weight versus if she means get in better shape or eat more nutritious food.

    This process is especially important when the goal written down is totally crazy and unattainable (see Exhibit A, “family trip to Europe.”) If I wrote down why that was my goal — what was I trying to accomplish? What would we do there? Etc. — I might be able to set a more reasonable goal for this year. For example, if the big reason I wanted to go to Europe was to visit museums, I might decide to take smaller day trips to Los Angeles in the coming year in order to get that experience in a more affordable way.

    I understand that going to a museum in LA is not the same as going to one in Europe. But identifying which parts of the unattainable goal are actually attainable has the potential to make my year way better than if I never explored the idea at all.

    Step 4: Discover the How

    If Mary wants to get in better shape, maybe her how is to buy a step counter and walk 10,000 steps per day. Maybe it’s to go hiking three times per week. Maybe it’s to use that aerobics video twice per week. Whatever it is, these hows need to be specific and measurable — the sorts of thing that can be checked off of a To Do list.

    The goal of this step is to discover parts over which we actually have control. My husband and I were recently talking about this in regard to business. So let’s say a businessman wants to increase his sales. While that’s a great goal, he doesn’t actually have control over whether or not someone buys something from him. What he does have control over is whether he develops a new product, whether and how often he posts on social media, whether and where he advertises, and so on.

    And, if you think about it, Mary didn’t really have control over the “get healthier” goal. We like to think we have control over that sort of thing, but life isn’t a formula where if I do a, I get b. What Mary does have control over is how many steps she walks on an average day.

    Step 5: Resolve to Take Specific, Measurable Steps

    The best of the specific steps you thought up become your resolutions. So Mary’s New Year’s resolution is to “take 10,000 steps per day” and the businessman’s is to “post on Facebook four times per day and have a sale for x days out of every month” and maybe my trip to Europe becomes “schedule four museum visits this year.”

    Someone else’s goal of “get more organized” becomes “purchase and complete the Simplified Organization online self-paced course” (which I highly recommend).

    Do you see how powerful this is? Usually, we make resolutions and we don’t even know, at the end of the year, if we ever got there because they were so nebulous to begin with. If I’m a homeschool mom, and I resolve to “do better at homeschooling,” how do I even measure how closely I came to meeting my goal?

    With this process, I’d take “do better at homeschooling” to the next level and list what that would look like. Maybe we’d start earlier. Maybe we’d end earlier. Maybe we’d better incorporate subjects I’ve been ignoring. And all of that could become one or two specific daily goals like “start with prayer” or “start at 7:30 am” or whatever.

    I always want to improve what we’re doing educationally. So I’m listing goals for this year and one for me has developed into the resolution to “school outside once per week in fair weather.” Now I’ll have to look at my resources and decide whether it’d be best to buy a picnic table or simply head to the park. Regardless of what I decide, this is specific and measurable, so at the end of the year I’ll know whether or not I reached my goal.

    What about you? What resolutions are you making this year?

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Track Your Progress with a Goal Tracking Spreadsheet | Simplified Organization January 4, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    […] follow a goal-setting process that is very similar to what my friend Brandy wrote last week: 5 Steps to Making New Year’s Resolutions that Work. Her post was excellent, so I won’t recreate my own. If you need a place to start with goal […]

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