Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resolution Resolve

It's time for the mid-year check-up. Nope, I'm not talking vision or dental or even blood pressure. I'm not talking about taking your car in for an oil change. (Hmmm...that reminds me...) I'm talking about New Year's Resolutions.

What? in August?

Hear me out :)

Every January, whether formally or informally, written in ink and signed in blood or off-the-cuff, wink-wink, here's-what-I'm-thinking brain clouds, most of us resolve to be better people. Some of us are even serious about it. Although cliched and hyped, the truth is simple: reflecting upon where we've been and where we are and where we want to be helps us to achieve our goals.

So where are you? Come January, many writers resolve to be better writers. Or send out 100 queries. Or land a book deal. Or pound out 1000 words a week. And you? What was your New Year's Resolution?

I, on the other hand, made no writerly goal. At least not one I put into print. Instead, I decided that I wanted a six-pack.

Sadly, I must publicly admit that I will not be posting my own abs this coming January, as previously indicated. Looking on the bright side, I am maintaining a decent exercise program and spending a great deal of time hiking or in the gym. Life is good.

But Why do Resolutions Fail? Here are some of my thoughts.

1. We don't set realistic goals: Actually, it's not the goal that's the problem. It's the fact that often we don't set up a series of mini-goals that lead to the ultimate goal. Creating a series of steps allows us to have regular victories, each one ensuring that we're one step closer to the goal. I didn't really do that: I simply created a work-out schedule that would lead me where I wanted to go -- but I didn't pre-determine any mini-goals or time limits.

2. We don't check in: Unless we set up regular and scheduled check points, assessing our growth and course of action, it's easy to get distracted. Formal or informal, it doesn't matter -- all that matters is that we consciously ask ourselves, Where am I in relation to my goal? What do I need to do in order to get back on the path or make the next mini-goal milestone? When I caught the flu last winter, I took two weeks off the gym and rested up. Although I got back into the gym afterwards, I wasn't as focused or as clear about my goal. I began to lose sight of why I had created the goal in the first place.

3. We self-destruct: Creating and maintaining a six-pack is hard work. Although I'm active and love the outdoors, I hate core work. And what did I do? I chose a resolution that would challenge everything I knew about myself. When the going got tough during those first few months, I'd give myself pep talks. But after awhile, and after the bout of flu, I started talking to myself like this: why do you want a six-pack? Who will even see it? After all, you don't wear revealing clothing. Why are you torturing yourself? You hate ab work. Hubby is so not worth a six-pack. I forgot why I wanted a six-pack and I convinced myself that it wasn't worth the time or effort. My work out mantra went something like: I hate this, i hate this, ihatethis, ihatethis. Not particularly effective self-talk, if you get my drift.

4. We are sabotaged: Either intentionally or unintentionally, our biggest fans are sometimes our biggest roadblocks. Ask anyone who's trying to lose weight: family, friends, and co-workers bring in snacks and always say, "Oh it's not going to make a difference. Take a bite." In the writerly world? "Oh come on, let's go to the movies: you can write later." Or, like my dear husband: A Six-Pack? *incredulous look* Wow, honey. That's a lot of hard work. Do you think you can accomplish that in a year? And, respecting my weight-lifter, totally hunky husband, I began to doubt myself and and my goal. Please understand: I do not lay blame at his feet; I simply think that it's important to be aware of possible but loving saboteurs...and then continue on our way.

So where are you? If you created New Year's Resolutions, how close are you to fulfilling them? Are you on schedule? Off the track? Thinking, "What Resolutions?"


Anthony said...

I am going to point in different directions.

Failure to accomplish goals have some common themes, which you listed. Here are two other common ones:

Going after a individual goal as a team.

Going after a team goal as an individual.

Some goals are just meant to be done with other people.

Others, the people get in the way.

So, when you figure out how to tell which is which, be sure to let me know. I would love to figure that one out!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I managed to accomplish one out of three New Year goals. I did not lose weight or clean out my closets but I did reach my goal of adding about 50,000 words to finish my first draft. And that, to me, is huge. I think the difference was that was a number and I reached for it. If I had said I will go to the gym three times a week that might have worked.

Charles Gramlich said...

I never make resolutions. I do keep reminding myself throughout the course of the year to write more, love more, read more. That's about it.

MG Higgins said...

I think some people--namely those who are goal-oriented in the first place, do better with setting big goals than those folks (like me!) who don't like feeling trapped by them. I'm always setting goals--but small ones. Daily goals. Like I'm going to write for three hours today (see, not even a word count!). Works well for me.

Alex Moore said...

@anthony: oooh good point. i think i'll take this to heart & convince hubby that my ab goal is a team goal. ;)

@tricia: woot! how awesome is that? :) good job. as for numbers, yes, indeed, i think they work best. i bribe myself sometimes: just 10 more push-ups, honey!

@Charles Gramlich: and those are such good life resolutions. two mantras that have been following me around for a couple years now are 'be deliberate' and 'be better than i am'...

@MG Higgins: yes, it's almost claustrophobic if you choose the wrong stifling goals! but i do like having a larger, over-arching goal and then a series of mini-goals. i'm just not always good at recognizing that i haven't set the little ones :)