Rethinking Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I’ve already mentioned in my previous post summarized my places of 2016 that I have a tendency to hunker indoors and get introspective this time of year. Usually I’ll break out my goals from last year to evaluate how things went and then plan for the coming year. This year, I’m shaking up my approach on planning for the upcoming year.

The past few years, I’ve developed a list of about 5-10 goals for the year. Sometime in mid-December I think about what should be on the list for the following year, and I write these down on an index card that I keep in my journal.

My success rate has been about 60 percent. My school-nerd self would call that an F. 😦

Last year I also made some quarterly goals, with a similar mixed rate of success (and failure).

Rookie Mistakes

So what isn’t working? When I look at various ways that people set goals, I’m falling short on some basic elements:

Making Dumb Goals: I hate acronyms, but the concept of SMART goals is seared into my brain. It’s a useful framework, and I don’t use it nearly enough as I should. It’s much easier for me to accomplish a goal to complete a certain race on a certain day because it’s so specific, whereas, I don’t make as much progress when I set vague goals like “blog most weeks.”

Not Buying In: Sometimes I set goals because I feel like I should have them. But I don’t fully buy into them and so I’m not successful. For example, I know that doing a few triathlons a year helps give me a little extra boost to swim, canoe, bike, run, and do other active things more often. Building on this, I entertained a goal to run a 10k at a certain pace, hoping that I would be inspired to improve my running (my weakest part of any triathlon). But since I don’t love running and because I hate running at an uncomfortable pace, I failed to be inspired by the running goal and dropped it almost immediately.

Forgetting Everything: It’s good that I write my goals down because just the act of writing them down increases the likelihood of success. But then I typically to put them away, forget about them for several months, and fail to make progress. Then, months later, I dig them up and think something along the lines, “Oh, that’s my goal. Why am I not doing that? I should be doing that!” and then put them away for another six months. Then in six months, I repeat the whole thing over again.

A New Approach

This year, I’ve spend a lot of time trying to develop a better plan for 2017 so that I’m doing cool things and those things are in better alignment with becoming the 90-year-old, spry, badass little old lady that I want to be someday.

I’ve been digging into great resources, but I’m not sure what to do. Do I set 7-10 goals like Michael Hyatt recommends? Or follow Gretchen Rubin’s advice to work on habits? Or think about my future performance review like Laura Vanderkam does? These are all cool ideas, but I’m not sure which is best for me—and keeps me from overthinking everything!

So I’m doing what generally works for me:  I made a list. It’s essentially a list of “Things to Do in 2017.” It has about 45 items on it now, and I’ll revise it throughout the year. For the most part, I don’t think of the items as goals or resolutions. I’ve categorized them this way:

Experiences I Want to Have: This includes things like vacations, my two fav triathlons, and other adventures. I’m usually pretty good at making sure these things happen (like going to Copper Harbor or camping), so this is mostly a matter of putting these on the calendar.

Habits/Routines to Cultivate: Like many people, I struggle with things like wanting to eat better and move more. These are always the hardest things for me to make progress on because they need to happen day in and day out, even when inspiration and motivation wane. I’ve identified a few to start with and will see how that goes—I suspect this will be the hard part.

Things to Try: There are at least a handful of things, all of them outside, that I want to try and evaluate whether I want to do them more often. For example, I want to go fishing on the lake now that we have the cottage there. This list is small, so I am wondering if I need to make a bigger attempt to try new and more exciting things. But for now, I’m okay with being boring.

Things to Do: I have a long and varied list of things that I want to do. This includes some mundane adulting that I need to do this year (revisit retirement and insurance, for instance), community service efforts (helping at some Keweenaw Land Trust events), and several outside projects for the garden and property (make room for oak trees!).


That’s my plan for 2017. What’s yours? I’d love to hear about it (and cheer you on)!

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