The end of year encourages us to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we want to be. It’s prime time for mapping out goals and setting resolutions for the year ahead.
A new year symbolizes a fresh start and a revived opportunity to break bad habits, start healthy routines, and create our desired lifestyle.
But as the days, weeks and months roll on, it’s easy to slip back into default mode and settle for mediocrity.
The most common excuses that lead you to abandon your goals or resolutions and can make your year crappy are:
I don’t have time. Long-term goals often fall to the wayside when you barely have time to fulfill daily obligations, meet deadlines at work, run errands, or do household chores. Having more time, however, doesn’t necessarily make you more productive, effective, or efficient.
Carve out and schedule time blocks for your big goals. Work on them when your energy is at its highest or when distractions and interruptions are at their lowest. Just set aside 15 minutes a day, an hour a week, or a day in the month to make small, consistent progress.
Stop wasting time watching TV, surfing the Internet, and engaging in other activities that have minimal effect on the quality of your life. Wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later. Use the extra time to focus on the tasks that really matter.
I don’t have the money. Not all goals and dreams are realistic. But many are within your reach even when it seems you don’t have the resources to pursue them. You just need to get creative with exploring options.
If one gym membership fee is out of your price range, find a competitor that offers similar services at a fraction of the price. And if you want to learn Sun Salutations or other basic asanas, you can invest in a yoga DVD and cultivate a home practice or attend sessions at a “pay as you go” studio. You don’t need to travel to India for a yoga retreat or take a pricey yoga class with a world-renowned yoga master.
I’m too tired/ill. Exhaustion, illness, or injury slows you down. While it’s important to rest and recover, you don’t always have to be in peak physical condition to accomplish what you want. Deliberate, ongoing engagement with meaningful activities can energize you and help restore you mentally and physically.
I’m afraid. Playing it safe or staying within your comfort zone makes it hard to thrive and flourish. Going for your dreams and goals involves taking risks. The sooner you face your fears, the quicker you will gain the experience, knowledge, skills and confidence to maximize your potential and step up to the next level.
Fear is a natural, human emotion that demands respect. You can still take effective action despite your fears.
I’m not inspired or motivated. Sometimes you have to take action first to get unstuck and fired up. Favorable results or good feelings from the thing you do can spur you on to keep doing it.
Sometimes the resolution you set for yourself just isn’t right for you. It might not tie into your big vision or connect with who you are at the core. If you really don’t care much about what you’re trying to achieve, it will be an uphill battle to dedicate your time and energy to it. If that’s the case, feel free to redefine and reframe your goal.
I’m bored. Repetitive behavior can be tedious. Certain tasks might never gel well with you. So mix it up. To get fit, you don’t have to run or work out in the gym every day. You could dance or play racquetball to get the heart rate up and build your strength and stamina.
To help me improve my piano playing skills, my piano teacher prescribes Hanon exercises. While I know they’re good for me, I don’t particularly enjoy them. So after I’m done with one Hanon exercise, I follow it with an improvised piece or sheet music that I love. This keeps me from getting bored with my practice.
I lack willpower. Willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations and delay gratification to meet long-term goals. It’s a limited resource that doesn’t run at 100% all the time. But you can refocus and recommit if you get delayed or derailed.
There are ways to stay on the path and hold yourself accountable even when your willpower is depleted. For example, keep a log of your progress, automate or routinize desired habits, and share your goals with trusted friends and family members who will support you when the chips are down.
I don’t want to upset the people around me. Your friends, relatives or colleagues might not want to see you make changes, especially when the status quo works for them. Your ability to deal with judgment is critical.
You can talk it out to get to the root of the issue (perhaps their concerns are legitimate). You can also choose to ignore their comments. Or you can end the relationship if it’s toxic and non-supportive.
I don’t know where to start. Start small. Start today. Set mini-goals for each day, week or month, instead of one big goal for the year. Get specific. If you want to author a novel, write a page a day. If you want to develop fluency in a foreign language, learn five new words or phrases every week. If you want to become more cultured, visit an art museum, read a classic book, or see a play once a month.
I can’t stand the pressure. Setting resolutions and goals can create tension and stress, which in turn triggers procrastination, indecision and inaction for some.
In The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul, Danielle LaPorte encourages us to identify our “core desired feelings” and create practical “goals with soul” to generate those feelings. Instead of chasing after goals with numbers, dates and targets, she suggests we create a journey that feels the way we want the destination to feel.
Resolutions are often too vague, or too directed towards one goal. It might be “quit smoking” or “lose 20 pounds” or “get hired.” These are all fine aspirations, but I challenge you to dig deeper, to find three words that could be used as lighthouses to guide you through stormy seas, that can be used as flags on the battlefield of your challenges, words that will bolster you and give you a direction that goes beyond the goals you might attach as a result of these words.
Throughout the year, you can focus on your core desired feelings or your three words (e.g. Patience. Presence. Partnership) to guide you in your choices, actions and behaviors — without the unnecessary pressure.
To avoid obsessing over end goals, attend to the process itself. Set intentions to choose, act and behave in ways that that are aligned with your deepest values and heartfelt desires. Refrain from going purely after external rewards.
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Excuses undermine the changes you wish to make and sabotage the results you seek to achieve. They can make your year crappy. Knowing how to beat them will help you make the year a happy one that truly counts.
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Photo by: SJ Photography