We’re now officially making headway into the New Year. How’s your resolution going so far? Have you exercised more than zero times? Have you read even one new book? Can you play “Stairway to Heaven” on the guitar yet, or even hum it without cracking? Probably not.
But don’t get discouraged! Most people don’t ever achieve their New Year’s resolutions. And do you know why? It’s because they want too much. People aim too high too fast. They want a million dollars today. They want to lose 150 pounds in two weeks. They want a turnkey-ready second home on Mars with a pool by 2017. These are all wonderful goals, to be sure. But they’re so monumental that they’re overwhelming to think about. So not only do people fail to achieve these big goals—they fail to start trying to achieve them in the first place.
Luckily, all hope is not lost. If you’re suffering from a failure to immediately achieve your unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, there is still a way to succeed. And all you have to do is break down those giant out-of-reach resolutions down into multiple smaller unattainable goals.
For example: Say your resolution is to paint the inside of your house—the whole thing, including accent walls, a chalkboard square in the front hall, and tinted ceilings. There is no way you’re going to accomplish this overwhelming task unless you break it down into smaller, equally unrealistic pieces. The first step is the downstairs bathroom that you won’t paint this month. Then comes the two upstairs bedrooms that you’ll think about all year but not do. Then, over the course of the next few months, you’ll not paint the kitchen. Before you know it, you’ll have not painted the entire house.
The same goes for weight loss. Say you want to lose 65 pounds. That’s a lot of weight! The enormity of that task can feel paralyzing, especially if you don’t immediately lose all the weight in the first two weeks by just sitting around and thinking about it. So why not start with not losing the first five pounds, and then little by little, gain back the rest of the weight? As many people will tell you, it’s much easier to fail in a million small ways than to succeed in one big way. And achieving small failures that add up to a larger failure prepares you to set your sights on a larger failure the next time. The work practically does itself!
I can speak from experience. I really want to write a book this year. But that’s too big to think about. It’s definitely not going to get finished if I think about the whole thing at once. So instead I decided I would start by taking on this one smaller essay and just seeing how it goes. I succeeded in the goal of finishing it, even if I did mean to write it for January 2013. Oh well!
Best wishes for an overly ambitious New Year!