This year I will (again?)….
With the New Year starting on 19th February 2015 (year of the Goat or sheep), our minds wander once again to resolutions, hopes and plans for the year ahead. We ponder what we would like to achieve and how we will do so.
Clement Stone once told us to aim for the moon, and if we fail, we will still land amongst the stars. But how about if we turn this on its head? What if we stop trying to reach the unattainable goal (the moon), but instead pick realistic targets to start with (the stars). Will we feel more fulfilled in our accomplishments?
Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton, in his book Status Anxiety, explores this very question. In fact, he comes up with a formula:
Satisfaction = accomplishments/expectations.
In short, when we set ourselves up with high expectations and fail to meet them, we feel bad, whereas if our accomplishments exceed our expectations, we feel happy.
So the answer to this seems simple. We need to set ourselves small, achievable and positive goals that we can achieve and ‘tick off,’ leaving us feeling satisfied. It is a balance between increasing our accomplishments and lowering our expectations.
As de Botton says: “We are tempted to believe that certain achievements and possessions will give us enduring satisfaction. We are invited to imagine ourselves scaling the steep cliff face of happiness in order to reach a wide, high plateau on which we will live out the rest of our lives; we are not reminded that soon after gaining the summit, we will be called down again into fresh lowlands of anxiety and desire.” Our journey and the small but measurable successes are what is important.
This Lunar New Year marks a chance for a ‘fresh start’ – a point to reflect on what we have achieved and what we want from the future. It allows us to feel reinvigorated and energised for the challenges to come. It marks a date in the diary where we can renew our energy. The key now is to make our goals realistic and work towards small steps in the right direction.
According to a publication in the Journal of Clinical Psychology by John Norcross, as many as 50% of us make a New Year Resolution – be it weight loss or debt reduction. But Psychology Professor Peter Herman and colleagues believe the high failure rate in seeing these through is called the ‘false hope syndrome, ’ meaning the resolution is unrealistic and out of alignment with the person’s views and lifestyles.
Here are a few tips to ensure you make goals you can stick to:
- Make ‘bitesize’ targets rather than one large (and often unachievable) one.
- Do not think too long-term – it is better to think daily or weekly, than monthly or annually
- Reward yourself along your journey and keep a chart of your progress
- Look after yourself and remember to take time out to ‘recharge your batteries’ and be in the best possible condition to give your goals all the effort they deserve – this means taking care of your energy both physically and mentally.
Good luck and enjoy the process.