New Year, New… Oh, Whatever

1 Jan

Every year at the bookstore, as the Christmas exchanges trickled in and the year ticked down, we’d start eyeing the front-of-store display tables.  December’s inexorable roll into January meant it was time for “New Year, New You” features in the newspapers and on TV.  Lists upon lists of resolutions aimed at self-improvement, everywhere you turned.

We’d stack piles of books on dieting, getting organized, travel.  Learn a new language!  Quit smoking!  Bake more cookies!  (I can totally get behind the baking more cookies thing.  Especially if I get to taste them.)

I usually got caught up in resolution-making, too, though by the time February arrived, they were long forgotten.

The tradition dates back to the Babylonians (so the internet says), when they’d make an effort to return borrowed farm equipment at the start of spring.   We can also look to the Romans, who named a month after Janus, the two-faced god of gates and doors, of beginnings and endings.   (Note to self: Janus ought to show up in a story somewhere, oh yes.)  In a sense, we stand at the threshhold of the year, sometimes looking back fondly at what’s gone by, sometimes slamming the door closed on all that shit.  And we look at the year to come, at the things we want to accomplish and the things that need fixing or changing.  It’s a fresh start, a clearing away.

For me, the trick to resolutions is making them achievable. It’s good to have big goals, but leaving them nebulous or setting the bar too high can be a kiss of death.  Figure out what you can realistically achieve, then base your target results off of that.

Also, break your big goals down into smaller ones. Want to write a novel this year?  Resolve to set aside some time to write a certain amount of words every day.  Want to save money?   Figure out something you want to do with that money, price it out, and calculate a weekly amount to tuck away.

If you fall short, forgive yourself. Can you make up the deficit?  Can you add a few more words to next week’s goal, or deposit an extra $5 for the next few paychecks?  Yes?  Awesome!  Do so.  No?  Then extend your goal out a week, or shrug off the missed week and keep going. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it means you fell short.  That’s all.  Whether life threw you a curve or whether you just didn’t feel it that day/week/month, acknowledge it, dust yourself off, and move on.

Track your goals. You can go as high- or low-tech as you please, but having a way to look back at how far you’ve come can be a motivator.  Or, if you’re falling behind, it can be a way to help you re-evaluate.  If you’re using a pen-and-paper tracking method, put it in a notebook or ledger that feels nice to hold and to write in, so the very act of recording is a positive one.  Want to track it electronically? Aside from the word processing or spreadsheet tools in your office suite of choice, look for other types of calculators.  Most banks have added savings goal applications to their websites.  You can also find all kinds of tracking meters and progress bars to add to your websites or forum signatures.  (I’m a fan of StoryToolz for my word counts.)

Reward yourself. Doesn’t have to be big.  Doesn’t have to be expensive.  Treat yourself to something — an ice cream, a night of watching cheesy movies, a CD of music to write by.  Do it on a monthly basis.  Or when you hit a percentage of your overall goal.  Then get back to work!

Find people to cheer you on.  Cheer them on right back. It’s so easy to let your goals fall by the wayside if you’re the only person holding yourself accountable.  If you have friends setting out to accomplish something, share your objectives with them.  Check in every now and then for updates, and ask them to check in with you, too.  They don’t have to be people you see face-to-face — tell the Twitterverse what you’re up to.  Blog about it.  Ask your friends on Friendface to kick you in the ass when you need it.

Are you making any resolutions this year?  Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you in the past?  Want to offer up your services to deliver cheers or ass-kickings?  Let us know in the comments!

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2 Responses to “New Year, New… Oh, Whatever”

  1. Bika January 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    I have two goals this year! Sell my house, and finish the novel I wrote for NaNo. I think the latter may be easier. After all, it’s probably doable in 750 words a day for the next month, and the other depends on a lot more factors than just whether I’m feeling creative that day.

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