This year I do not have any year long resolutions that I genuinely commit to, but ultimately give up on sometime in the first few months. I have decided not to bother with what seems to be a pointless charade, but instead to work towards smaller monthly intentions instead. I hope that these will help me to gradually improve my life in a better way than yearly resolutions could do.
“The distinction between goals and intentions is more than a semantic one. An intention is more forgiving, without the built-in succeed-or-fail dynamic that seems to come with New Year’s resolutions. The idea of intention honors effort and process, and not just results.” Naz Beheshti writing for forbes.com
If you are unconvinced about the differentiation between goals and intentions, there are other reasons for the switch.
A monthly cycle allows me to regularly challenge myself and try new things. The influence for this is from Matt Cutts who’s 30 day challenges include:
- Cycling to work
- Social media cleanse
- Take a picture every day
- Reading challenge (15 books)
He has consciously transformed his life in ways that he wanted to by tackling these challenges.
Here is a short video of Matt explaining 30 day challenges:
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But rather than following Matt in choosing seemingly unconnected challenges, I’m opting for looking at my life to see what small changes could I make this month that would improve my life. I want to choose small sustainable changes to build habits for a better life.
This allows me to break down what used to be New Years resolutions into smaller chunks. For example, rather than having a big athletic goal, I could start the first month by stopping doing something that encourages a sedentary lifestyle. Then in the next month add a hobby that is a bit more active, follow that with a C25K challenge… etc. This will help to break down old habits and build up new habits in a gradual way.
The best thing is that I do not even have to know what the end goal is yet. The goal doesn’t have to be as well defined as ‘run a marathon’, it could simply be the intention to ‘get fit’.
I have recently started reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, if you want to explore how habits are formed, I highly recommend reading this.
In The Minimalists Podcast episode 165 with James they give an example of someone who wanted to ‘start going to the gym’. He started out by taking the intention ‘start going to the gym’ literally. He would get in his car, drive to the gym, then when he got there he would turn around and drive back home. He did this for some time before introducing any exercise to the outing.
What he was doing was developing the habit of being someone who goes to the gym, it did not matter that he did not do any exercise when he got there. In fact that was the advantage, he removed the factor that might stop him going to the gym and that could cause him to fail. This allowed him to build a foundation upon which he could start to exercise. As someone who now had a habit of going to the gym setting fitness goals were now unimpeded by the chance that he might not actually be bothered to go.
Some might say this an extreme example, but it does demonstrate how to break goals down into several small habits that you can develop independently for a greater chance of success.
An example monthly plan
Below I’ll outline an example monthly plan, but first, I have a recommendation.
Write it out and place it somewhere that you will see it every day. Put it on your fridge, stick it to the side of your office monitor, set it as a desktop background, tape it to the steering wheel of your car - I don’t care just put it somewhere where you know you’ll see it and be reminded of your goals every day.
Here is an example:
Monthly Plan ============ Complimentary Habits - Read more - Watch much less TV (preferably none) Improve the home - Reset the room (jamesclear.com/reset-the-room) Health and wellbeing - Exercise twice a week e.g. dumbbell routine with 20mins cardio Hobbies - Play 10 mins guitar every day Ideas for next month(s) - Increase my writing opportunities - Cycle to work - Ditch smart phone - Programming Katas