When we wish someone a ‘Happy New Year’ it is not the emotion of happiness we are invoking, rather we are wishing them a fortunate and lucky year. Interestingly, a wish is a strong desire for something that probably won’t happen. So as we welcome in the new year, we are (mostly inadvertently) saying, “I am hoping you are luckier this year than last, but I don’t truly believe it will be so.”
We have good cause to be pessimistic.
Humans like opportunities to reset and start over. I deeply regret that I did not appreciate the magnificent gift I was given, while in school, of the semester and its promise of a definite end (and therefore a new beginning.) We look for any excuse to put a stake in the ground or draw a line in the sand and begin anew in the search for our best life. We love to begin again.
Unfortunately, our fervor for restarting is only matched by our failure to make effective use of the new chance. This New Years, half of all adults in America will take stock of their current situation and make a resolution to change. Eighty percent of those will lose their resolve within the first thirty days, with only 8% managing to actually affect permanent change.
‘Resolution’ comes from the latin word, ‘resolvere’, and originally meant “a breaking into parts”, as in the solution to a problem. However, by the 1600s it had taken on the meaning of “a decision or expression of a meeting.” It wasn’t until the late 1700s that it started to be used in reference to “an intention to better oneself.” Unfortunately, that sense has really followed the word, in that most resolutions start with the precept that there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed.
If resolutions are so prone to failure, should we throw up our hands and resign ourselves to the way things are?
Many resolutions tend to be vague, lack clear steps, and indicate merely an interest in change. In other words, they are wishes. When we wish, well, my grandad used to say, “Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up faster.” A wish is not a hope. Hope is based on some reality, some proof, some evidence that the thing hoped for will come to pass. When we hope, we act in accordance with that hope.
There is a way to significantly increase our chance of creating lasting and positive change in any area of our lives: set goals. If resolutions are wishes, then goals are hope. Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. S.M.A.R.T.
Specific: the goal should have a specific purpose and focus
Measurable: the goal should be able to be measured to monitor its progress and effectiveness
Attainable: the goal should be challenging, but achievable
Realistic: the goal should be realistic and within your means
Time bound: the goal must fit within a time frame
Where resolutions are vague, goals set up clear objectives and outcomes. Where resolutions can be overwhelming, goals have steps and measurements to help maintain focus. Where resolutions can lead to discouragement and quitting (for the vast majority of us), goals are realistic and create wins along the way. Where resolutions often lack commitment, goals have time frames which show we are ready for the change.
By establishing a goal we have the opportunity to clearly define what we want, what it will look like when we achieve it, how we are going to go about making it our reality, who and what resources we will need along the way, and when it can be. We create a path to walk that leads to success.
A friend of mine once told me she could handle anything as long as she had something to hope for. I agree. I can do whatever is necessary and make whatever sacrifice needed if I have real hope in the future. By setting goals, we have our plan as evidence as we hope for that future.
As you contemplate what your goals will be for this new year, I would make one last suggestion. We can’t have our best life if the people around us aren’t having theirs. My hope is that we will use this new year to change someone else’s life and not just our own. That would be a Happy New Year and it also happens to be The Kimray Way.