Around about now, those New Year Resolutions start getting left behind. If you’re finding yours hard to keep up with, you’re not alone: research shows that 92% of those who make them fail to achieve them. The sense of renewal we all feel as one year rolls into the next seems to prompt a deep need to reinvent ourselves and make promises to do more, be more, achieve more than we did during the previous year.
So why is it that resolutions are so hard to keep?
Too Much, Too Soon
New Year resolutions are nearly always about making sweeping changes. I’ll quit smoking. I’ll run a marathon. I’ll go to the gym five times a week. I’ll write a novel. Those are all massive accomplishments when you’re starting from a standstill. You can’t go from couch potato to fitness guru in the blink of an eye any more than you can go from unknown writer with nothing written to world-famous bestseller overnight.
The reason so many resolutions fall by the wayside is that they focus on the end result. We make a huge mental leap, seeing ourselves suddenly going from where we are now to where we ultimately want to be.
There’s nothing wrong with being able to visualise the big picture (link to dreams post), in fact it’s vital. If you can clearly see where you’re going, you’re much more likely to get there. Where we often go wrong is to stop visualising once that big picture comes into sharp focus. You see, as well as holding a clear picture of the destination in mind, you also need some sort of map that will direct you there.
Preparing a Map
Instead of simply resolving to do something then hoping it will happen by magic, you need a plan of action that will take you from A to B. Without a plan the golden sense of anticipation over a new resolution turns to rust faster than a bike left out in the rain. Come mid-January, you get a slipping sensation of time passing and nothing happening. By the start of February it’s becoming a distant dream, and once March turns to April you’re thinking maybe you’ll do it next year.
New Year Resolutions Fail. Plans Succeed.
If you want to run a marathon, you need to figure out a gradual running programme that’ll build your stamina and endurance up over time.
- How far will you run?
- How often can you realistically commit to training?
- How will you build incremental increases into your distance?
Novel writing is a marathon of a different kind, and a plan of action is needed here too.
- How long is your planned novel?
- How many chapters or scenes?
- How many scenes will each viewpoint character have?
- How often can you commit to writing?
- How many words do you need to write during each writing session?
Write down the answers to those questions, and build a calendar of scheduled events, so you know when you should be writing, and how much you need to achieve before you can stop if you’re to stay on schedule.
This is a plan. This will get you from standstill to dream realised.
Forget New Year resolutions. If you really want to turn your life around and achieve something great and good, make a plan instead. Then stick to it.