I don’t know what I’m doing.
I don’t know how many people actually know either, but I’ve always convinced myself I should know – or I could know, if I planned it out well enough.
The Art of Making Plans
I was always making plans for this, mapping out goals for that, creating intricately scheduled routines and procedures for almost everything.
But all of that came with a lot of stress. And a severe amount of overthinking. And (rather annoyingly) quite often none of it helped.
Sure, having a plan is good for direction and purpose. And being organised can make life less stressful. But, personally, I’ve found planning and goal setting has hindered more than it’s helped. It’s stressed me out and been ineffective in real life – my plans very rarely (if ever) actually go to plan – so all that planning has ended up being a waste of time. Time that could have been spent actually taking action. And enjoying life.
The New Plan is to Take Action
So that’s what I’m focusing on this year. Chilling out, but doing more.
And by that, I mean I’m not detailing out huge goals this year. Yes, I have things I want to achieve, and I know what they are. But I’m not setting an arbitrary year-long date for them. I’m not even wasting time making long-term plans. Life moves too fast and changes too much for that.
Because I don’t need to map every aspect of my ambitions out. If it’s important enough to me, then a goal will be in the forefront of my mind – so I’ll automatically be working towards it. I’ll find a way to get there. If not, those goals clearly didn’t matter that much to me.
I’m Not Saying All Goals Are Pointless
Goals and goal setting does have a place – I’ve said myself that you can’t achieve a goal if you don’t set it as an intention first. And it’s been proven that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them.
But that’s literally all I’ve done. I’ve written down what I want to achieve. I haven’t added step-by-steps. I haven’t scheduled it into quarters and months and weeks.
And maybe I will go back to that system at some point. But maybe I need to work up to it. Because it hasn’t worked so well before, so now I’m trying simple.
So I have my overarching goals written down, and I’ll probably jot down tasks and aims for each week – maybe I’ll go as far as the month. But I’m not calling them goals – they’re focuses. Because, a lot of the time, our goals are out of our hands anyway. What we can control is how hard we work and what we work on – our focus.
And then I’m just going to do. Act. Move forward without over-planning and overthinking, which really just gave me time to doubt myself and become afraid of even starting.
Forget New Year Resolutions
It’s with the same kind of reasoning that I’m not calling my new year resolutions resolutions this year. I’m calling them my new year practices.
Because, if you think about it, when we set all our resolutions at the beginning of the year, with all the motivations and optimism and best intentions in the world, we’re setting new habits and goals we don’t already know how to do. If we did, we’d already be doing them.
That means, when we (inevitably) “mess up”, we feel like we’ve failed. And quite often that’s why people give up their entire resolution. The streak broke, and that’s demotivating.
But, by calling them new year practices, it doesn’t matter if you mess up – that’s what’s meant to happen when you practice something. It’s part of the process.
And you now have 365 days to keep working on it and get it right.
It takes the pressure off, and I think we could all use less pressure on ourselves.
A (Un?)Fortunate Side Effect
Once I decided I would make new year practices instead of resolutions, something happened.
I started making lots of them.
In years before, I might have made two or three resolutions – like use my phone less or be early to all my meetings/appointments. Any more, and it would have become unsustainable.
But since I’m just practising this year, any time I thought about something else I’d like to improve about myself, I figured: “well, yeah, I can practise that as well“.
Currently, my list of new year practices is fourteen items long.
Now, this could be seen as a negative. There’s no way I can change fourteen things about myself (at once). I’m not sure I could even remember fourteen things at once. That’s why, as resolutions, they’d never have worked.
But, I realised, if I had just been setting resolutions, I’d never have even tried. Sure, I’m not going to improve fourteen things about myself immediately. But I am working on all fourteen, and without any pressure to get any of them down perfectly right now.
That means there’s fourteen improvements – however small, and however long it takes – that I wouldn’t have even bothered to try before.
I’ll take trying over no attempt at all.
It’s essentially the whole ‘actually doing vs waiting to be perfectly ready’ argument.
What Do You Think?
That’s my take on it anyway, and I’m feeling so much better already this year. Stress and perfectionism is not a part of my 2022 journey.
But what about you? Are you setting new year resolutions? What do you think about my idea of practices?
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