Resolution Tip #4 – Be Realistic

Okay, on to my next resolution tip.  There is a Bible verse in the book of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes (I can’t remember which) that says the man of God will avoid all extremes.   And then there is Billy Joel, who lamented, “I don’t know why I go to extremes.”   This principle can be applied to resolution-making as well.  Set the bar too high and you stand a good chance of failing.  Set the bar too low and whats the point?  However, setting the bar low (but not too low) is a very good thing –  as I illustrate later.

You may be thinking, “Okay, well…didn’t your last post say to expect failure?”  That is correct.  But that principle is for those who are setting reasonable goals.  Setting a goal that is unrealistic will usually result in discouragement and eventual abandonment of the resolution.

What is an unreasonable goal?  That is something that you will have to decide for yourself.  But if I had to give you a definition, I would say that it is a goal that you will fail at most of the time.  If I set a goal to get up at 5:30 a.m. each day to exercise, I will likely fail for a number of reasons.  First of all, I am not a morning person.  Second, I have a schedule that makes it difficult to get to bed at a decent hour.  Third, I have young children and my 2 year-old still has the sleeping habits of a newborn.  Fourth, the phrase “each day” means I do not get to sleep in for any reason whatsoever.  Yes, I can follow Resolution Tip #3 and allow for failure but I will end up following the contingency plan for the entire year and while that is okay (because I’m doing something), it is going to be such a far cry from my original goal that I will ask the question, “What was the point?”

With regard to the resolution above, I would be better off with a resolution that says “I will get up 1 time a week at 5:30 a.m. to exercise.”  This resolution will still be difficult for me to follow but I know that I can buckle down and do it one time.  I can plan to go to bed early the night before and mentally prepare myself for that one day.  And if something happens during the night that will make it difficult to get up, that is okay.  I will just save it for another day.  But here’s the key.  That one day each week that I follow through on my goal will get my feet wet and exposed to the joy that comes from getting up early, watching the sun rise and the satisfaction of having my workout done before most people’s day has even got started.  After awhile, I can increase my goal to two times a week.  I may even reach a point where I start getting up early even if I don’t have to.

One year, I made a resolution to read two books – one fiction and one non-fiction.  I had a whole year to read two lousy books.  The non-fiction book was easy.  You just go out and buy an autobiography of your favorite athlete or a memoir of your favorite rock band.  The fiction (at least for me) was difficult because I’m just not drawn to that sort of thing very easily.  So, November rolled around.  I was on a plane headed home from Wisconsin at the end of Thanksgiving weekend and took out the book Left Behind which people had been talking about.  With nothing else to do, I began reading that book and got very into it.  The added element of the story partly taking place on an airplane made it all the better.  It didn’t take long for me to reach that wonderful point in the book where I couldn’t put it down.  It was a feeling I had not experienced since I was a kid.  I quickly finished the book and that one book was all it took.  I was excited about reading again.  I went on to read the rest of the Left Behind series and then decided to take on the Lord Of The Rings series, starting with the Hobbit.  I only got through a portion of the Fellowship of The Ring book before life got really busy and my Lord of The Rings-reading goal fizzled.  However, since that time I have read a number of books (mostly non-fiction, but some fiction) and enjoy reading again.  One easy goal was all it took.

My New Year’s Resolution last year was to prepare my family for emergencies.  Conceptually, it was a great goal.  But the criteria of what preparing my family for emergencies meant for me was so extreme that it was ridiculous.  Last December, I read a book called Surviving The End Of The World As We Know It.  Caught up in the spirit of the book, I was not only preparing my family for power outages and other minor emergencies but was also preparing them for a late 2013-apocalypse…with no money.   Later on, I heard a seminar about how to prepare for “The Coming Storm”.  The first step the speaker mentioned was to get out of debt.  I thought to myself, “Yeah, I should probably focus on that first before building my underground bunker.”

A resolution that will have you asking yourself, “What was I thinking?” several months later is not the way to go.  Be realistic and reasonable with your goals.  Don’t be afraid to set the bar low.  It may be just enough to motivate you to jump even higher.


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