I’ve never been much into New Year’s resolutions. They’ve always seemed too lofty and vague, like general hopes for the year that are thrown up against the wall in hopes that maybe they’ll stick.
“I want to eat healthier this year,” “I want to spend more time with friends this year,” “I want to watch less TV this year,” etc. All great intentions but not much substance or specific plans for how they’ll be accomplished.
Instead this year I decided to set some New Year’s goals for myself. I suppose that isn’t all that different from making resolutions except theoretically my goals are better thought out and planned than your average resolution.
I did everything I knew to do to ensure success. I used the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting making sure they, were specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. I broke each goal down into bite sided action items, wrote them down where I can easily see them, set myself regular reminders to check in on my progress, etc.
The journey started really well. I had lots of excitement, energy and confidence. I followed each action step to the detail daily. That optimism and enthusiasm carried on for the first few weeks but the truth is now, only two weeks into February I’m already starting to grow weary and wonder if I’ll be able to hang on and accomplish what I set out to do.
Apparently I’m not alone. According to USA Today a full “80 percent of New Year’s resolutions (or goals) fail and many of those have already been abandoned by the second week of February.”
As I sat the other day, discouraged and reflecting on my short lived motivation, a thought hit me that has put a different perspective on this challenge and convinced me to keep pushing forward.
Pursing our goals is like growing a plant from a small seed.
Like a small seed our goals have all kinds of potential to begin with as we envision the beautiful plant they will grow into. We plant the seed in the ground carefully, choosing a place where it will get the right amount of sunlight. Then we set about watering the seed faithfully and checking on its progress eager for any signs of growth. At first we approach this with lots of excitement and energy but after a while we start to get discouraged. We’re doing all this work but nothing seems to be happening.
At this point it is so tempting to give up. But the truth is, breakthrough is probably right around the corner and our plant is about ready to sprout.
Up until now all of the growth has taken place underground where the work is constricted and extra difficult. It takes a lot of energy for the seed to sprout. The shell has to be cracked and then the young seedling has to push through the ground. Even though so much of the effort is unseen, it is some of the most important because it lays the foundation for the plant’s life and health.
Once the plant breaks the surface it begins to be seen by others for the first time. At that point it is free to grow more rapidly and with less constriction. It also receives nutrients more easily from the sun and rain because it has more surfaces with which to absorb them which further speeds up development. Now it will grow quickly and blossom brightly, starting to show the world what it was meant to be.
With on-going care the plant will continue to grow and mature, potentially even bigger and more brilliant than originally imagined.
I’m learning that the process of attaining a goal has a similar natural progression to this and am going to hang on to this vision as I continue to work towards my objectives for this year. I’m hopeful that like the plants, flowers and leaves at are about to bloom in the next weeks, so too will my work. As I see the first signs of progress I’m confident the momentum will build until my goals are fully accomplished.
If you’re tempted to give up on your New Year’s goals, I’d say the same thing I’m saying to myself. “Hang on, spring is coming!”