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Kinder resolutions for overachievers

How aiming for less can help you achieve more

By Business Rules for LifePublished 2 years ago 4 min read
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Kinder resolutions for overachievers
Photo by Jorge Ibanez on Unsplash

I used to be a chronic overachiever. I expected perfection and set ambitious, often extreme goals for myself. I would read stories about exceptional people, and rather than being inspired, wonder why I wasn't doing the same and set myself a new benchmark.

I used to be my own biggest critic, but my default behavior did not translate into meaningful change. Rather than maintaining consistent actions, that are actually the things that make a difference, I'd use New Year's resolutions to try to make radical lifestyle overhauls that were unsustainable.

Getting fit? I'd try to go from couch to marathon in a day.

Get on top of my finances? I'd try to pay my mortgage off in a year.

When I couldn't keep up these impossible standards I'd give up on the entire idea then berate myself for being a failure.

Now, instead of setting myself these crazy goals I've found a different approach to my New Year's resolutions. One that is kinder on myself and leaves me feeling fulfilled instead of burnt out.

It's not about selecting a particular resolution, it's more about how I frame the resolution, and the difference in perspective that I use.

Here are a few of the approaches I'll be taking to set my intentions for 2022.

One year, one focus

Instead of trying to overhaul my entire life, I choose a single focus. This doesn't mean a resolution for a single action, but rather a group of complimentary habits or projects to improve one specific area.

Having a focus helps me stop feeling overwhelmed and avoids the temptation to restart with a 'perfect' year. It also helps me prioritize my decision making. For example, during my year of 'health and wellbeing' I upped my grocery budget, spent guilt-free on yoga classes and selected healthy options at restaurants without my choice being driven by their price. I didn't feel the competing priorities of saving money and being healthy because I'd intentionally set my focus at the start of the year.

Make it meaningful

I get to the heart of why I want to make a change, before taking any actions. Defining the core reason for a resolution help me determine if it's something I actually want to pursue, and serves as motivation for the whole year.

When I wanted to get my personal finances in order, my reason wasn't just to save money. Although increasing my savings was an outcome, my actual goal was to start the journey to financial freedom, to give me more security. This meant much more to me than just being good with my money. I could visualize a better lifestyle where I worried less and could make big life decisions that were not based on needing to earn more.

Don't quantify your resolution

SMART goals can be useful, but I don't use them for resolutions. My resolutions are more about a shift in lifestyle and the creation of habits rather than achieving something specific. How I create this change often takes a bit of experimentation to find the optimum fit, so I don't quantify the goal upfront.

Rather than saying I'll run 5km three times a week, I start by saying I'll find a way to exercise regularly. I can then try lots of different approaches until I find something that fits with me and my routine. I can also be flexible if I need to be, without 'breaking' my resolution. When lockdown disrupted things I could switch my classes and gym sessions for jogs in the park, and when I was under pressure at work, 'regular' came to mean two activities per week instead of four.

Break it down

Changing an area of your life is not about one single action, and neither are my resolutions. For example, what does being healthier mean? It might involve a whole myriad of elements - exercising, a good diet, reducing stress and getting more sleep.

When I set my resolution for the year, I spend the first couple of weeks thinking about the micro-resolutions that make it up. What mini habits do I need to establish? Is there something I can buy or change in my environment to reduce friction? What are my inherent weaknesses and how can I overcome them?

I break the 'big' resolution into smaller, individual actions, and tackle them one by one throughout the year. Find an exercise class I like, eat fish on Saturdays, make a habit of being in bed by 10pm.

Planning a variety of smaller actions that contribute to the same end goal can also help keep the motivation up. If I get stuck with one aspect, I can move onto something else and still make progress.

Aim for balance

Finally, my resolutions aim to achieve balance. This means not pursuing something at the expense of everything else in my life, but being realistic about my other commitments and priorities.

At the end of the day, life is about finding contentment and long term happiness.

My resolutions are adjustments on the path towards this end goal.

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