The dim likelihood that you'll successfully work toward a New Year's resolution all year long is part of the reason why everyone seems to have jumped on the "don't make New Year's resolutions" bandwagon. Personally, I'm still a believer that these resolutions can help us home in on what we want to accomplish. For instance, I'd like to become a better leader, because when I'm going 100 miles per hour in startup mode, it's easy to overlook some key attributes of great leadership.
The important thing is to make sure your goals aren't ambitious to the point of being unrealistic. Everyone wants to become CEO within the first quarter or develop a six-pack before Valentine's Day. Resolutions like these are near-impossible to accomplish, and even more difficult is setting concrete, short-term goals to achieve them.
As I reflected on my resolutions for 2019, I considered what resolutions successful people have actually been able to keep. By picking the right resolutions, they made the hard part look easy. By following their lead--and some smart motivational strategies--you can do the same. Start with these three steps:
1. Learn something new.
New Year's resolutions don't have to be directly related to your health or career. Just the act of learning something new on your own will sharpen your mind and enrich your life.
For instance, at the end of 2016, About.com CEO Neil Vogel told Business Insider that he resolved to learn guitar because his then-3-year-old son was obsessed with the instrument. I don't know if he succeeded, but it's the right kind of resolution to make. It's always easier to teach yourself something that you're interested in rather than something you only want to learn to advance your career.
To integrate learning the new skill into your routine, think about all the other non-work-related tasks you do every day. Pairing one of these activities with your new hobby will condition you to stick with your goal for the long haul.
It sounds simple, but imagine the progress you'll make if you crochet part of a new beanie every time you brew your coffee in the morning. Using one everyday task to prompt you to take time to practice your French, for instance, will help you make a habit out of learning something new.
2. Impact something larger than yourself.
When it comes to goals related to your career, have you ever stopped to think about your impact on other people? Are those around you better off because of the work you do?
Ironically, serving others may be your key to a joyful 2019. People who work toward some purpose beyond themselves are not only 64 percent more satisfied in their career, but some findings indicate they may even live seven years longer than those who don't.
Consider where you excel and find opportunities to channel that into something altruistic. Try volunteering with a nonprofit, starting a side hustle that meets a community need, or even getting your business involved in giving back to a specific cause. Make this easier by keeping your resolution broad.
This isn't the place for SMART goals; rather, you're just working toward making a positive impact of some kind on the world around you. That's the approach taken by TED Curator Chris Anderson, who describes his resolution in a Fortune article as: "To help turn the tide, just the teensiest little bit, in spreading reason and generosity in place of meanness."
3. Actually commit to work-life balance.
When you were a kid, what's the first thing you did when you got home from school? Maybe you played street hockey with your friends, microwaved some pizza rolls, or did other fun things instead of buckling right down with your homework.
As busy as you are now, there's a reason to embrace that way of life. Dry Bar founder Alli Webb made this her resolution for 2018, according to Business Insider, saying she wanted to work toward being a great mom, founder, mentor, and wife.
The trick is to develop strict boundaries between work and play. Obviously, you have to work when you're on the clock, but consider designating time right after work to unwind. If your go-to fun activity is playing board games with your kids, then put your phone on silent and reserve 7 p.m. for just you, the family, and the Monopoly board.
No matter what resolutions you choose, keeping them can be daunting. There are countless ways to improve your life, relationships, and career, and regardless of the goals you set, it's always possible you won't follow through with them. Try focusing on one of the areas above, and you may see that this year's resolution is more manageable than in the past.