New Year, Same Goals

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“January has no bearing on what you do and don’t do, it’s just what we tell our friends because that’s what they’re telling us.”

Aiming too high

New Year’s resolutions are fun, undoubtedly. There’s a rush of adrenaline and fresh ideas as one year ends and other begins. The potential of a clean slate is exciting and we can’t help but look at it with renewed energy and hope. The problem is that — more than we’d like to admit — we don’t achieve what we set out to do.

I experienced this myself about two years ago. I finished my undergrad and suddenly I had all this time on my hands. The world was my oyster (or so I believed) and all I needed to do was forge a path for myself. I set goals and plans, I researched habits and practices, all of which I believed would elevate my standing and increase whatever I thought at the time needed to be increased. Three months later I burnt out and entered one of the biggest personal slumps I have experienced to date.

What happened? I bit off more than I could chew, and I let my abundance of dreams blind me to the reality of my situation. I wanted to change the world and myself in the process. I wanted to grow in fifteen different directions at once, and I wanted to make all the money in the world. I can’t fault myself for dreaming big, but I hold myself accountable for not seeing the forest for the trees.

Back then I didn’t think much about time beyond believing it was rapidly running out and I needed to make the most of it. While this is true, the way I approached it was ultimately detrimental to my progress. It took me a year to finally get out of that rut and to recover from the burnout I experienced. An entire year! Clearly, something had to change.

Break it down

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was looking for guidance and all I found were motivational articles about hustle culture and pushing through; which were not helping whatsoever. I came across Sean McCabe’s experiences with burnout, and after having a conversation with him about it he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received:

“redefine a good day”

This changed my perspective entirely. I was aiming for the goals of the greats, the entrepreneurs and the productivity gurus. I was none of those things. I needed to define what I considered a good day. What made a day successful for me?

Day after day, year after year

I kept doing this. For months. I lived entirely for what I considered a good day and life slowly got better. It got easier. And before I knew it I was out of my rut and onto my own path again. I could read those motivational articles without wanting to throw up, I could watch inspiring speakers and see my future start to materialise itself in my mind. Now I could make goals again and work towards them. But they were small, and I had to keep them that way.

I’ve learnt that I have a tendency to overthink and overestimate what I can achieve in certain timeframes and that this tendency would ultimately be the death of me. So I started small. I picked a goal and I achieved it before moving onto the next. Now I continue to live my life like this. And what’s one more thing I’ve stopped doing? New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are pretty and make for great conversation, but what if we stopped making them sound so fluffy all the time? How many of us actually lose that weight that we set out to? To stop spending so much time on social media (or be specific about how exactly, at least)? Or to “do more things for me”? They sound great, and by all means, aim for them, but not for the sake of the 1st of January. January has no bearing on what you do and don’t do, it’s just what we tell our friends because that’s what they’re telling us.

Make realistic goals and then set out to achieve them. But what happens when that takes longer than a year? Did you fail? Was your goal too big? No, it wasn’t. It was just more difficult to achieve than you thought. But you know what? You’re already a year further than you were when you started. So what’s the next step? Keep going.

This is what I do and it’s the garnered the most success and growth I’ve experienced. It’s a small mindset change, but it can foster colossal results. Momentum, that’s all it is.

Don’t make new goals and new resolutions because it’s a new year. Keep striving for your goals as normal. Another year is just another year, it’s more time to grab what you aim for at your own pace, not someone else’s.

Don’t drop that old goal because it’s taking longer than you told your friends it would. If you really want it, it can take your entire life and it’ll be worth it. You know yourself best. Do it for you.

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Full-time designer, illustrator and lettering artist. Part time lecturer. Part time student. Experiencing the world through words, both written and drawn.

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Zachary Styles

Zachary Styles

Full-time designer, illustrator and lettering artist. Part time lecturer. Part time student. Experiencing the world through words, both written and drawn.

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