As we approach the sparkly New Year, I began to think of my resolutions for 2018. Of course, there are the perpetual ones that keep sneaking in each year (exercising more, reading more, etc.) that all seem to have the common long-term benefits for one's health, happiness, and self. It makes sense that all these long-term investments keep intuitively reappearing on the list every year. But what about the others? The ones that you want to set for yourself now, in just a few days? Are they short-term investments? Are you setting them now because you want to achieve them soon? Or by this time next year?
If you know me at all, you know I am a big fan of efficiency and maximization, so as my mind kept wandering, I thought to myself, “How do I ensure a higher success rate for my new goals?” We all know how this story ends. We finish our last final exam or paper, and we are off for winter break. We sleep. We eat. We have time for ourselves. And we think. Before we know it, sequins and metallics are surrounding us, from the racks and shelves at the nearest store, to the latest emoji, to the icing on the holiday cookies at our favorite coffee shop. As society expects of us, we take the lovely opportunity that the New Year has to offer and we set our new goals.
Most of us, however, or maybe just I, tend to forget one important thing. We are in a comfortable time-off environment, far from our everyday hectic college lives. The main difference - we are well rested. Thus, the goals we tend to set are simply unrealistic, to match nicely our overachieving personalities. Odds are, these goals are pretty hard to meet when you have two problem sets, a paper, and an extracurricular deadline due, and not to mention you have been running on four hours of sleep every night for the past week.
After these realizations, I decided that instead of jumping straight to setting my new goals, I want to reflect on this past quarter, learn from my experiences, the good and the bad, and then set my New Year’s resolutions in a more thoughtful manner. After all, this past quarter of my sophomore year at Stanford is a free resource, and I’d be foolish not to take advantage of it and everything I've learned from my time on campus up until now. I know one thing for sure: I want to ensure a higher ROI for my new short(er)-term investments.
Here are the five main conclusions that I came to while doing this process:
1. Be Realistic.
“The sky is the limit” is a great metaphor, but it’s a metaphor. You can’t do it all - and that is totally 1000% fine. No one expects you to, and neither should you. You can definitely reach for the sky, and you should. But don’t expect to get there in one single breath. Maybe set a baby step goal that will get you one step closer to walking?
Before jumping into prioritizing your goals, figure out what your general priorities are. Your goals will naturally align with your priorities.
3. Motivation Alignment.
Priorities are useful, but not nearly as much as when they are aligned with your motivations. Dig a bit deeper and figure out what motivates you. Motivation alignment combined with prioritization will keep you focused and will ensure a higher success rate.
4. Be Specific.
Sometimes the hardest thing with completing a task is that it is too broad. We get overwhelmed because we don’t know where to start or how to tackle it, and we certainly don’t have disposable time on our hands to think about it. Putting it on hold sounds like the obvious temporary solution that, more often than not, turns into a permanent one. But there’s a simple way to avoid sweeping it under the rug- have a plan. Having an approximate deadline and some subgoals may seem like an unnecessary overkill, but from my experience, they actually work. Trust me, I learned the hard way.
5. Cut Yourself Some Slack.
We may play by the rules, and do everything as we planned, but a year from now we may not achieve our goals. Disappointment and frustration are usually the feelings that will tend to take over. But before you let that happen, remember: that’s life. We plan life until life happens. Or as the proper phrase goes: “We plan life and God laughs.” We can only plan according to what we know, what we can predict. But most things are unpredictable. Adapting and pivoting is the only way to succeed and be happy. Dwelling on the change means wasting time, but figuring out next steps means moving forward. Choose to make the unknown your friend rather than your enemy. It’s what makes life exciting and spices up our routine. So, even if a year from now you are not where you thought you’d be according to your plan, cut yourself some slack: it doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. It just means you are doing something right.
2018 - we got this. Happy New Year!