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A few weeks ago, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down five goals I wanted to achieve this new year: pray more, read more, exercise more, eat clean and drink enough water - very general, I know. Regardless of how general these were, I was excited to start working toward my goals and was looking forward to the day where I could say “I did it!” This moment of excitement did not last very long. The next day, as I was cleaning out a drawer, I found a paper written in my handwriting titled “My 2018 New Year Resolutions.” I opened the paper and my jaw dropped. To my surprise it read, “Pray more, read more, exercise more, eat clean, drink enough water.” Where did I go wrong? How do I have the same exact goals as I did three years ago? 

Although the goals appear to be the same, it does not mean that I have not made progress in these five areas in the past few years. The problem is my system – the lack of specificity, detail and planning made these goals intangible and ultimately unachievable. 

In his New York Times Bestseller Atomic Habits, Author James Clear argues that “Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. We put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about”. It is all about baby steps and making these goals achievable. If you do not see results right away, your work is not being wasted, it is just being stored. It is all about consistency and falling in love with the process.

The idea of being a “beginner” scares us. We want to be professionals going in and that is why a lot of people never give things a try – because they fear failure.

When I first started going to the gym, I would often experience “fitness imposter syndrome.” I felt silly being in the same place as men who were squatting double my weight. I also felt guilty for not being able to do the same. I wanted to be able to run 5 km non-stop, right away. The harsh truth? If we wait around to magically be able to do something, we will never achieve anything. 

The solution? Breaking down your goals into smaller tasks and implementing them into your daily routine. For example, rather than “exercise more,” you can write “do 30 minutes of intense physical activity daily” then work your way up to “squat X number of pounds.” It is all about consistency and remembering that slow progress is better than no progress.

The good news is that it’s not too late to refine your 2021 resolutions! Make your goals more specific and detailed by answering these two questions for each one of your goals. 

1. Why do you want to achieve this goal?

When you give yourself a reason to do something, you are much more likely to stick with it and pursue it. Dig deep and find out why it is important for you to achieve this goal and how achieving it will positively influence your life. Consider playing the devil’s advocate by questioning your reasons – is this reason enough to make you put in the work to change? 

2. To achieve this goal, which habits do you need to create, and which do you need to eliminate?

The choices you make every day become the foundation for your personal qualities. When these choices become habitual, they form what we term as our “self-identity.” We are our habits. Let us take the goal “eat healthier” as an example. Which habits do I need to create? Perhaps researching healthy recipes, buying organic products, etc. Which habits do I need to eliminate? Perhaps binge eating before bed, being more aware of my sugar intake, etc. By identifying which habits you already have and which you do not, it becomes easier to implement your goals into your daily life.

By making your goals more specific, coming up with a system to create or eliminate certain habits and explicitly implementing them into your daily routine, you are on the right track to crushing your goals for this year! Remember, it is not your setbacks that define you, but instead your resilience.  

After making my goals more specific and realistic, I have come up with one overarching resolution for this year… to have different new years resolutions next year!

Shaden Ahmed

McMaster '24

Shaden Ahmed is a second-year student at McMaster University, pursuing a Combined Honours in Theatre & Film and Communication Studies. Her writing interests include topics related to mental health, self-love and growth, relationships, and social media use. She is very passionate and eager about connecting with her readers through her articles.
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