It’s a new year! For many people, this means it’s time to create New Year’s resolutions. However, we know from recent research that up to 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail, and most people lose their drive to accomplish their New Year’s goals by mid-February. Does that sound familiar? Has that happened for you or your kids? If so, it’s time for your family to create a no-fail system for New Year’s resolutions!
The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions is thought to have started 4,000 years ago. When Babylonians celebrated the new year, they promised the gods they would make good on their debts so that the gods would look favorably on them the following year. In modern day times, people often make resolutions to lose weight or work harder. If we meet our resolution or goal, it is usually a one-time event. We feel happy, but that feeling often fades quickly. And we may eventually revert to old habits, like not making time for studying or exercise. We find ourselves back in the same situation as before.
Though we might make progress, if we don’t quite meet our goal, we might feel frustrated that we haven’t gotten all the way there yet. We may feel like we have failed. This feeling of failure often reduces our motivation to work hard and decreases our interest in challenging ourselves. This is why setting single, specific goals is not always the most effective way to learn and grow.
In previous posts, we discussed the importance of helping your child find a life purpose, instead of solely focusing on specific goals like getting a part-time job or earning good grades. We also discussed how you and your child can create a consistent daily habit that can help you move in the direction of your dreams. Another important piece of the puzzle of living a meaningful life is creating systems.
The Benefit of Workable Systems
A system is a set of related actions or habits that you can repeat, that moves you along in the direction you want to go. This is best illustrated with an example. As an alternative to setting a resolution or goal to get an A+ in math, we could work on creating a workable system, i.e., a repeatable process or practice to follow, that will help us move along a path of growth and learning. The A+ in math may naturally follow once we put into place a regular practice that helps us engage our curiosity and increase our understanding of the subject.
Through a process of self-inquiry, we can determine what kind of system we need to learn and succeed. Each person’s system will be unique and based on their own needs. The key is to focus on the system or process we need to learn and grow, instead of on a one-time goal. When we do this, we maximize the chances that we will continue to learn and grow long after we have earned our first A+. The system becomes self-perpetuating and propels us to continue in a positive direction.
How to Create a System
To create a workable system, try following these three steps:
- Ask yourself what direction do you want to go in. (E.g., “I want to learn more about math.”)
- Next, figure out how to move in that direction by asking questions. In this example, you might ask, “How does someone learn more about math?” The answers you come up with will help you formulate a new system. The system might include habits such as studying and working through math problems every day, reviewing your progress weekly, and/or having weekly meetings with your math teacher to get feedback. But your system will be unique to you.
- Once you have a plan, try to implement your new system. When you come up against roadblocks, ask yourself more questions. Experiment with different solutions until you find something that works. For example, if you find you are just not motivated to work on math every day, maybe experiment with working on math at different times of day, and determine at what time of day you feel most motivated. If that doesn’t completely resolve your struggle, perhaps do a quick search online for ways to increase focus and concentration. With so many resources available online, you or your child can do quite a lot of problem-solving on your own!
Once you have a workable system in place, you may notice that you don’t need specific goals as much. You can make progress without goal-setting. You may also find that taking steps towards the life you want to live can be a meaningful and rewarding experience.
At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.
Written by: Debby Urken, LMSW; Child & Family Therapist