Well, it’s February; we are officially 2 months into 2021. Can you believe it? The start of each new year is always exciting, but 2021 blasted into existence with more hope and expectation than any year in most of our lifetimes.
I don’t think anyone made it out of 2020 unscathed, and that led to bigger aspirations for many in the new year. New year's resolutions are usually about adding beneficial habits: working out, losing weight, gaining financial freedom, finding love. I’d wager a bet that this year’s resolutions, for many of us, held more weight (pun intended) than in previous years.
January 19th seems like just a random day—not a holiday or deserving of any pomp and circumstance—but I recently learned something about that date that I didn’t know. It is referred to as “quitters’ day.” Just a short 19 days after the start of the year, most people have already quit on their new year’s resolutions! I knew it was pretty fast, but that date was shocking to me. Get ready! I’m going to tell you something [that you probably already know] …
You don’t have to wait until January 1, 2022 to have a re-do on your new year’s resolutions!
Each day is a beautiful new chance to start a new goal or pick up where you left off on other goals. I like to think of it as “picking up where you left off” instead of failure because that feels like you intentionally took a break as opposed to giving up.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts" – Winston Churchill
Like most humans, I began 2020 with a list of resolutions—habits I would like to add—to better myself. I wanted to get myself and my family more organized, find a way to pursue my love of landscape and nature photography, and pick back up on my running program that I'd started 10 years prior. By Valentine's day, I had given up on all of these goals and was back to trying to survive the day-to-day as best I could. COVID shut the world down in March, and life felt so heavy. It wasn't until the summer (when virtual school ended for my son) that I realized I had been given the gift of time; I had a beautiful opportunity to once again work towards my goals.
Goal setting is so important. I discovered during the great lockdown of 2020 that working towards goals, no matter how small, can keep you moving forward—even when it feels like everything in life is working against you. 90% of life is showing up, but sometimes showing up can feel like the hardest part. I studied science in college, and the scientific explanation for that phenomenon is called activation energy—the minimum amount of energy required to undergo a specific reaction. The good news is, oftentimes once you start investing in yourself, it’s easier to keep going.
Here are 5 steps to get you past quitters’ day and keep you moving forward towards your goals:
Dream Big, Plan Small
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Value Creating and Experiencing
Step 1: Get Inspired
Take a look around you, in your own life or in the lives of others, to find something that inspires you. This is important: I’m not talking about comparing yourself to others! It is easy to fall into the comparison trap (I fell hard into the trap while watching a music video recently), but comparing your starting line to someone else’s finish line will stop the journey before you even begin. Instead, look for a story that resonates with you—results that ignite the fire in your belly that gets you excited to work hard to achieve your goals.
Here are some book suggestions to gain inspiration:
Turning Life Into Lemonade—my story of triumph over tragedy through a tumultuous health journey (it's been called an inspiring playbook for perseverance and overcoming adversity)
The Miracle Morning—a near death experience leads to developing a morning routine
Limitless—a brain injury as a child created a curiosity to develop better methods of learning
Baby Got Back In Her Pants—a run-in with hypertension births an easy to follow plant-based diet to heal health woes naturally
The Art of Decluttering and Organizing—growing up with hoarder parents develops a passion for cleaning and organizing
Let Your Mind Run—harsh competitive upbringing almost leads to burnout until this elite athlete changes her mindset to achieve America’s first medal in the Olympic marathon in 20 years
No matter what you’re trying to achieve, you can find a story that inspires you to start strong. You can use the same tactic if your motivation wanes in the middle of your progress—re-read your original book or find a new tale to inspire you. It is easier to harness your willpower to do the hard work if you’re excited about the journey.
Step 2: Dream Big, Plan Small
Sometimes what holds us back from achieving our dreams is how daunting the path appears when we are first starting. That doesn’t mean you should minimize your dreams or give up on them entirely. Instead break them down into smaller, more manageable, steps—focusing only on the next step on your journey rather than the pinnacle of the mountain (your goal).
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” —Napolean Hill
Once you have your goal broken down into small, bite-sized steps, make sure to write them down and post it somewhere you will see it regularly. This will remind your brain of what you are working towards, and is also consistent motivation to keep you moving forward.
I highly recommend spending some time every morning investing in yourself and planning your day. I started using The Miracle Morning routine last summer, and it has been life-changing for me. Whatever you decide works best for you, it’s important to write down what you will do each day to work towards attaining your goals. It has been my experience that I am much more likely to do something when I write it down; I am essentially holding myself responsible for what I desire to achieve.
I’ve developed a free goal-setting sheet and daily journal page to help you get started. You can create a long-term plan for each goal you are trying to achieve, and then take daily action to methodically chip away at those dreams you’ve been longing to accomplish (either new ones or ones you’re picking back up).
Step 3: Celebrate EVERYTHING
Now that you have small manageable tasks to achieve along your longer path to your goals, it’s time to celebrate every small success. BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, asserts that, “you change best by feeling good.” So any time you make a move in a positive direction, celebrate!
When you get up early in the morning to plan your day without hitting the snooze button, give yourself a huge smile. When you go for that run instead of watching a TV show, do a happy dance. When you choose a healthy snack instead of processed junk food, write down a positive comment to mark the occasion. When you clean the kitchen at night instead of leaving it for the morning (just me?), pat yourself on the back and bask in the glory of your clean kitchen. When you pay more money on your credit card bill or add to your investments instead of going out on the weekend, daydream about all you can accomplish when you reach for financial goals.
Whatever your goals may be, celebrate every tiny step in the right direction. Your brain responds best to regular rewards. For the smallest everyday things, you can use positive feelings (ie. Big smile, happy dance, feeling proud) to reinforce the behavior. You may also want to set up small physical or experiential rewards at different stages to solidify the reinforcement. Make sure these rewards continue moving you forward instead of setting you back. You wouldn’t want to set food rewards if you’re trying to lose weight or expensive rewards if you’re trying to save money.
Step 4: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
So now we see the value in celebrating every small success; it is what will keep our brains desiring to achieve our goals. Too often, though, we focus on the things we don’t do well—beat ourselves up when we don’t perform exactly as we’d like to. This is what leads to people quitting on their new year’s resolutions after just 2 weeks in January. When we focus on the negative, it stops us in our tracks!
There’s a book by Richard Carlson called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff. I’m here to tell you that small stuff can sometimes feel bigger than the large stuff! But there is value in letting go, in not sweating the “small stuff,” in pressing the pause button on your self-bashing if you mess up and just starting anew the next day (or the next hour).
Moving on quickly after a perceived failure can keep you from sabotaging your forward progress. For instance, let’s say you have a goal to eat healthier and/or lose weight. If you have a weak moment and eat something that is not in your plan, enjoy the food that you chose to eat and then learn from the moment and move on. If you get a flat tire, you don’t slash the other 3, do you? No! You fix the flat or change the tire and continue on your journey.
Instead of thinking of missteps as failures, think of them as learning opportunities.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” —Denis Waitley
Step 5: Value Creating and Experiencing
I'm not going to lie, achieving can become addicting. Once you start making progress towards your goals, it can become a thrill to keep checking those boxes (and celebrating every step of the way). When I started goal setting in August of 2020, I miraculously reached all of my long-term goals in less than 6 months (put processes in place to get organized, booked an art gallery exhibition, ran 2 half marathons only 3 weeks apart, AND even wrote a book). I celebrated all of my successes, and then I stagnated. I wasn't sure where to go from there.
I recently read a book called Name, Place, Animal, Thing: An Inspiring Fable About Hope, Positivity, and Living Your Best Life, and it flipped a switch for me. It made me realize I want to focus on creating and experiencing along with achieving. I want to learn a new language and try my hand at painting. Travel "near and narrow" while it's not safe to travel far and wide. Think of myself as more than my job(s). To add a "calendar of curiosities" to my to-do list.
These things make us more well-rounded people; they add joy to our lives. Don't get so caught up in setting and achieving goals that you forget to experience life.
We've made it to February, and maybe 2021 isn't quite what you expected it to be...yet. It's ok if you quit on quitters' day. Tomorrow is a new day, and it's the perfect day to pick right up where you left off. There are still 10 months left in this year to make it your best year yet. Find your inspiration, make your goals manageable, celebrate every step in the right direction, treat failure as a detour rather than derailing, and continue to enjoy your life in the process; you've got this!
Written by Jessica Griesbach
Jessica Griesbach is a scientist, digital marketer, photographer and author of the best selling book Turning Life Into Lemonade. When her health started to unexpectedly spiral downward, Jessica took to research to try to put together the pieces of what was going on in her body. With a life-threatening diagnosis in 2016 that took assistance from family, friends, and strangers alike to save her life, she made it her mission to help others make it through the challenges in their lives no matter how big or small. Jessica lives in Northeastern Alabama with her husband, son, and 4 rescue pets. She loves traveling the world, snuggling animals, all things nature, and taking pictures of everything!