Create an Intentional 2023 Without SMART Goals
Only 9% of people sustain their New Years Resolutions throughout the year or achieve their New Year goals. Thus, New Years Resolutions are ACTUALLY A BAD WAY TO SET GOALS. In this essay, I will…
Really though: I declared war on New Years Resolutions last year and am back again to share why the most common resolutions typically fail. You read that right. You don’t fail. The RESOLUTIONS fail.
Because they are set up for failure from the start — as are MOST “SMART” goals.
The reason that SMART Goals aren’t a good goal setting method for most of our human brains is that they’re not FOR human brains. They are for corporate growth projections, forecasts, and numbers, not people with complex lives and shifting priorities.
SMART Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
That sounds good, right? That sounds like an achievable goal – it’s right there in the middle of the acronym. But what tends to happen when we set out on our journey to our SMART Goal is that we get stuck on “specific” and “time-bound.” Therefore, if we don’t hit our specific, measurable goal within the time limit we set, we view it as a failure.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to just output goals on timelines with no regard for my personal energy levels, excitement about the goal, etc.
Instead of SMART Goals, I teach a concept called REAL Goals. REAL stands for Realistic, Energizing, Adjustable, and Learning-Focused.
Yes, your goals should be measurable and specific… but does it fit realistically into your life considering your available time and energy? Does it make you feel excited and energized to work toward the result? Are you emotionally prepared and able to adjust your goal if it turns out to be harder than you expected, or something happens that changes your priorities? And finally, will you learn something from your work toward the goal, regardless of achievement?
I find these measures much more compassionate and supportive as I work toward my own goals, and my clients love this framework too. It offers so much permission to step off the gas and feel intuitively into why you’re pursuing a goal in the first place.
resolutions, goals, and intentions
Is a resolution a goal, per se? I think it’s somewhere between an intention (which I define as being based on growth and vibes) and a goal (which I define as being something you can check off when it’s complete).
Resolutions are somewhere in the middle, like wanting to improve something about yourself, but typically in a measurable way.
New Years Resolutions also tend to be boring and overdone. Everybody picks the same thing. Save more money. Lose weight. Stop drinking pop. And because only 9% of folks stick to their resolution, most of us keep making the same ones year after year. They’re like a constantly on-again-off-again relationship with someone you don’t really like that much but they’re familiar so you keep “accidentally” making out at a party.
I’ve noticed a big shift in recent years toward choosing a New Year’s theme or intention rather than setting resolutions or goals. I love this idea! It takes the pressure off achievement and puts it on growth, comfort, and permission to be yourself.
Listen along on the podcast
This blog aligns with a five-part series on my podcast, The Neurodivergent Creative. Listen to F**k SMART Goal Resolutions here.
Four Top New Years Resolutions
In my own experience living life as a former New Years Resolution setter, conversations with friends, family, and clients, AND doing very in-depth (read: not at all) research by Googling “top New Years Resolutions,” the following resolutions are my nemeses.
- Productivity Resolutions
- Financial Resolutions
- Weight Loss Resolutions
- BONUS: Creative Resolutions
(Plot twist, I actually love creative resolutions, but I think we should be thinking way bigger than we usually do).
Stop Setting Bad Productivity Resolutions
Productivity resolutions are the goals you set on January 1 to finally be an organized person with perfect time management who can get everything done without ever being stressed about it.
That version of you is a giant lie. They don’t exist. Because you are a human being and time isn’t real.
I don’t think human brains were meant to handle this many deadlines, tasks, and interruptions in a given day. I really don’t. But here we are, it’s 2023, and we haven’t realized that time is fake on a large enough scale to not have to be “productive.”
Common productivity goals and resolutions are things like using a bullet journal, to-do list, time tracking app, or other method to help life hack your productivity.
We often look to these methods to reduce burnout, to make our time and effort more effective, and to get more done in less time. But true burnout recovery means actively reducing workload and prioritizing rest and recovery.
What if instead we focused on reducing the rush, the hustle, and the pressure to perform and hack moments of downtime so that we never have to stop working?
Neurodivergent issues with productivity
Also important to consider is the fact that common productivity and time management advice does not work for everyone! For folks with ADHD especially, time estimation is very tricky. We often plan too much time or too little and it’s a big learning curve to get used to how long new habits (or even routine tasks that we don’t actively time) take. Demand avoidance and executive dysfunction are common among autistic and ADHD folks as well, which makes starting a task especially difficult, even if the desire is there.
People with ADHD and other *neurospicy* brain structure will need to do a lot of trial and error to dial in a productivity or time management routine that’s effective. And that’s daunting. So we don’t wanna.
(PS. I help folks set achievable and rewarding intentions toward their creative goals in my monthly membership, so if that’s a scenario that sounds supportive for your needs, check out The Creatives’ Rebellion!)
To set an intention or theme for a more productive 2023, here are some suggestions:
- I want to support myself by working X hours per week. This intention sets a boundary around hours worked, rather than workload forced into those hours.
- I want to find a planner that works for me. This intention takes the focus off the various planning tools you might use and gives you the time and space to try multiple approaches to find the one that suits you best.
- I want to be more organized. You define what this means and how you want to achieve it. It could mean organizing your bookshelf, your Google drive, or something else. If setting a more general intention like this, focus on how you want to FEEL when you achieve it, or what the tangible RESULT will be. Maybe you want to declutter your office, or maybe you want to be able to effectively search for the notebook you need in under ten seconds.
- Make up your own! Tell me in the comments.
listen along on the podcast
This blog aligns with a five-part series on my podcast, The Neurodivergent Creative. Listen to F**k Productivity Resolutions here.
Set Better Financial Resolutions
Common money resolutions include paying off debt, making more money, and sticking to a budget. These are great goals! But without a strong emotional tie to the reason WHY you make them, you’ll give up pretty quickly. These are long-term goals, like steering a ship a degree at a time.
Consider WHY you are setting financial resolutions or goals. Centering that emotional tie to the RESULT of your goal will make it easier to stay on track with a financial goal.
WHY do you want to pay off debt?
- To free up the money spent on payments on something else
- To simplify the budget so there aren’t so many outgoing payments to remember
- Fill in your own reason why
WHY do you want to make more money?
- To feel financially free
- To be able to work less and stop hustling
- To go on a cool vacation
- Fill in your own reason why
WHY do you want to save money?
- To feel secure knowing I have an emergency fund
- To support my child’s college tuition needs
- To buy a cool thing I want
- Fill in your own reason why
Following along with a common financial goal doesn’t really have a strong motivating factor other than peer pressure. But getting clear on WHY you want to achieve your goal helps you stay accountable.
PS. Dave Ramsey = shame and hustle
Are you working the Dave Ramsey plan? I’ve been there. And now I shit talk him at any opportunity because his program does not run on empowerment, it runs on SHAME. And shame is not a good reason to achieve your goals.
Dave routinely fails to acknowledge the systemic racism and classism inherent in our credit and consumer debt culture. He encourages people to hustle until they are debt-free, at which time they will have earned the right to rest and have nice things.
Debt is not morally bad
Here’s something that took me a long time to believe and understand: Debt is a useful tool to access money.
Of course, debt can also be predatory. Banks and credit card companies, at the end of the day, want to make money. They’re counting on you not paying off your bill before the promotional APR period so they can start making interest. And student loans… don’t get me started.
But that doesn’t make using debt morally bad – sometimes it’s the most accessible way to get reliable transportation or pay a non-negotiable bill. Or, honestly, to get something you want. Like. It’s literally okay.
listen along on the podcast
This blog aligns with a five-part series on my podcast, The Neurodivergent Creative. Listen to F**k Money Resolutions here.
Stop setting weight loss resolutions
Diet and exercise are the top two New Years Resolutions year after year. Because they do not create lasting results and there is a multibillion dollar diet industry driving the belief that thinness is the ideal.
You think you are setting weight loss resolutions for your health, but this is factually untrue. Because dieting is actually bad for your health. All the health issues culturally assumed to be associated with fatness (heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.) are not significantly linked to BMI. Truly.
What is significantly associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and death? Yo-yo dieting.
The pursuit of thinness is literally killing people.
I beg you to just stay fat this year. It’s better for you.
Non Weight Loss Body Goals
Is it possible to set goals related to your body that aren’t perpetuating diet culture? YEP! Try these bad boys on for size:
Strength and Endurance Goals (These are more measurable/quantitative goals)
- Lift (deadlift, squat, whatever your favorite is) X amount of weight
- Run X miles without taking a break
- Run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, etc.
- Swim X laps without taking a break
Body Feeling Goals (These are more qualitative goals or intentions)
- I want to be flexible enough to touch my toes
- I want to not be winded going up the stairs
- I want to feel more present in my body
Pain Reduction Goals (Could be quantitative or qualitative/intentional)
- I want to do yoga regularly because it reduces my back pain
- I want to use my massage gun twice a week on my restless legs
- I want to talk to my doctor about medication for my pain
listen along on the podcast
This blog aligns with a five-part series on my podcast, The Neurodivergent Creative. Listen to F**k Weight Loss Resolutions here.
Resolutions to Be More Creative
Once again, resolutions are probably something big and exciting, not planned out for consistent and non-hustle action, and are something you’ve tried before and not done so there’s a layer of trying to prove yourself which feels SHAMEY.
Common creative resolutions:
- Write a book
- Get published
- Start a creative business
- Do more art
The reason I want to talk about these – because I LOVE THESE GOALS!! – is that there is a lot that goes into them. You need to be intentional about the amount of time and energy to devote to these goals.
To write a book, you need to set aside time to write. Are you going to write daily or once a week? Are you going to become one of those 5:00am writers? Does writing a book fit into your existing energy demands?
Getting published isn’t entirely up to you unless you are self publishing. But if you’re going the traditional route, you’ll need to find an agent and that takes time. And then the actual publisher takes time. It all takes time, and before you get published you have to write the book! So if your NYR is to get published and it doesn’t happen this year even though you are taking action… you technically didn’t achieve what you set out to do.
Avoiding the shame cycle
Goals should SUPPORT your growth and inspire action, not SHAME you into action that feels terrible.
When you notice yourself slipping into negative self talk (thoughts like, “I don’t have enough time for this,” “My art is terrible,” “Why did I think I could do this?”), that’s a great reminder to take a step back, slow down, and breathe. Find the triggering part – because something is going on that’s making you react this way. It’s like untangling a ball of Christmas lights… sure, they’re lit up and they work, but they’re all jumbled and frustrating right now. Take the time to untangle your thoughts and actions to find out the underlying belief that’s bringing up shame, fear, guilt, etc.
Tips to Set Great Goals
1. Determine the Purpose (WHY) — and how it fits into your long-term vision. If your long-term goal is to have a traditionally published book, then what ACTIONS can you take regularly as your 2023 goal?
2. Make Bite-Size 90 Day Changes. It takes 67 days to cement a new habit, and that’s after the shiny new feeling wears off for us ADHD folks. So it can take upwards of 90 days to really kick in and commit to a new creative habit, and it needs to be BABY STEP tiny.
3. Accountability. Especially if you’re trying something totally new, it’s not going to be automatic right away. That’s why we’re doing it for 90 days, remember? To help remember, set up some accountability tools. This could be a reminder on your phone or computer calendar. A friend you check in with every day. Changing your computer’s login password to a cue to do the new habit. A community full of people also doing similar things and checking in about it.
4. Evaluation. Regular and realistic evaluation. How is the action plan going? For example, I started a new working schedule the first week of January, and about eleven days in I realized I had really overbooked myself and not put in enough breaks to make the new schedule sustainable. It’s ok to shift your goals and plans when you notice the sticky parts.
Creative goals are obviously something I support – I’m a creative coach! But what I want you to consider is the context of your creative goal with everything else in your life. Is your creativity part of your play, or part of your work? This impacts the balance overall and can help inform where you may need to pull back or shore up another aspect of your life.
listen along on the podcast
This blog aligns with a five-part series on my podcast, The Neurodivergent Creative. Listen to F**k Creative Resolutions here.