Pursuit: The finer points of setting and, gracefully, attaining New Year’s resolutions (Part 1)

Divya Pahwa writes about young-lady career advice in the monthly series Pursuit, here on the McGill Caps Blog.

This is the first of a two part series on resolutions and goals.

There was something real romantic about writing down New Year’s resolutions in elementary school…

…In grade one, my class was given craft construction, some glitter and sequins (there was ALWAYS glitter and sequins involved back then. Essay writing would be infinitely more interesting with glitter and sequins…), and markers! We wrote down three resolutions to be displayed in the hallway for older people to walk buy and “aw” at. “Awwww, sooo cute – she wants to smile more in the New Year!”  (Yes, for the record this was my new years resolution at age 7. I have proof.)

There is something spiritual about pulling out a fresh sheet of paper and writing down the changes you’d like to make for the New Year. Right? You’re all geared up and going to become a NEW, SHINY and BETTER VERSION of yourself. Divya 2.0.

And then the inevitable happens. My high adrenaline and motivation charged resolutions are followed RELIGIOUSLY until about the third week of January. Suddenly, school kicks in full gear, I am behind in readings, group projects have taken 10+ hours of my week, and the number of weekends till my first midterm becomes zeroooo. “I have no TIME!!!” I panic, and the first thing off my to-do list?   Yep, the resolutions I set out to attain a few weeks earlier. I do this year after year after year!!! Finally, this past year, I took the time to sit down and look in to why this happens. And I’ve found some fairly solid answers.

But before I get in to that, I want to talk about setting resolutions.

Setting goals and resolutions for you rather than to impress people.

I believe that resolutions and goals should be inherently personal and private things. And we need to filter out other people’s voices. This is how you do it:

First: Finish the following statement, so it describes the state of “being” you want to achieve:

“I want to be _______”

Here are some examples:

(a) “I want to be smarter”

(b) “I want to be more like Beyonce”

(c) “I want to be healthier”

(d) “I want to be more patient”

Second: Now, finish that statement again with the following stipulation: no one will know what your statement is*. Consciously remove any and all social pressure from the “state of being” you want to achieve. The statement might change. It might not. More often than not, it does.

(*Also, try using this method when you’re trying to make a decision between many options!)

Doing rather than Being – The Classic error

A while ago I read something from him about doing versus being. He writes that people often project their idealized versions on to a type of person. For example,“I want to be like [enter celebrity/hot person/well-know C-Suite executive here]!!” And the mistake we make is wanting / trying to get all the “physical” things surrounding this being. For example, “I need to go buy my own private island to be like Richard Branson.”

For the purposes of goal setting, just remember: doing leads to being.  This is what you can do to clarify that in your goals:

First: You’ve come up with a “being” statement above, hopefully something that resonates with your true core and not your boyfriend’s.

Second: What actions must you do to get to that state of “being?”

For example:

(a) “I want to be smarter”

Doing statement: holding a conversation about the American debt ceiling.

(b) “I want to be more like Beyonce”

Doing statement: Taking voice lessons and performing in front of audience.

(c)“I want to be healthier”

Doing statement: Making my own lunches.

(d) “I want to be more patient”

Doing statement: Taking the time to have a full, wholehearted, conversation with your parents when they call.

Find a competition and set a deadline 

I remember summer holidays back in high school, where I’d sit in my un-air-conditioned living room, with 20 or so freezies and indulgently watch  5 hour marathons of MTV MADE. I was addicted. “How freaking cool.  Average, un-cool young person, in the depths of somewhere-USA got a TEAM of experts to make them in to a SURFER. A surfer that competed in the STATE SURFING COMPETITION!!!” Well it turns out there was some method to the madness (see# 9 on that article).

In fluffy terms you’ve probably heard the following: “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough.” I’ve written about it in fluffy terms too; the necessity of uncomfortable situations, see Pursuit: what I wish I knew when I was…

Finding and/or making a competition  do two things. (1) It pushes you to make the impossible (what you want to be) possible (inevitably competing) and (2) gives you a hard deadline.

For example:

(a) “I want to be smarter”

Doing statement: holding a conversation about the American debt ceiling.

Adding competition: Holding a conversation about the American debt ceiling with the McGill expert on American politics, to supplement your entrance in a geo-political essay competition!!

(b)“I want to be more like Beyonce”

Doing statement: Taking voice lessons and performing in front of an audience.

Addition competition:Enter a talent show.

(c) “I want to be healthier”

Doing statement: Making my own lunches.

Adding competition: Compete with your friends. First one to crack and buy Timmy Ho’s has to make the other person lunch.

(d) “I want to be more patient”

Doing statement: Taking the time to have a full, wholehearted, conversation with your parents when they call.

Adding competition: Set out one hour on the weekend that you devote exclusively to phone calls. No other major life-wants should cut in to this time. Have someone hold you accountable if you screw up.

I hope you get the chance within the next hour or so to set out three resolutions for yourself, for the New Year. Next week I am posting on how to actually follow-through on them.

If you’ve missed my old posts here’s a quick round up:

Advice from elsewhere and mostly older people:

Pursuit: listen well and be meaningful, advice from a category manager

Pursuit: stop being a flirt, advice from a project manager

Pursuit: put out exceptional work, advice from a senior dietician

Pursuit: impressive lady profile 101, Sheryl Sandberg

Pursuit: be the expert what do you think about these rules?

On finding meaning:

Pursuit: applying product development strategies to your life

Pursuit: what I wish I knew when I was…

Pursuit: 5 awesome pieces of advice

Pursuit: rejection funks and being enough

On changing habits:

Pursuit: you can’t ignore this

Pursuit: confidence and B.S.  

A critical look at numbers:

Pursuit: why we don’t see many women in engineering and what you can do about it

Pursuit: be the expert what do these numbers mean to you?  

Pursuit: it’s skinny at the top

Wishing y’all a happy and safe New Year!

Send in your questions/suggestion to Divya at divya.pahwa@mail.mcgill. See her past posts here.

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