Setting goals for the new year? Consider finishing some of last year’s instead

It’s that time of the year again – when we think about resolutions for the new year. Rather than considering a new list of “to do’s,” I’ve been thinking more about the role of perseverance in our lives, and in the lives of those who accomplish meaningful goals.

While resolving to start new habits or achieve new goals is obviously a worthy endeavor, I believe sticking to and finishing those tasks not yet completed may be a better use of our time and energy. Our culture idolizes the “new” and really doesn’t think much of the boring, “steady as she goes,” day in / day out, plodding that characterizes much of life.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that media and our culture generally undermines the development of perseverance (or, ironically, the desire to continue to persevere, for some of us). We are still enamored and enticed with the latest instant millionaire (or billionaire) who hit it big — whether it’s a high-tech start-up, a 16 year old megastar in music, or an athlete who signs a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. Their instant financial success is waved in front of us like the light of a bug zapper in front of a moth. We are drawn and mesmerized by the light, forgetting everything else we were doing prior to seeing it.

Why is this important? Because most of life is lived daily, one small step or accomplishment at a time. And the arbitrary date of January 1, 2020 really doesn’t separate what was important for our success last year from what is important for our success now.

I am partly reacting to the numerous conversations I have had with young adults who, on the one hand, are confused about “where they are going” and frustrated with their lack of progress in finding a meaningful, financially sustainable career, and on the other hand, think “success” could be instant if they just found the right opportunity. They seem to have very little sense of thinking about success as a journey taken one small step at a time.

So, my counsel for the new year: Keep doing what you were doing in November and December 2019 (assuming they are activities that lead you to the next step on your path) and forget about finding a new, “magic” solution to implement in January 2020. That’s my plan.

Reflect on which of your goals from New Year’s Eve 2019 have yet to be accomplished. Last year at this time, you felt they were of high importance. Are they still something you are striving toward? If so, re-commit to achieving them. Continue creating a course of action and work persistently even in the face of obstacles, difficulties, and discouragements.

As John D. Rockefeller said, “I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

This article first appeared on Appreciation Blog.

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