Big Goals and Mini Habits – A New Take on a New Year’s Resolution

Big Goals and Mini Habits – A New Take on a New Year’s Resolution

Photo:, Copyright: StanciuC

Photo:, Copyright: StanciuC

It is an absolute cliché, but for me, a new year’s resolution is as much an essential part of the turn of the year, as fireworks and Champagne.

Making a New Year’s resolution just fits my natural end of the year mood. Already as a child, Year’s Eve was for me always a moment to reflect, to analyze, to plan and to dream, sometimes even to be a bit depressed, hardly ever to celebrate.

Despite the bad reputation of New Year’s Resolutions in the scientific world and my mixed record with meeting my annual goals in the past, I continue to make resolutions year after year. 

2016 I was S.M.A.R.T.

Last year I approached the New Year’s Resolution Manager style, setting six ambitious targets that were Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-related.

Over the course of the year, I kept track and reported quarterly on my progress towards this “S.M.A.RT. Goals”, writing lengthy blog posts.

In the end, I managed to deliver on four of the six goals (sitting in for 99 or more meditation sessions, delivering steadily content to Life-Sparring, doing an analysis of my running style and reading at least 20 books). I came short in regards to my weight loss target, after a sad bounce back in the second half of the year and did only manage to run two-thirds (537 instead of 800 km) of the distance I was targeting in 2016.

For failing on more than one of my goals for 2016, I technically would have been obliged to show up in traditional German Lederhosen (leather pants) for the first work day of the new year. I, however, decided to not mix up work and my blogging activities, so I have to look for an alternative opportunity to wear traditional Bavarian attire on a non-beer fest related occasion to make amends for my shortcomings.

While I was satisfied with my progress on the 2016 New Year’s goals, I felt at times the weight of the commitments. Especially in the second half of the year, a concrete target that seemingly falls out of reach can become a significant motivation drag instead of a motivation booster. Having set an ambitious target of running/hiking 800 km over the course of 2016, it was already pretty obvious in late summer, that I would not manage to reach the goal. Even going out for a 10 km run seemed not to make a difference. What was supposed to be a motivating factor, to improve my performance, made me feel guilty and unhappy.

Aiming for Small Instead of S.M.A.R.T.

As Life-Sparring is all about experimenting to find creative solutions to navigate life’s challenges, I decided to try a completely different approach to my New Year’s Resolution in 2017, this time taking a page out of Stephen Guises’ book “Mini Habits.”

Mini Habits is an easy but rewarding read of just 127 pages. Like many books of the self-help genre, Mini Habits is quite repetitive and could easily be condensed into an article of 25 pages. The core idea of the book is ingenious, though: reach your big goals by setting incredibly easy to fulfill daily quests, to form healthy habits that can grow into true full-blown positive habits. As the daily tasks are “too small to fail,” they create a positive reinforcement and do not rely on motivation or huge amounts of willpower.

The classic example for Stephen Guise’s Mini Habit is the “One Push-Up Challenge.” Instead of setting a goal to hit the gym three times per week, commit to doing at least one push-up per day. The ridiculous simplicity of the goal leaves absolutely zero excuses not to achieve it every single day of the year. You always will have the time and energy for a single push-up.

Obviously, a single push-up per day will not turn you into a shredded superhero. As getting into the push-up position is already a major part of the task, additional push-ups come at a fairly low marginal cost. On most days you will end up doing much more than the required single push-up, just because you can. On good days, you might even do a few sit-ups, while you are on the floor already.

Over time the tiny positive effects of the mini habit accumulate, the daily activity becomes a true habit that does not require any willpower and motivation anymore. Bingo.

Aim Low to Reach High

Following the above-described method, I am aiming low in 2017, to reach even higher. My ambitions are by no means smaller than in 2016, but this year I am determined to focus on positivity and happiness. The mini habit strategy seems like an interesting approach to achieve more happiness, by minimizing the conflict with my ambitions, without necessarily sacrificing results.

My mini habit commitments for 2017 are:

  • Do at least one push-up per day
  • Drink a full glass of water mindfully once per day
  • Write 100 words towards a Life-Sparring article or content on every day
  • Write down at least one dream per week
  • Contact (phone, proper email) at least one person I haven’t contacted in the previous two weeks

Also, there are a few goals, that do not fulfill the criteria of a mini habit, but are nevertheless on my to-do list for the year:

  • Go to bed by 11:35 pm, light off before midnight for as many days as possible
  • Get up before 7:30 on work days, no snoozing beyond
  • Read at least 20 books over the course of the year
  • Write at least one major Life-Sparring round this year that is either a co-operation with another author or is entirely about someone else than myself.
  • Continue the meditation habit that I established in 2016
  • Deepen my meditation experiences, by having at least one floatation tank experience

Above all of the goals, I want to keep on “Life-Sparring” and continue to research, self-experiment, experience, grow and hopefully entertain you along the way.

It is safe to say that 2017 will be full of seemingly impossible challenges, difficult to solve quests and tough decisions, all of these being great opportunities improve ourselves.

So, let's keep our hands up, protect ourself at all times and keep on Life-Sparring!  Happy New Year!

Aiming for the Streak – Three Apps to Track Your Habits

Aiming for the Streak – Three Apps to Track Your Habits

The Year in Review - Top Five Life-Sparring Rounds of 2016

The Year in Review - Top Five Life-Sparring Rounds of 2016