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Editorial - Just Pick One

Happy New Year!

As you look back on those things you left undone in 2022, are you ready to write yet another list of New Year’s resolutions? Have you lined up all the goals and promises that you’re sure this time you will keep?

And are you setting yourself up for failure?

I have a couple of problems with New Year’s resolutions. The first is that they are, well, just a little too obvious. Having a single headline date to mark the beginning of a changed habit or lifestyle makes it seem, to me at least, much too challenging. My personal approach is to start my resolution in December (not much use to you now, I know, but there’s always next year) so by that first day of January, whatever I’ve resolved to do already feels familiar rather than representing a major and unwelcome shock to the system.

My second problem with New Year’s resolutions is that making too many becomes overwhelming. In vowing to achieve everything, one invariably fails to achieve anything - which, of course, then makes the temptation to be fair and ditch all of them rather than choose which ones to hold on to, somewhat irresistible.

My solution to the problem? Just pick one.

The Power of Focus

Rather than an ambitious list of New Year’s resolutions, identify a single goal and put all your efforts into achieving it. With the power of focus, you are far more likely to succeed in making that one thing work.

There is a saying ‘if you chase two rabbits, both will escape’ which illustrates perfectly what happens when we over-achieve and go in different directions at the same time.

Rather than an ambitious list of New Year resolutions, identify a single goal.

By focusing on one thing, you can better plan your time and reorder your priorities.

Make it SMART

That said, if you are making a new year’s resolution, be SMART about it. We are all familiar with setting SMART goals – making them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

It’s also important to be clear about the purpose of your resolution and what you intend to accomplish by doing so; how it will make you feel and what it will contribute to your overall life goals?

Remember your New Year’s resolution is for the year, and pace yourself. Break down your resolution into manageable steps that you can take over a daily, weekly, or monthly period and set milestones against each step. Put a tracking system into place and use it to monitor your progress.

Make it Fun – and Public

To minimise the chances of tossing your New Year’s resolution into the bin of unrealised dreams, pick a resolution you can have fun achieving. If you’re the kind of person who needs to have others along for the ride, find someone with a similar goal to keep you motivated.

It might sound obvious but pick a resolution that really matters to you. If you don’t have genuine buy-in and commitment - and find a way of injecting some fun into the process - it won’t take much to knock you off track.

We humans are wired to do things only when there’s a pay-off of some kind, so think about what works for you and give yourself a small reward at key milestones and a big reward when the goal is accomplished.

Hold yourself accountable to your resolution by writing it down and then telling everyone you know about it, from your best friend to random strangers. Naming it will propel you towards claiming it. Besides, nothing focuses the mind more than the relentless questioning about your progress by those around you.

Make it Big

If you’re going to go to all this trouble for one resolution, make it worthwhile by going for a big one. Yes, it needs to be attainable (we’re being SMART, remember) but it also needs to be audacious enough to get you out of bed and get your adrenaline going.

So, as you focus on your one resolution for 2023, think big. Aim for the big dream, the one that you’ve successfully put off until now; that big hairy goal that’s been sitting patiently waiting to be realised and aim to do it in such a way that you’re set up to succeed and not to fail.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”


Founder & Managing Editor, ReConnect Africa

Author of Imperfect Arrangements,‘Imperfect Arrangements’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

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