A Year of New Beginnings

anne-mistakes-watermarkTo usher in 2014, I wrote an anti-resolution post, and I’d like to update that for 2016.

Below is the text of that post. Scroll down to see this year’s additions.


I had a post about my resolutions for 2014 all ready to go, but I tossed it in the virtual trash can. I hate New Year’s resolutions. HATE them.

Why? What’s your problem, Becton?

My problem isn’t with the concept of resolving to improve something about yourself or your lifestyle. And it’s not with deciding to make these goals at the beginning of a new page on the calendar.

My problem is with the time frame: 1 year. That’s:

12 months or
365 days or
8765.81 hours or
525949 minutes or
3.156e+7 seconds or
3.156e+10 milliseconds or
Yes, I could go on. I found a time calculator on Google.

A year is a long time, and usually resolutions are big. (Ex: I resolve to eat healthier and publish 14 books this year.) I have to wait 1 year to attain my goals. That’s a long time. (See the breakdown above.) I cannot celebrate until I have eaten healthier in a flawless fashion for 365 days and published all 14 books.

That ain’t right, people!

One of the most valuable things I learned while helping write Riding Fear Free is that all people focus so intently on the end goal that they forget all about the small steps necessary to attain to the goal. They get depressed when they don’t instantaneously succeed at the BIG goal. How do you counter that? By celebrating every single success, each small step that leads to the goal. That doesn’t mean you go out and buy a new toy every time, but you take a moment to acknowledge that you completed the next step. Stop and enjoy!

And what’s more, you might have one goal at the beginning of the year, but by June, you might have changed your mind. Why? According to Dwight V. Swain, it’s because “you yourself change in the interim between the time when inspiration first becomes apparent and the later date.” (Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer, 280.)

And I still haven’t said a word about what happens when we inevitably fail to live up to our goals. Because I’m totally eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts for Valentine’s Day. That doesn’t fit into the eating-healthy resolution. What if I don’t publish 14 books? Well, too bad. Better luck next year. This year was a big fat failure.

Making realistic long-term goals is not inherently bad, but once those goals are made, the focus must shift to small steps that lead to the big goal.

So my resolutions for the year of the horse are to celebrate each step that leads toward my goals and to move past any mistakes without beating myself up about them. As Anne Shirley said in Anne of Green Gables, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Don’t forget that every year is fresh with no mistakes in it. That means you have

12 months or
265 days or
8765.81 hours or
525949 minutes or
3.156e+7 seconds or
3.156e+10 milliseconds

of new beginnings.


Another new year, and I still hate Ye Olde New Year’s Resolutions, the traditional resolutions. You know the ones. Those that send everyone to the stores to purchase cute new workout clothes to motivate them and have them rummaging through the pantry to throw out all the junk food, only to find the workout gear hanging on the unused treadmill and the junk food back in the pantry 30 days later.

Despite my railing against Ye Olde Resolutions, I do set long-term goals and make plans for the coming year. After all, a new year is a good time to take the long look, to decide how you’d like to use your time. But Ye Olde New Year’s Resolutions are often too vague and undefined or too long-term in scope.

Here are some tips for planning without falling into the resolution trap.

  • Make your goal concrete. A lot of resolutions fall into the “What does that even mean?” category. Like saying, “I plan to eat healthier in 2106.” What does that mean? Healtheir than what? Will you eat only salad? Or will you set a calorie limit? Become vegan? Set a specific goal, like replacing one meal a day with a healthier option.
  • Make the goal attainable. Much as I wish I could get on the NYT Best Sellers list, it’s out of my hands. Other than writing and publishing, I cannot get a book on the list through my own power.
  • Don’t start with your goal. Focusing on the big goal is not only daunting, but impossible. You can’t decide to change, and change instantly. It’s a process. As John Lyons says, “If you start with your goal, you end with a wreck.”
  • Break the goal down into smaller chunks and reward yourself for each step. A goal that cannot be attained for 365 days doesn’t offer much in the way of motivation. After you make your long-term goal, ask, “What is the next smallest step I can take toward my goal?” Focus on that.
  • Treat every day like New Year’s. You are going to make some mistakes along the way to your goal. You’ll eat a candy bar or get sick and not exercise for a week. Or you’ll misuse your time. That doesn’t mean you have failed. Remember that not only are you moving along the calendar year, but you are also starting something new each morning. You can decide every day to set and attain a goal, regardless of what happened yesterday or a week ago.Altered



Happy 2016, everyone!

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