I’m not alone, 43 percent of people fail to accomplish their new year’s resolutions year after year. We all want to be better, whether that means eating healthier, exercising more or spending time with loved ones, but rarely do we actually change. These are noble goals, why can’t we accomplish them? What is holding us back?
It’s been more than 2 months since the start of 2019. If you’re like the majority of people, your New Year’s goals are long forgotten. If you’re like me and believe that the New Year is not the only time for self-improvement, keep reading!
In 2018, I decided to spice things up by making my goals unbelievably easy. So unbelievably easy that when I told people about them, they laughed. Literally. Despite the laughter, I was suddenly doing everything I had always wanted to do. I started a daily meditation practice, daily journaling and began eating healthier.
We’ve been told for most of our lives to set SMART goals. Our goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Our goals do pretty well on every dimension except attainability. We fail to accurately gauge how much we can accomplish in a given time period. Author Matthew Kelly puts it best: “Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”
After lots of research, I came across the One Tooth Method, a goal setting principle created by a Stanford psychologist. Essentially, the idea is to make a goal so ridiculously easy, it would seem crazy not to do. If your goal is to floss your teeth every day, you may talk yourself out of it when you’re tired or in a rush. But if you set a goal to floss at least one tooth, then even if you’re exhausted or running out the door, it seems silly that you wouldn’t have the time nor energy to floss one single tooth.
My longest running goal has been to keep a regular journal and write daily. I’ve tried writing challengings based on word count and minutes spent writing. I’ve bought countless journals in the hopes that they would motivate me to write more.
Last January, I set a goal to write one sentence a day. Just one sentence. Even if the sentence was “This is my daily sentence.” For the first few days, it was incredibly easy and I was tempted to increase the goal to one page a day. However, by the second week, I began losing motivation. It feels slightly embarrassing to admit but there were many days where it was incredibly difficult to muster up the motivation to write one single sentence. Who knew, one sentence could be such a burden.
As my days of consecutive writing grew, it became easier and easier. I didn’t question whether I had the motivation or energy to write, I just did it. It had become a habit.
When I started this in January, I thought there would be tons of days where I had written nothing more than a sentence. Looking back at my 2018 journals (plural!) there are only a few. Most days I wrote several pages. Each entry is more eloquent or wittier. It’s really inspiring to see my progress in such a tangible way.
Since this, I’ve tried the One Tooth Method with meditating, eating healthier and I’m now using it for exercising. If you struggle to accomplish your goals, I encourage you to try simplifying them to the bare minimum. Here’s some inspiration:
Want to work out more?
Your new One Tooth Goal could be: Put on your running shoes once a day. (It’s okay if all you do is lace them up and take them off!)
Want to eat healthier?
One Tooth Goal: Eat one bite of a fruit/vegetable per day.
Want to save more?
One Tooth Goal: Save a dollar (or even a penny) every day.
Want to get better grades?
One Tooth Goal: Do one practice problem or read one paragraph per day.
This type of goal setting focuses on habit creation, even if it seems like a really small act. Small changes every day can have huge long term impacts. Hopefully, this can help you reach your goals. Remember, it’s a process.