I’m not really good at setting New Years Resolutions. Over the past few years, I’ve thought of various things that I’ve wanted to give up or change about myself, but to no avail. Like many of you (and I hope it’s not just me), my goals are long forgotten within the first few weeks of the new year. I’d move on to more important things like starting classes again, catching up with family and friends, and spending far too much time watching the season premieres of various television shows. During the time period in which I did set goals for myself, they would be to a relatively high standard (for me) that would drastically change the lifestyle I had been living. Sometimes, they were unrealistic and often left me feeling upset and disappointed in myself because I didn’t accomplish what I had set out to do.
Don’t get me wrong-I am a very competitive individual and hold myself to a high standard. Fortunately (or unfortunately in some cases), I expect a lot out of myself (and sometimes others) and get really frustrated when my expectations aren’t met. It’s probably one of the reasons (at least at an unconscious level) that I stop setting goals at the beginning of each year.
While I was home for break, I had the pleasure of spending a considerable amount of time with many of my high school friends. Despite the years, distance, arguments, and lack of conversations at times, many of us have managed to stay close! Without fail, I can guarantee that I am going to see them and do something silly with them whenever I am home (or whenever other friends come home). One evening, I was at my friend’s apartment and we had a conversation that I’ve been thinking about since that time.
It was shortly after the new year and I believe we were talking about setting resolutions. At the time, I had been thinking about setting a specific goal for myself for the new year, but was worried that I would fall short of my desired outcome. Telling my friend this, she explained to me the difference between high-jump goals and long-jump goals. Despite my experience in the field of psychology in which we discuss such things, this topic was unfamiliar to me.
High-jump goals have a specific bar you have to jump over (like in track). If you don’t make it over the bar, you fail. For example, someone may start off the year by saying that they want to lose 15 pounds by the end of February. If they do in fact lose these 15 pounds, hooray! However, if they don’t lose them all (even if they’ve lost 14 pounds), they haven’t accomplished their goal and are often left feeling disappointed.
Long-jump goals are different than high-jump goals because they are more lenient in their presentation. With a long-jump goal, there is not a specific standard you have to meet (or bar you have to jump over). Your goal may be that in the first two months of the year, you want to lose weight. Regardless of how much weight you lose after those two months, you’ve accomplished your goal. With long-jump goals, you aren’t left feeling disappointed in the same way that you would be with a high-jump goal.
After this conversation (and reading up on this topic a little more), I realized that many of the New Year’s Resolutions I had been setting had been high-jump goals that often left me feeling disappointed if I didn’t accomplished exactly what I had set out to do (even if I was really close). I think many of us have a tendency to make high-jump goals for ourselves and when our expectations aren’t met, we become discouraged and don’t try anymore. However, by changing our frame of mind and the way in which we make goals, we can accomplish things that we might not have tried if we kept giving ourselves a bar to jump over.
So, I decided to take that conversation and apply it to my own life. This year, I’m not going to have a set goal that I need to meet. I’m just going to work on some long-jump goals. One goal is to be healthier. So far, so good. My fridge consists of mostly fruits and vegetables, my freezer is stocked full of frozen vegetables, and my friend and I bought gym memberships at our school on Wednesday. (We’ve already gone 3 times. Side note: Spinning is intense. Yoga is fun…ish).
Now, let’s not kid ourselves. Some things lend themselves better to high-jump goals. YThere are certainly times in which a high-jump goal is necessary. For example, at this time next year I should be done applying to PhD programs with the (high-jump) goal of getting in. If that doesn’t happen, I will be devastated…and you will have to hear about (Umm…hopefully that doesn’t happen, though)!
So, how are your resolutions going? If you’re struggling, just get rid of the bar