I've realized that the problem with my old New Year's Resolutions is not that I give up halfway. It is that I overly fixate on 1 year outcomes, without holding myself accountable to a system that gets me there. While the reasons to favor Systems over Goals are well explored, I am still unwilling to abandon goals altogether. Goals are wonderfully motivating, especially if they are Big, Hairy, and Audacious.
I think the solution is to make a system of goals for yourself.
I've dubbed my system Fibonacci Goals. They work like this:
- On Day 1, I make a 1 day goal.
- If I achieve that goal, I can make a 2 day goal.
- If I achieve that goal, I am allowed to make a 3 day goal.
And so on, with goal commitment ramping up by the Fibonacci sequence:
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, ....
Note: Technically, the Fibonacci sequence starts at 0, but I've opted to start at the second 1. Move your start point left or right as you wish.
If I fail a goal, I slide back toward the previous step. If I miss my 21 day goal, I must complete another 13 day goal before re-attempting the 21 day goal. This gives me a win before I attempt another milestone.
You can start a Fibonacci goal game at any time of the year, and take breaks between goals. If you start on Jan 1, an unbroken chain of successful goal completion from 1-day up to the 89-day goal takes 232 days (August 20). Taking into account breaks and backslides, there's enough for a full year of wins.
I suspect I will achieve more with this system than if I go for a 365-day goal on my first attempt.
In Hegelian terms, if Goals are the thesis, and Systems are the antithesis, then Fibonacci Goals are the synthesis. A system made up of progressively increasing mini-goals.
My first goal in 2021 is to write this post. I will set my next tomorrow. I hope this gives you some ideas for your personal goals and systems too. No matter what you use, I would love to hear about them and to support you in your progress!
ICYMI: Randall and I chatted about Systems vs Goals for the New Year's Eve episode of our podcast!
You may also like: Dump your Inner Drill Sergeant on the Happiness Lab podcast. Being too harsh on yourself doesn't work!
Comparing Resolutions to Fibonacci Goals:
- We set 1 year goals without any evidence that we are able to achieve even half of that
- We don't know how to estimate what we can achieve in a year
- We get discouraged when we slip up mid year and then our whole year's motivation is shot with no way to "get back on the horse"
- We don't build momentum with progressive wins, it is all or nothing
- There is no system allowing for natural breaks
- We don't feel able to start a Resolution on a random date, say, October 3rd, and instead put off our hopes for Jan 1st.