New Year’s Resolutions Versus Actionable Goals

Why set myself up to fail when I can enable myself to succeed?

Herbie’s new year’s resolution for 2023 is to drive me crazy while I try to work!

The level of cortisol that floods my body in the last week of December feels increasingly uncomfortable every year. Those days between Christmas and New Year’s Day fluctuate between profound laziness and rigorous goal setting. Not only do we spend half of the month stuffing ourselves with delicious treats and socializing far more than usual, but our culture expects us to come out the other side with a laundry list of goals for the following year. It’s almost too much for my little brain to handle.

“What’s your new year’s resolution?”

I’m naturally goal-oriented, but sometimes I fall into the trap of setting goals so vague or huge that I automatically set myself up for failure. I’m trying this year to set smaller monthly goals that will contribute to my overall progress. Maybe this is something you’ve heard before, but I call them actionable goals.

Goal-setting is good for us—our motivation, focus, and productivity increase when we set actionable goals. Even if we don’t achieve the targets we set for ourselves, pursuing a goal engages our brains and encourages perseverance. That’s pretty cool.

We often set new year’s resolutions that require a massive lifestyle upheaval. Most people abandon their half-hearted attempts to save more money, lose weight, or change careers within two weeks. Interestingly, around 43% of folks who make a new year’s resolution expect to fail by February. Imagine if we change our mindsets to believe we could achieve our goals! 

This year, I’m trying something different to manage expectations and eliminate that pesky failing-by-February factor. If I set month-by-month goals, I am less likely to give up by February– doing something for a month is far less daunting than taking it on for the year.

Herbie’s second resolution is to take more naps.

Most people quit their new year’s resolutions by February because they lose motivation. If you know me well, you’ve already heard my thoughts on motivation, but if you haven’t, I’ll lay it out here. Before I get into trouble, I’d just like to say this mindset is effective for me (most of the time), but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way of thinking for everybody. Do what works for you– I’m just sharing a trick I use.

Ok, so here it is: motivation doesn’t really matter. Rarely am I motivated to do the things I do. I hardly ever feel like working out, but I do that almost daily. I am seldom inspired to practice singing and work on my rep, but I do that, too. I didn’t feel motivated to write this blog post today. I’m not motivated to write lengthy grant statements or edit clickbait articles for the freelance writing training I’m going through. However, it doesn’t matter if I’m motivated– if it’s on the schedule for today, I just do it. Within 5-10 minutes of initiating the task I set out to do, I no longer dread it. 

So, regardless of my motivation, my actionable goals for January are listed below. I was scared to share them with you, but I think it will help me stay accountable.

Victoria’s January Goals:

  • Attend one lesson and one coaching weekly
    • Now that my voice is improving, I need to stay accountable with my repertoire preparation and technical goals alongside professionals who know my voice and have a good ear.
  • Practice 20 minutes per day 5x weekly
    • I’m surprised at how much I can accomplish in 20 minutes, but I haven’t gotten into the habit of regular practice since the polyp. If my voice continues to improve, I hope to up this to 30 minutes in February! Musicians will know this is hardly anything, but I need to remain vigilant in my vocal use and not over-practice, which was part of my problem leading up to the polyp diagnosis.
  • Implement feedback received at Met Competition
    • I almost bowed out of the Metropolitan Opera’s yearly competition (again) but decided that since this was my last year to compete, I would go. I want to take my feedback to my teacher and coach and make it a technical and artistic focus over the next couple of months. It’ll be an excellent way to jump-start my performing for the year and receive feedback in the business.
  • Learn two brand new arias after the Met Competition with a focus on competition arias
    • I’m done auditioning for YAPs, but I’d like to be competition ready by next season. Nobody has gotten my fach entirely correct, so I want to pick pieces that I like to sing and aren’t too heavy for my voice (this, I believe, was another issue contributing to the polyp– over-darkening my voice to fit into bigger repertoire.) No better time than January to begin anew! 
  • Apply for three grants for artists
    • Applying for grants is a new skill for me and takes time and effort. However, it is an excellent way for artists to receive funding for creative endeavors.
  • Publish two blog posts per week
    • As I introduce more singing into my life, I don’t want to lose building my writing skills and platform here with you all. I’m continuing with two posts per week despite increasing responsibilities elsewhere!
  • Dry January
    • I’m joining many of you on this one for my vocal and physical health. I’m not worried about this since I eliminated alcohol in October and most of November.

As you all can tell, I’m definitely not quitting singing. My monthly goals are actionable and reasonable yet push me in the new direction I’m headed. I feel a little intimidated by this list, but not completely overwhelmed. If I had simply listed the following:

  • Schedule coachings and lessons
  • Practice more
  • Learn new arias
  • Apply for grants
  • Keep blogging
  • Don’t drink alcohol for a while

I would have been setting myself up for failure because these goals are neither specific nor actionable.

Herbie’s last actionable goal is to render our shower unusable.

I want to share a final thought on my monthly resolutions or goals–it fills my soul to do stuff like this. I would feel like a lost sheep if I didn’t force myself to improve or achieve something. However, I get it if you can’t wait for this first week of January to be over so people will shut up about this crap. 

If you’re like me, and you want to set those resolutions but are worried about failing or holding yourself accountable, I encourage you to make monthly goals alongside me. I’d love to hear about them– it will keep me going too. 

Unlike last week, I’m excited about my trajectory this month instead of scared. I can stick to these goals this month and set 2023 up to be the best year yet, or at least better than last year, which shouldn’t be too hard.

Set some goals, enjoy the journey, screw motivation, and forgive yourself if you fail. It’s all just an experiment, anyway.


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