The Goldilocks approach to New Year Resolutions

the goldilocks approach to new year resolutions

If you want 2019 to be a memorable year for all the right reasons, chances are you’ll need to put some effort into it. Sure, there will be some enjoyable events that happen here and there all by themselves, but to get the most out of the coming year you also need to have a least one thing to aim for.

Today we’re looking at how high you might need to aim with your personal resolutions, projects or goals, and why the ‘Goldilocks approach’ is the best thing to aim for most of the time. To truly gain a benefit from your actions you do need to set yourself some sort of a challenge, so that it feels like an achievement, but you also need to avoid overdoing it and ending up sabotaging yourself.

For example, many people decide to get fit at this time of the year. In and of itself, that’s a laudable project and it can have multiple benefits for you: better energy levels, stronger bones, better muscle tone, a healthier heart, stress reduction, a general confidence boost and more besides. It’s important to be realistic though, you won’t be able to go from a complete lack of fitness to taking part in a triathlon within 12 weeks – the body is not going to be able to adapt that quickly and you could easily end up with a nasty sports injury that sets you back even further.

Another common example is that we often decide to change absolutely everything all at once. While this may work for a select few people, it’s more likely to be completely overwhelming. Is it really a good idea to give up smoking, stop drinking, stop watching TV, start going to the gym five days per week and try to get a promotion at work all in the same month? It might be better to focus on only one or two of these to begin with, so that you can make a more effective plan and give it your full attention. You can pick up the rest of the good intentions later in the year when you’re ready.

You have to be careful not to completely overdo it to the point that you crash and burn. It’s unnecessary, it’s not a good use of your time and other resources, and it can leave you feeling like a failure, making you less likely to try something new or stick with anything for a long time to come.

Conversely, if a resolution or goal requires hardly any effort at all, you might find yourself getting bored and drifting away from whatever you intended to do. Completing a moderately difficult task gives most people a buzz, and you might not get that if it’s all a bit too easy.

Here’s where the Goldilocks approach comes in: you want to aim for a goal that’s ‘just right’, not too big or too small, (or too hot or too cold, if you’ve truly set your heart on stealing porridge from the three bears). Slightly daunting, but not so terrifying that it will overwhelm you.

‘Just right’ is a matter for your personal tastes, your personality, and your current situation. We’re all different. If you’re tired, recovering from illness, low on funds or have very little free time, do what you think you can manage, rather than what you feel you ‘should’ do – it’s still a relatively high level of work when you look at it in the context of your own life.

I’ve decided to try a different challenge every month during 2019, which is essentially my big personal resolution, and the common thread is doing it on a budget and / or preventing waste. That’s given me a lot of scope so I’m starting to narrow it down now to more specific ideas. January is ‘career / finances’ (including a Tenner Week Challenge in Week 3), February is a month long ‘plastic free food challenge’ you might like to join in with, and there are going to be all kinds of decluttering, wardrobe, work-life balance, fitness and health projects after that. I’ll have to make sure that each and every one of these monthly challenges is neither too big or too small.


Do any of your ideas for resolutions involve just the right amount of effort? How could they be adjusted up or down to make them realistic but still challenging?

In the next couple of articles we’ll be looking at the nature and scope of different sorts of New Year’s resolutions and other personal projects, and how you can gauge and measure your own meaning of success. See you tomorrow!


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  1. Dear Penny, What you are writing is exactly what I feel and do. I tend to overdo when undertaking a project, letting myself completely overwhelmed. I then will try to find the right balance between doing what I have to do and doing what I can do. I will be pleased to participate to your monthly challenges, in fact in a hurry to do it because I loooooove challenges.
    Love Paty

  2. Hi Paty – I’ve been guilty many times in the past of ‘biting off more than I can chew’ so it’s something I always factor in now. I love your enthusiasm, and hope you like joining in with the new challenges!

    Penny x

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