How successful are you at keeping New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like most, you’re not so good at it. In fact, as a general rule, we teachers often struggle with goal-setting in general. This was something that I emerged from research I did as I was writing The Well-Balanced Teacher and confirmed as I reflected on my own struggles with goal-setting. Typically, our goals are too big or too fuzzy (“get into shape”), leading us to become discouraged and give up. Or, our goals focus on a specific milestone or event (losing 20 pounds) and once we’ve reached it, we slip right back into old habits.

We will be more successful with goals when we set ones that are focused on habits and rituals and which are specific and bite-sized. Though these may lack some of the glamour and wow-factor of losing 20 pounds or running a marathon, they’ll do us much more good in the long-run.

Since many of us make resolutions connected with physical health, let’s explore some ways to make those kinds of resolutions ones that will work:

Instead of… Consider…
Running a marathon Run 4 days a week
Losing 20 pounds Replace the afternoon candy bar with a granola bar
Getting more active Walk a mile each day after school

Running four days a week is a habit that makes running a marathon (or perhaps even just a 5K) a realistic possibility. Replacing a daily candy bar with a granola bar would reduce our caloric intake by 25,000+ and reduce our fat intake by more than 2,000 grams in just one year. And just consider how walking one mile a day after school piles up: in one school year, you’ve walked 180 miles. In five years, that’s 900 miles of walking!

Of course, the same ideas apply to other resolutions and goals as well. Here are a few to consider…

Instead of… Consider…
Connect more with colleagues Start a Wednesday morning “breakfast club” at the local diner
Be more playful with students Play an academic game every Friday
Get organized Spend 10 minutes at the end of each day cleaning and organizing the classroom

When we create goals that are concrete, specific, and bite-sized, we’ll be more likely to stick with them. The small benefits that pile up act like compounding interest—paying huge dividends over time!