Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions: Do This Instead
I used to make new year’s resolutions, and get excited about implementing the changes, only to find my enthusiasm and effort slowly but surely wane as time went by. Like most people who make new year’s resolutions, I would abandon the resolutions by February and revert to my old habits.
The fact is that only about 10% of people who make new year’s resolutions successfully implement lasting change. The other 90% fail. This failure can be very discouraging and often undermines future efforts to change our lives for the better. It leads most of us to believe that we do not possess the necessary willpower to overcome bad habits.
Why do most people fail at keeping their resolutions? The reason is that most new year’s resolutions are flawed to begin with.
New year’s resolutions have procrastination built into them. After all, setting a January 1st date to implement changes implies that we will only begin to make changes once that date arrives rather than doing it now, and there is no logic in that. We treat the new year as if it holds some magical powers that will facilitate the changes we want to make and, clearly, this is not true. There is nothing special about January 1st other than, perhaps, being the biggest hangover day of the year for most. The euphoria of a new year will wear out fast and most people lose their motivation once this happens. Change starts to happen when people take action, and the best time to take action is now, not on some glorified date on the calendar.
Another reason why most new year’s resolutions do not work is because people set unrealistic goals. For example, many people will decide that their new year’s resolution is to lose weight, run a marathon, stop smoking, become vegan, or be less stressed. These goals are respectable but unrealistic because they have not been broken down into smaller, more achievable, and less daunting goals. They overwhelm the people setting the goals and that leads to frustration and, ultimately, failure. This happens despite good intentions. Small successes lead to big successes.
A new year’s resolution is nothing other than a goal that someone sets for himself or herself. And while it is great to set goals, they are ineffective unless accompanied by a strategy or system to ensure success. When someone successfully attains a large goal, it is because they had a strategy and set smaller goals that contributed to the overall picture. For example, if we set a goal of completing a marathon, it needs to be supported by a strategy, say running a mile each day for a week and then increasing that distance by an additional mile each week. Or if we want to lose 100 pounds, it is important to break down the goals into mini goals, say, for example, exercising for 15 minutes each day, stop eating sugar, and losing 1 pound per week. Or if we want to eat healthier and become vegan, rather than completely eradicate animal products from our diet all at once, we would be better served if we, for example, started by eating meat only twice a week, and reducing that amount after we get used to it. Our goals are the destination. The strategy is the map that ensures we get there.
Goals also need to be specific and measurable in order to be effective. Many people are too vague about their goals. Their generic goal may be to lose weight rather than lose 1 pound per week for 20 weeks. Or their goal is to eat healthier rather than being specific and stating that they will stop eating fast food and be vegetarian for 5 days each week. Being specific in our goal-setting is essential to success. It allows us to monitor our progress and make adjustments.
The last reason why most people fail to achieve their new year’s resolution goals is because they set too many. It is much more effective to focus on 1 or 2 goals at the same time. It might be tempting to try and accomplish more, but what is the point if we spread ourselves too thin, exhaust our resources and, ultimately, fail? I believe that it is best to do one or two things and to do it well. Once we succeed in making lasting change in one or two facets of our lives, we can then move on to something else.
When I first came up with the idea to for this blog which focuses on important life skills, I established the goal to reach and help at least 3000 people each month. However, I also broke down this goal into smaller, mini goals and came up with a strategy. I decided to write at least 2 blog posts every week, come rain or shine. I also decided to start a Skilled at Life Facebook page and utilize other forms of social media to promote it. I joined blogging community boards to learn from others. I also made sure that I read other blogs frequently and upgraded my technical skills. Without these strategies, this blog would probably not exist today. It has not always been easy and I have definitely experienced my fair share of mistakes and struggles. The strategy or system is what carried me through.
All of us are works in progress. Implementing change into our lives is not something we should do once a year. We can and should make changes and improvements throughout our lives and throughout the year.
To summarize, if we are serious about changing our lives for the better, it is best to follow these guidelines:
- Do not wait for new year’s day to come around. Start now. There is no better time to start than this present moment.
- Make your goals realistic and break them down into smaller, mini-goals. You CAN achieve your goal of running a marathon, but not without putting in miles every day.
- Have a strategy or system. Your willpower is fleeting by nature. It is the daily system and routine that make your larger goals attainable. Make it automatic so that even when you do not feel like doing it, you do it anyway because you have made it automatic.
- Make your goals specific and measurable. Be as specific as you can and include a deadline. Instead of saying you want to lose weight, it is better to lose 1 pound each week for 20 weeks.
- Do not set too many goals at once. Pick 1 or 2 that are most important to you and focus on them. There is nothing more motivating and powerful than witnessing your own progress.
Human beings are resilient creatures. We can achieve almost anything if we dedicate ourselves to it and adopt an effective strategy. We already have what it takes inside us.
Do not forget to download the powerful free goal templates and step-by-step guide to help you plan and achieve your ideal life.