Do NOT Set a New Year’s Resolution; I Beg You. Do This instead.

Photo via Glenn Carstens-Peters

It’s estimated that 40% of people set a New Year’s resolution.

“New year, new me” is a common phrase around this time of year. Our social media feeds begin to fill with resolution-related content capitalizing on our annual determination to become better.

And frankly, what better time to turn the bus around, reset ourselves and our habits, than the start of a brand new year. So much already revolves on annual dates like birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, summer vacations, and company targets, it makes sense that we emphasize goal setting at the beginning of a new year.

I get it; you get it. We all get it. We’re complex beings capable of thinking about our thinking, and it’s healthy to want to improve ourselves and our lives. Heck, the popular psychology theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, stresses our need for actualizing our potential.

However, there’s a problem; 92% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolution.

Ouch. That’s a demoralizing statistic.

Taking a step back to think about the exercise in its totality, it is a bit crazy. Once a year, we muster up every bit of energy and discipline we have toward setting and achieving this one goal which lasts for 365 days. The pressure of it is paralyzing.

Then when we fail, which statistically we know is likely, we think the problem is with us and lose confidence in ourselves, our discipline, ability, and reevaluate how important the goal really is to us and our happiness. We ask ourselves, what does it actually matter if I don’t lose the extra weight I’m carrying around. What’s the worst that can happen if I wait another year to start saving for retirement? And who does it really impact if I quit smoking next year instead of this year?

Those were just 3 of the top 5 most popular resolutions for 2017.

The problem isn’t with us though; the problem is with the goal.

Setting a goal to change our habits for one full year is too long, big, abstract, scary, and almost impossible to attain with today’s modern pace of life.

Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution, consider a better goal-setting approach — like a 30-day challenge.

What are 30-day challenges?

The name says it all. You try something new for just 30-days. You can add new habits like working out or journaling, or remove bad habits like sugar, red meat, and caffeine.

Why are they better?

  • They’re shorter in time-frame. 30 days is much more manageable mentally and physically.
  • They build confidence instead of reducing it. When you set an unrealistic goal of 365 days, you set yourself up for failure. Although, when you set a more realistic goal, you are more likely to achieve it. And who doesn’t want adrenaline rush and happiness that follows success?
  • Succeeding in your challenge can change your behavior for the long haul. Your daily walk will result in you becoming a regular walker. Removing that piece of candy after dinner will remove the habit and addition to it. Doing something for 30-days is enough time to challenge you and develop a new routine around it.
  • Succeeding also has other remarkable benefits that only you will uncover.

If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of 30-day challenges. I’ve done many over the past five years, including going paleo with Whole30, eating pescatarian, working out for 5-days a week, journaling, meditating, and snapping one photo a day for 30-days.

Every time I’ve done them, I’ve had one or many perspective shifts, gained or lost a new skill/habit/routine, and built up more confidence in myself.

The first challenge I did was taking one photo for 30-days. Sounds easy right? The rules were simple; I had to take a photo every day and then upload it to my blog with a note. The challenge turned out to be more difficult than I thought, and I missed a couple of days in total. While I walked away with 27(ish) photos, I gained so much more in intangible benefits.

Since I was always on the hunt for the beautiful or interesting, time slowed down and I gained greater awareness and appreciation for the world around me. My horizons began to widen, and I went to more museums that and the subsequent month than I’d ever been to before. It gave me more confidence too.

After the vegan 30-day challenge, I felt better than ever. Not only was I contributing to less greenhouse gas emissions, but I had more energy and lost 4 pounds. I was at my 17-year old weight for the first time since that age. I recommend doing the weekly Purple Carrot box system. The recipes are gourmet, and they made it easy to be happy being vegan. If you want to learn about Veganism first, watch “What the Health” on Netflix and Earthlings (this one is only for the bold).

When I did Whole30 with no alcohol, dairy, or grains, after 11 painful days, I emerged day 12 feeling superhuman like Bradley Cooper in Limitless.

When I did a work-out challenge with colleagues, I ended up picking up group fitness classes again. If you need a kick in the butt, these are my two favorite workout apps: 1) Seven for simple exercises to do anywhere in just 7 minutes, and 2) Aaptiv for a studio-class atmosphere anywhere.

So you might ask, will any of these good habits actually stick?

Science says yes.

For me, after the photo challenge, I kept the lessons I learned about photography like the rule of thirds and framing. I’ve also maintained my appreciation for art.

After the fitness challenge, I adopted a 5-day a week fitness routine for over five years.

Since the vegan challenge, I’ve remained vegan (inside the house, and vegetarian outside of the house) and feel better than ever.

As I end the article, I’ll leave you with a video which changed my life forever. Watch it; it’s only 3 minutes and 27-seconds.

So which challenge will you try for the first 30 days of January 2018?

As Matt Cutts says in the TED video above, “The next 30-days will pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try, and give it a shot for the next 30 days.”