Giving my TedX talk on this!

52 Resolutions

Connie Yang
7 min readDec 14, 2017


In 2015, I did 52 resolutions, a different one each week.

The first resolution I ever attempted in life was to be a vegetarian. I thought this would be healthy, fun, and I wanted to see how long I could last. By lunch time of that very same day, I had *forgotten* I made that resolution and ordered a hamburger.

Resolutions come from a good place. We all aspire to be better people — so much so that we collectively participate in this ritual, at the beginning of every year, where we each promise to improve something about ourselves.

We always have this optimism that we can do it this time, even though only 8% of people who attempt resolutions make it through the entire year.
25% drop off after the first week.

92% of people fail to keep their resolutions.

You’re stuck doing one thing for an entire year. One year is quite a long time and one thing is quite boring. Not only that, you have 365 chances to fail at it.

Miss one day, and we somehow feel like our whole year is now out the window, and we give up on all the other days — even though those other 364 days of doing something good are still perfectly worthwhile.

Not doing something once, should not mean all the other times you did do it no longer count.

Idea: Do it for just one week!

What if instead of holding myself to one BIG resolution for an entire year, I held myself to one small resolution, for a single week?

I was pretty sure I could do anything if I knew it would only last for a week! I could tackle a lot of different ideas at once, and if I missed one week, I could start over the next. And 75% of people who try resolutions actually keep up for the first week.

I started brainstorming. There were so many things I’d always wanted to try. Excuses always got in the way — not enough time, too busy, too hard, or just putting it off until later.

I had general resolutions like learn finances, exercise more, procrastinate less. But to find things that could be done in a single week, I had to get specific.

“Exercise more” is not a good resolution. It’s not specific or directly actionable. But you could try “Do 10 pushups every day”, “Run for 10 minutes”, or “Go to a dance class.”

The key thing is that they had to be small and simple. There could be no judgement on how well I did them, and I couldn’t get them right or wrong — the only way I could fail is by not doing them at all.

If my goal was to run for 10 minutes a day, it also didn’t matter how slow or how fast, only that I did it. They had to be tasks where I had control over the outcome.

I started with a list of only 28 or so items, which I would add to and edit along the way. Each week I picked a different one from this bucket list to try.

Sharing & Accountability

Honestly, I was still kind of worried I wouldn’t even be able to do it for a week. In order to hold myself accountable, I posted my resolutions on Facebook, and shared it with my friends.

The only thing worse than not doing 10 pushups a day, is having to admit to everyone you know that you didn’t do 10 pushups a day.

I also shared my reflections from each previous week. Things I learned, surprises along the way, what was interesting to try, and what I wanted to take with me. This is a really important part — and documenting this helped me keep track and remember.

The reactions I got from people were amazing. Friends would share ways they had tried to approach similar problems, and also suggested new resolutions to add to my list.

Actual live Facebooks samples!

Highlights from my Year of 52 Resolutions

In no particular order.

Week 4: Run every morning before work

Running every day was not for me, and running at 6am was not for me. But running every 3 or 4 days in the evening was great, and I actually ran my first half-marathon later that year. Little habits can build into big ones.

Week 15: Soylent every day

I don’t think it tastes as bad as everyone says. It’s a fine at-desk supplement for a meal, but it was a tough week because I realized you can’t go out to restaurants to have dinner with friends. Also, in spite of its diet shake similarities, it is not effective for weight-loss.

Week 5: Wear jeans and a t-shirt every day

I thought it’d be interesting to simplify my life by minimizing some decisions. And I saved so much time in the mornings. Could skip all the time spent standing in front of the closet, debating what to wear. I was also less concerned about my appearance throughout the day. And perhaps it’s because I’m lucky to work in San Francisco, but nobody cared and I didn’t perceive any differences in people’s reactions to me. If anything, I was more relaxed.
Also, it’s great to have POCKETS! Pockets all the time!

Week 30: Don’t apologize unless I actually do something wrong

I don’t know if it’s because I’m female, because I’m Asian, or because I grew up shy — but I find myself apologizing for things *all the time*. It’s unnecessary and implies fault when there is none.

Stopping this for a week made me realize I apologize much more frequently than other people. I noticed fewer apologies directed at me when I didn’t say them first.

Most surprisingly, it made me want to apologize more in situations where they were actually warranted. I was more thoughtful and reflective about my actions and words. When you don’t do it as often, the times you do are more significant.

Week 8 Resolution: Write a letter to my dad every day

I am very different from my parents. They grew up in China and I grew up outside Chicago. As I got older, I moved further away from them.

They didn’t really have an understanding of my day to day life, personal beliefs, or the kind of person I became. When I spoke to them, it rarely went above the weather or some mundane errand.

I didn’t want this disconnect to keep increasing, so for one week I wrote a letter to my dad every day that simply outlined what I did and what I thought that day, as honestly as possible. It wasn’t meant to be complex, I just wanted to keep that channel of communication open.

The time that we have remaining with family members is shorter than we think, and it was important for me to feel like I did my best to share who I am. My dad passed away a few months after that, and this week was one of the times we communicated the most.

Week 9 Resolution: Sit with a random group of people at lunch every day

This was the most terrifying week. It’s hard to interrupt, gauge who seems like they would be willing to talk, and think of what to even say. It’s the only one I’d been tempted to quit every time.

A lot of anxiety is caused by that layer of constant second-guessing. Should I, should I not, is it too late, did I miss my window, etc. For this week, I could remove all that, because I knew I simply had to.

I actually had a friend suggest a “3 second rule” — where if a someone looks approachable, just do it within 3 seconds, or you will always come up with a reason to talk yourself out of it. Stop questioning or scanning for another group that looks friendlier, and just do it.

Beyond That Year

There were a lot of wonderful and unpredictable things that happened as a result from that year — but the real lasting impact from doing 52 resolutions was that I discovered a way to try out new things and face bigger challenges, in ways that didn’t seem possible before.

You can get much better at doing hard things by lowering the stakes and practicing often.

Focusing on one item at a time made it easier to get things done. When I was doing one resolution, I would relax more in other aspects of my life. If I wasn’t drinking, I indulged in a lot of delicious food. When I was vegan for a week, I worried less about how many drinks I was having. Normally there are so many voices going on all the time — “Don’t drink! Don’t eat red meat! Don’t eat butter straight out of the tub!” — it was helpful to turn that just into one voice, the voice of that week.

It was also important to come up with resolutions that are very personalized. For instance, I grew up really shy. Many of my resolutions centered around finding ways to break through that, to force myself out of my comfort zone. These were the specific things that I wanted to change about myself.

The magic happens when you tailor these resolutions to help you achieve the changes you want to see in your own life.

There are about 3 weeks left in 2017. That’s a lot of time! You could take one of these weeks, and each day, write down one thing you could try for yourself next year.

Things that you’re afraid of, things that seem just too big — make them small. If it’s just one week, you can do things you thought were impossible.

Big things are scary, daunting. Make them small. Then it seems easy.