As we start the new year out, many of us are working on those resolutions. But I’m sorry to say that even with the best intentions 80% of us will fail at them.
I’ve already experienced it to a degree. As I sat down to write this, I wanted to see if I could quickly find a few reasons why my resolutions weren’t going great. I figured if I’m having issues, others may be as well, and we could all benefit from a quick course correction.
So why do we torture ourselves and create resolutions? Is it the drive in us to start over? To get a clean slate at the beginning of each year to make a change for the better. What better time to start than when the calendar flips? But we need to change the way we phrase the resolution in our minds and work on building long term solutions.
Stop making resolutions and instead build habits
We try too often to create an idea of what we want out of this new start. To force a situation to happen when instead, we need to step back and create a new habit to build the future we want.
This is where I went wrong and led to my breaking a resolution. Like many of you, I wanted to get in better shape this year. My spouse and I decided to start a workout regiment. We started on that first day and made it through the workout. But by the second week, we had skipped days and were already apathetic toward it. We failed to create the habit first to let our minds get used to the idea.
Our brains are bastards. If you think they are always here to help us, think again. Neuroscience tells us our brains will try and do the least amount of work possible, and if that means talking you out of your workout, so be it. By building a habit, we ease our minds into the new process until it becomes something familiar, and we don’t fight back.
Identify a word of the year
I recently heard about doing this and discovered that many prominent people find this a useful practice. Melinda Gates has done this for many years and finds that it “encapsulates her aspiration for the year ahead.” Some of her past words are “gentle,” “spacious,” and “grace.”
Pick a word that you want to define the year ahead. Write the word down and describe why you picked it. Build a story around the word and display it where you can see it daily for encouragement.
Your word should encapsulate what you are wanting to accomplish this year. It will be a word that when situations arise, you can refer to and see if that is the direction you want to move. It will help hold you accountable to yourself as the year progresses.
Choose goals you control
The best advice I received on setting goals was to build one I could control. Often we set a goal that we have no control over. For example, we set a sales goal of 100,000 units sold, not realizing we can’t control who buys our products.
Instead, consider a goal to improve your marketing to sell 100,000 units. You can control the amount of effort you put into marketing. You can make a goal to work on marketing 2 hours more a day, you can read more books on marketing or take a class on it.
Don’t fall into the trap of setting goals out of your control as a way to blame someone else if they fail. Ask yourself who needs to put in the work for this goal to succeed. Is it you or someone else? If it is someone else, consider changing the goal.
Beginnings are easy. Starting new endeavors challenges us to do better. We often lose our way, but we have a good chance of succeeding when we make corrections as easily as possible.
While making resolutions seems like the best way to get a clean start each year. We can see there are better ways to go about achieving our objectives. These three options listed above can be done at any time. They offer the best chance for a long term commitment to change.
So drop the broad statements made at the start of each year and instead build in new habits that can help you daily.