Don’t Create New Year’s Resolutions — Do This Instead
Resolutions are rigged to fail. Here’s the plan to win in 2018.
Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you. — Nathaniel Hawthorne
It’s that time of year. You drank some eggnog, sang Auld Lang Syne and now it’s time to make some bold promises. It’s a new year, so why not start fresh?
I get it, I’m a personal growth junkie. But, listing out those things that have been nagging at your attention all year on January 1st isn’t going to all of a sudden make them stick. In fact only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. 80% fail by February.
There are all kinds of tips for making good resolutions, like keeping them simple, tangible and within reach. This is not necessarily bad advice but there is something more systematically wrong with New Year’s resolutions. It’s time to give them up.
Here’s the issue — All year you’ve wanted to eat healthy, get in shape, get a new job… Now its a new year and you want to flip a switch and make it happen? The problem is you’ve received negative reinforcement all year. Every time your diet failed or you stayed put on your couch, you beat yourself up. That self-hate isn’t disappearing as the ball drops in Times Square.
But, still you make new resolutions, infused with the promise of a new year. Deep down you know these are more promises you’ll never keep. But hey, let’s get the new gym membership and see what happens. But this article is not to discourage, it’s to show you a new way. Identifying what’s not working is the first step to real progress.
Here’s what you should do instead — Think about the successes in your life. I bet little, if any, happened because you gave yourself an arbitrary time period to do something you dread. Our brains simply aren’t wired this way. We are wired to seek pleasure and run from pain. For most, New Year’s resolutions fly in the face of this deeply ingrained programming. Here’s what to do instead:
1 | Don’t create New Year’s resolutions. Instead use the new year to reflect on all you achieved. Reflect on everything over the past year you have to be grateful for. I bet there’s a lot more there than you may initially think. Write it all down and access it throughout the year. As Tony Robbins states, “Progress equals happiness”. Use the progress you already have to propel you forward.
2 | Pick a random date. We know that New Year’s resolutions mostly fail so why continue that trend. Most of us have a past history of our resolutions not happening. Don’t feed into this trend. None of us want to live our lives driven by pressure. So, try something new. Pick a ridiculous random holiday you don’t celebrate or a washed up celebrity’s birthday. Have fun with it, make it your special day.
3 | Set intentions not goals. Next, make that day intention day. Intentions differ from goals. Intentions go deeper and focus on what is really important to you. Goals on the other hand focus on a singular achievement, reached by struggle. You likely don’t dream of going to the gym five times a week. Compare that goal to setting the intention of feeling amazing in a swimsuit. The later focuses on a desired state and doesn’t limit you to one path of success.
4 | Follow the joy. The main reason most resolutions are dead before they begin is because they are focused on negative emotions. We feel fat so we need to lose weight. We are in a bad relationship, so we need to find a new one. If the pain is great enough, it may get us to act. But, it rarely gets us to attract something better. Like attracts like. If we want to be more joyful, we need to find more joy in our present lives. Identify the things in your life that bring you joy and set intentions to do more of those things. It is that simple.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. — Jimmy Dean
Einstein is well quoted as saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Yet, this is exactly what we do year over year despite an 8% success rate. It’s time for a change.
When we focus our life on doing things we hate and have convinced ourselves we are not good at doing, it’s no wonder we fail. Even if this formula did work, what fun would life be? Instead, we can take some pressure off ourselves, acknowledge the progress we’ve achieved and set intentions that bring us joy.
It’s a new year. Are you ready for a new way?
Read more about my personal journey from successful startup founder to joyfully Lost on Purpose.
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