Before You Set Your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions…

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

I’m currently looking behind my back because as soon as I publish this, an army of internet citizens are going to jump on me with the countless objections…

“Don’t wait until new years, start right now!”
“New Year’s resolutions are pointless.”
“You won’t follow through if you can’t do it now.”

All relatively good points, all have some truth to it, all of them I disagree with.

Regardless of the naysayers, and the countless genuinely insightful articles on starting now and not waiting, I think at this point, it might be worth the wait. Hear me out.

I know, and you know, and everyone else also knows that starting now is one of the best things you could do. But that shouldn’t overshadow how extremely powerful New Year’s resolutions can be.

They allow for a positive attitude, an optimistic outlook and if done properly, a success rate that’s actually good, and an overall benefit that’s phenomenal.

Now New Year’s may be arbitrary. I mean setting a date to start working out might as well be any calendar date right? What’s the difference? The difference is that it’s arbitrary in such a way that most of humanity seems to celebrate the occasion and as human beings, this arbitrary date becomes a mental marker. A story develops around it, it’s the end of a paragraph, the beginning of a new chapter. No matter how arbitrary it may be, it ends up having significance over us mentally.

And look, the significance doesn’t really matter — it’s the mindset and action that comes with it that makes waves towards someone’s goals.

Action breeds more action, and more action breeds momentum. Momentum builds businesses, sculpts perfect bodies, improves health, teaches you new languages and is the catalyst in building great habits while tearing down the bad.

There’s a reason why the first few steps in quitting smoking always revolves around planning and setting a “Quit Date” before actually quitting. The date again is arbitrary right? No more arbitrary than New Year’s — but it’s set, and it’s real. If New Years can be your quit date, or start date, or date of significance, why not take the opportunity?

All you need is to plan and follow through with it to the best of your ability. You can take the textbook route to goal setting/planning which is fantastic and something everyone should do, or… If you’ve been there and done that, maybe try my method which is a bit more unorthodox.

I’ll give you some common pitfalls, the textbook method and then my method. How does that sound? I’m taking your silence as a yes.


Common Pitfalls In New Year’s Resolutions (and Goal Setting In General)

Here’s a short list of things that will mess you up quicker than your friends when you say ‘See ya next year!’

  1. Goals that are as vague as the last response you got from that cute one on tinder.
  2. Poor prior planning and a ‘wing-it’ attitude — much like Steve from High School. Whatever happened to that guy?
  3. Unattainable Short Term Goals — If you could get an 8 pack in 2 weeks from an ad in your favourite adult website, the ad wouldn’t be on your favourite adult website.

Avoid these and you’re halfway there.

The Textbook Perfect New Year’s Resolution

The textbook example of a good goal or a good resolution is when it has the SMART properties.

When did this article turn into a corporate seminar? | Tool Hero
  • Specific or; significant, stretching
  • Measurable or; meaningful, motivational
  • Attainable or; achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
  • Realistic or; relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
  • Time-based or; time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

The more of these properties your goal has, the better your chances of achieving your goal or realising your resolution. And you might be thinking “OK Sah, I already know this though.” And my response would be, “Why haven’t you applied it to your previous failed resolutions then?” — As I just casually assume the worst of you 😉

We might know that being specific, planning, collecting data and keeping things tight give us an edge in achieving our goals, but for some reason, New Year’s resolution always seems to get a pass. Most people rely on the significance of the date (which doesn’t exist), rather than it’s effect on taking action (the thing that absolutely exists). So what happens? People start, and promptly fail.

If you’re actually serious and you plan on using the positivity, optimism and action prompt that is New Year’s. You will get results. All you have to do is set the resolution and treat it with the respect of a serious goal with SMART properties.

So instead of — Lose 10kg of weight.

Try something like — Lose 10kg of body fat, following [a specific] low carb diet and using [a specific] workout structure consisting of 2 days strength training and 2 days cardio training a week. Aim to lose 1kg a week within approximately 3 months.

It’s specific, it has actionable sub-goals, it can be measured, and it’s time-boxed to 3 months. This is a damn good goal. And you can make it even better by having structures for accountability, having feedback loops to identify what’s working and what’s not, as well as a plethora of other strategies to ensure this is achieved.

If you do this and get a little bit of traction, in the new year, you’ll be snowballin’. (Unless you live in Australia like me where you’ll just be… sun?ballin’)

The Non-Textbook New Year’s Resolution a.k.a My Take

This method of mine might not be for everyone. It doesn’t conform to the SMART principles of goal setting and I only specifically use it for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve designed this method not for huge life-changing goals, but for incremental and potentially exponential benefits for my personal development.

The way this is structured is that no matter what happens, failure or not, I get something out of it. The only way I don’t get any benefit, is if I don’t take any steps at all.

There are a group of people that are generally in the camp of — “If you want to achieve your New Year’s goals, you should only have one.” I disagree. Not with the truth of their statement, but with the core concept of ‘achieving a New Year’s goal.’

My method, which only really works if the goals are structured like challenges, relies on the goals being;

  • Specific
  • Taxing
  • Obviously Un-attainable
  • Un-realistic
  • Time-based

or STOUT (yes I wrote ‘obviously’ so I could spell out stout, obviously).

Let me give you an example of a previous set of goals I had once upon a time, and please hold all snide comments for later. I don’t want to hear any “Well, that’s relatively attainable.” No Steve, it isn’t relative to me ok, shh, I’m trying to write.

List for 2017

Read 1 book a week, 52 books total
Run 10km every week, 520km total
Learn 1 new recipe every week, 52 total
Film, edit, produce a new video every fortnight, 24 total

… omitted for brevity and embarrassment

This list isn’t that short, and it continued on for a whole page. The characteristics of each item don’t relate to a specific broader goal, but much rather relate to the overarching goal of becoming a more put together human.

If I fail any of these goals, it’s inconsequential and let me tell you — I failed all of them. Achieving them wasn’t actually the point. And you might wonder why even bother? Here’s why.

In 2017…

I didn’t read 52 books, I read about 16–17. That’s about a solid 15 more than what I’d read if I hadn’t set the goal.

I ran a total of a marathon and a half. Wasn’t my thing at the time, definitely wasn’t 500+km — I still enjoyed the benefits of sneaking in a run.

I learned about 6 new recipes. Just shy of… 52. But they were delicious and educated me in basic cooking more than enough to do some wacky concoctions of my own.

I put together and edited only 3 videos. By all conventional accounts, a total failure for the goal. Yet some of the fondest evenings of brushing up on my skills and getting nostalgic putting together older travel footage in clever ways.

This structure was and still is the embodiment of shooting for the moon and landing among the stars for me. And I think it could very well be the same for you.

Just keep in mind the core idea here:

  • Set many goals but not too many, I’ve found 5 to 9 to be the sweet spot — as you saw above, certain goals will take center stage — it was reading for me, in 2017
  • Make sure they all contribute to building you up as a knowledgeable generalist, rather than a specialist in some field, if being a specialist is the goal pick only 1–2 goals and use SMART
  • Do try to achieve them all, these aren’t for when you feel like it, they’re actual challenges that again rely on planning — Put away some time every day to read for instance.

The TLDR

  1. New Year’s resolutions are a great mental marker to prompt you into action. Use this opportunity to stop and plan your goals in preparation for following through in the new year.
  2. If you have 1 or 2 specific goals, use the SMART method to plan out your goal. Making sure it’s specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-boxed.
  3. If you generally want to be a more effective human, have many goals but set them up like challenges and ensure they aren’t about developing a specialist skill but are rather about incrementally improving and fostering good habits.
  4. Bonus: Just generally don’t be a dick about other people’s goals when they inevitably tell you about them, be supportive and tell them that you’ll hold them accountable and check in 😉

Thanks for reading,
Sah out

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