3 Things to Know About New Year’s Resolutions

Personal growth, systems thinking, goal porn, and my New Years “Resolutions”

The new year brings hope. Many people set “resolutions” to make the coming year happier or more productive. These resolutions are usually things like losing weight, writing a book, running a marathon or getting a promotion.

But research has found that of the 92% of people who set New Year’s resolutions fail to accomplish them. Why is that and what can be done to improve the success rate?

In this article, I share how creating systems can be more effective than setting goals, an unforeseen consequence of personal growth, and my “resolutions” for 2017.

1. Creating systems vs setting goals

Writing down a list of things you want (goals) is inspiring. It’s almost pornographic. It fills your mind with your most egregious fantasies of success and happiness.

However, goals are inherently predicated on unvalidated assumptions, many uncontrollable variables and an unpredictable future. In addition, when you set a goal, you are in a state of failure until you accomplish it. You push happiness and success off until the goal is reached (if it ever is).

A system is the thing(s) you do on a regular basis to continually improve and achieve results. Good systems provide support towards achieving just about any goal.

Losing 15 pounds is a goal.
Keeping only healthy foods in your house is a system.
Making an extra $2,000 per month is a goal.
Blogging is a system.

If you set a given goal, your odds of achieving it probably are better than if you did not set that goal. But you also miss out on opportunities that might be better than your goal.

Due to rapid developments in technology, and human nature, most of us have no idea what the future hold — what opportunities and challenges will present themselves or what we will want or need. Therefore, the best strategy is to keep putting ourselves in a better position to succeed. That can mean exercising, eating healthy good, getting plenty of sleep, learning, networking, writing, etc.. Regardless of what the future holds, and regardless of your specific goals, those practices can help you be successful.

Some people reading this probably think that because I don’t set goals that I’m “anti-success.” To the contrary, I believe building systems is a more effective way to achieve success over the long-term. But if being in a constant state of failure helps you, I encourage you to set goals. I‘m pro-doing-whatever-works, even if it has no basis in reality.

2. If you’re not embarrassed by your past self, you haven’t grown

If you’re successful in creating systems (or setting goals) in 2017, you may find yourself in a far healthier state — mentally, physically, financially. The downside of this success is that you may not think of your past self as highly. This can lead to feelings of regret, underachievement or even embarrassment.

I’ve seen a lot of articles and Facebook statuses about 2016 being the “worst year ever.” Most of them were written by Hillary Clinton supporters and people who care a lot about celebrities. However, at the risk of sounding vain, I had a pretty good year. My relationship with my girlfriend has grown stronger, and my bank account has grown larger.

The recent success has been years in the making. It’s come as a result of continually learning, growing and experimenting. As such, I now look back on some of my past decisions and behaviors with regret. I’ve hurt my own health, ruined relationships and failed at starting businesses.

But it’s ok. I regret because I’ve grown. I’m stronger now and I look forward to greater successes in the future.

3. My New Year’s “resolutions”

As you will see, my resolutions aren’t “S.M.A.R.T.” goals or forced processes. Rather, they are sustainable systems that can help me achieve multiple goals over the long-term. Maybe you’ll get a few ideas.

Learn persuasion

Scott Adams’ “persuasion filter” predicted the outcome of the 2016 election, when complex models and experts didn’t. Understanding persuasion seems critical to understanding the human condition. I believe learning persuasion will make me a better marketer and a better communicator in my day-to-day business and personal life and help me gain more empathy.

Learn more about artificial intelligence

Technology is increasingly replacing jobs. So far it’s been primarily physical labor and more menial tasks like scheduling meetings. But many people believe artificial intelligence will eventually reach parity with humans. I’m skeptical that it will happen any time soon, or potentially at all, but nonetheless I think it’s in my best interest to stay ahead of the curve.

Eat more green vegetables

Green vegetables are good for you. When I eat more of them, I operate more effectively. When I eat less of them, I operate less effectively. Pretty straightforward. I’ll have to find some creative ways to incorporate more of them into more of my meals without losing my appetitive.

Drink less caffeine

Over the past week, I’ve reduced my caffeine intake to one cup of green tea or less per day. This is down from a cup of coffee and two cups of tea per day. I’ve felt great. I’m less stressed and getting better sleep.

Bulletproof (butter + MCT oil) coffee in the morning has been a staple of my diet for the past couple years. I’ll probably try Bulletproof tea (even though it doesn’t taste nearly as good) as an alternative.

Network more (business and personal)

I used to meet new people and hang out with friends and colleagues all the time. I’ve even written a couple books about networking. However, in 2016, I was heads down on client work, writing and spending time with my girlfriend. Networking can be very rewarding both personally and professional in a number of different ways, so I’m going to step my game back up in 2017.

Experiment with (intermittent) fasting

Over the holidays, I learned more about the benefits of fasting (not eating for extended periods of times). Currently I’m pretty close to intermittent fasting (eating only within an 8 hour window), with the exception of some late night snacks and/or some meals slightly beyond the 8 hour window. I’ll try tightening that up as well as fasting for a 24-hour period. If it’s beneficial to me, I’ll do more of it.

Less news and politics, more loving and money making

The 2016 election was a lot of fun to watch. It was also a great medium for learning about and discussing deeper issues in human psychology and culture. It is important to stay informed — and if you are able to help, that’s even better. However most of the news is fear-inducing and half of it (even the “real” news) is probably fake. I’m no longer sure that humans even have the ability to determine what’s true anyways.

In addition, we just elected a President who will serve us for the next four years. Even though I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, I trust our people and processes to make it work and I have confidence in my ability to handle whatever happens. So now, instead of having unrealistic expectations that lead to stress and unhappiness, I’m going to focus on my mental and physical health, relationships, and finances.


Happy New Year! And thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this story, I would greatly appreciate if you could click the ❤ button below so others can read it here on Medium.