Every year many people all over the word set a New Year’s Resolution (or two, or three) and then fail to act on them in the next year. Despite that, they set another one only to fail again. In this article, I will briefly explain why does that happen and how to prevent it.
What is a New Year’s Resolution?
For many people, a new year is a symbol of a new start. They leave the bad in the past year and look to the future year with hope. A lot of them do some kind of self-reflection and find several activities they should do more or should start doing.
From the wish list of things that should change for the next year, people pick one (or a few) and promise themselves to do more of it (them). The act itself is tricking the brain to feel good (on January 1) because it cannot tell the difference between the dream and the reality. For all it knows – you ARE already reading more or you HAVE lost those 15 pounds.
So, a New Year’s Resolution is by definition a failure because you have already failed to do X in the past. It does not matter how many times you set it, you are never going to succeed …
Does that sound familiar?
Why do New Year’s Resolutions fail?
There are many reasons why do you fail your resolutions.
First of all, as I already mentioned, your brain cannot tell the difference between a dream and the reality. This is why you feel so bad when you wake up from a nightmare. You brain was sure it was a real experience. (more on the topic here –How To Go From Dreaming To Doing: 4 Steps To Motivation by Eric Barker). And if you’ve promised yourself to spend more time with your family, your brain will not act on that because has already happened – in you day dreams on Dec 31.
On the other hand, there is another powerful force preventing you to succeed – habit. You are already used to doing many things in your day and it is not very likely that a piece of paper can change that. You can introduce new habits in your life but it takes time and devotion.
When you set a New Year’s Resolution, it is by default a marathon. But you treat it as a sprint. The difference is that a sprint starts and ends relatively fast, but a marathon is a lot longer, has stages and crises. When you treat a marathon as a sprint you lose the ability to track progress and adjust your tactics based on the stage.
And last but not least, a New Year’s Resolution is radical. You want to read 20 books, but you’ve only read 2 last year. Or you want to lose 15 pounds, but you’ve gained 5 last year. Achieving such goals is plain impossible. There is a reason that you only read 2 books last year, isn’t it?
How to fail your New Year’s Resolution?
The answer is easy:
If you keep doing what you keep doing, you will keep getting what you keep getting.
If you want to fail your resolutions all you have to do is just set them. Your brain, your habits will take care of the rest.
Set SMART Goals … and review and update them
If you want to achieve something and if you want to introduce change in your life, work with goals. Forget the New Year’s Resolution process and set a short-term goal. Break down the outcome that you want to achieve and set goals for the milestones.
Setting goals can also be tricky if not done right. A goal has several characteristics that make it a SMART goal.
How can you achieve something if you do not know what it is? A specific goal answers all these questions:
- What do you want to do?
- What will be the result?
- Why is it important?
You cannot achieve “read more“, but you can achieve “read more non-fiction books by June’2018“. Or even better – “read X non-fiction, business books by June’2018 because I want to expand my business knowledge and start a company“.
How can you track your progress if you cannot measure it? How can you adjust your path if you do not know where you are? With a measurable goal, you can check your progress every week (or day).
You can never measure “become fitter“, but you can measure “lose X ponds by June’2018“. Or even better – “workout X times in a week every week until June’2018 because I want to look better and healthier and impress my wife“.
Can you read all books in the world? Can you become CEO in one year starting as an intern? An achievable goal is a measure of your self-awareness. Be honest with yourself and make up your mind. The good goal is a stretch goal but still achievable.
You cannot “become Vice President (VP) of Sales” if you are an intern, but you can “become VP of Sales by June’2018” if you are Sr. Manager. Or even better – “become VP of Sales by June’2018 because I want to have the power to steer the Sales Department in the direction I want and achieve better customer satisfaction“.
How can you achieve somebody else’s goal? It is YOUR goal and it is relevant to YOU. Otherwise you will be chasing somebody else’s dreams.
You will never “go out biking” if you do not care about sports, but you can “go out biking every weekend in the summer of 2018” if this is meaningful. Or even better – “go out biking with my son every weekend in the summer of 2018 because I want to spend more time with him and forge a bond that will stay strong for years”.
How can you enjoy life to the fullest, without binding the goal to time so that you can measure it? How can you spend less, if you do not know how much you’ve spent last year? The ideal goal is always time-bound. This is the only way to avoid goals that span through your lifetime (and are not achievable).
You can hardly “spend less“, but you can “save 10% of your salary each month until June’2018“. Or even better – “save 10% of your salary each month until June’2018 because you want to buy a new car and drive your daughter to school safely”.
Setting New Year’s Resolution is a failing process. If you are among the 15% that do act on their resolutions, you would not be here. The best way to fail them is … just to go on setting them.
Working with SMART goals, however, is easier and leads to better results. You can measure success daily and you can make adjustments to make sure that you are on the right track. And last but not least, your brain will work on them because it can see daily what is to be done and it gets motivated by the progress.