Are Resolutions Overrated?

Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It’s that time again! January is here. You’re feeling full of hope and optimism. You’re ready with your list of New Year’s Resolutions and you just know that this year is going to be different. This year you’ll stick with it. This year you won’t give up by February 1st.

And I hate to break it to you, but this year isn’t going to be different…unless you change how you approach resolutions.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been a New Year’s Resolutions person. The arbitrary date just never made sense to me. Of course, I do strive for self-improvement, but I typically don’t wait until January 1st to make it happen.

That said, I know a lot of you are big fans of New Year’s Resolutions. New Year’s in a nice reset and you’d like to get better, to be better, in certain areas of your life this year. And that I totally support. So we’re going to talk about how to make your resolutions stick.

But first, let’s talk about why they don’t. Fundamentally I think it’s important to do a bit of a mind-set shift and start thinking of resolutions not as mandates or decisions, but rather as goals and intentions, plus an action plan. The whole idea that we will simply tell ourselves we are going to do something, and then just magically do it, with consistency, is an idea that sets us up for failure. Most people simply do not resolve to do something, and then just do it.

In my experience, there are a couple of primary reasons that resolutions don’t often stick: 1) there is no (detailed) plan in place to make it happen and 2) there is a lack of understanding that failure is part of the process. In order for a resolution to stick, you have to make it a habit. And it takes our brains somewhere between 3 weeks and 2 months to build (or break) a habit. So expecting ourselves to perform a new set of behaviors on January 1st is both unreasonable and slightly absurd. So let’s be realistic.

So, how do you make a New Year’s Resolution stick?

  1. Decide on your goals and/or intentions

    • Pick just a few (maybe even just one) goals that are really important to you this year. Don’t try to do everything at once. There will always be next year. (Or next month!)

    • Define your goal using the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound).

  2. Come up with a detailed action plan

    • Break down each goal into its parts. What do you need to do to achieve your ultimate goal? When will you do each part? Schedule the time to make it happen.

    • Plan to make progress a little at a time, but consistently over time. Ease into it.

  3. Think about (and plan for) the possible roadblocks

    • Plan for it to be hard.

    • If your resolution is to get fit this year, what might prevent you from exercising?

    • If your resolution is to stop eating sugar, how are you going to handle the inevitable cravings, or an epic binge? Will you keep sugar entirely out of your house? Will you make exceptions for special occasions?

    • If your resolution is to stop spending so much time on social media, how will you limit the temptation? Will you take social media off your phone entirely, or just turn off the notifications?

  4. Find an accountability partner (if that’s something that helps you)

    • Do you find that it’s easier to stick to your resolutions, goals, decisions, etc. when you have committed to someone else, or publicly, that you’ll do them? If so, find a buddy and hold each other accountable.

  5. Be kind to yourself

    • Cut yourself some slack. You’re not going to do something perfectly right out of the gate.

    • Building new habits is about diligence and practice. And sometimes (often) you’ll fail along the way. But instead of letting those failures derail your progress. Get back up, dust yourself off and start again.

  6. Get help!

    • We often need others to help support us in achieving our goals. Depending on what our goals are, we might need guidance, support, strategies, accountability, coaching, teaching, or simply a sounding board, etc. If you need help, go out and get it!

You can do it. I know you can. Even if you have some failures along the way, and need a little extra help to get there.

And finally, if getting organized, using your time in a way that is consistent with your goals and values, building the right balance for your life, and/or reducing stress are your resolutions this year, let’s talk.

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