Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How to Fix It

New year is always a time when people talk a lot about their resolutions. I stopped to doing that few years ago and try to not treat new year as a completely new beginning, but more something like a chapter in the book. Why? Because I know resolutions often do not have sense and have only minimal chances of success. It does not mean we should not set any goals; we just need to do this properly and, in this post, I would like to describe how to do this.

Why resolutions failed again?

The best example of a fiasco related to New Year’s resolutions can be seen at the gym. There are tons of new people in January, everyone starts with new plan, all rooms are full, there is no option to join some events etc. It is pleasant view but if someone visits gym regularly knows one important thing – this situation happens every year and will take something about month, maybe two months. After this time there only people who have come before will remain and maybe just few from new group. Rest will resign, will not visit gym anymore, probably until next year – and the funniest part, next year they’ll do the exact same thing… And so on and so forth, with no change in the outcome – and that’s the very definition of insanity.

The key question is: why do they fail? Is it because they are weak, they have a weak will or just are not proper persons for gym? Nope. It is because they started that with completely wrong approach. They just throw themselves into the deep end without any concrete plan. Even if they firmly believe that they will succeed, they quickly lose motivation because they do not see results, because they get excessively tired, because they cannot organize their time properly. Often resolutions fail because there are too many – you can change one or two things at a time, but more? This is a recipe for failure, because like everything around us, we need time to adapt to new conditions.

We do not need gadgets

We often start some bigger stuff, big challenged by buying gadgets. Someone can plan to run marathon and first step on this person will be to buy new running shoes. Someone else wants to lose weight and will sign agreement with gym for the entire year. Sorry, it will not. In first scenario, new shoes will not run for him, he must wear them and make all workouts. The same applies to weight loss – buying agreement or new scale will not change anything. Buying interesting new course does not automatically transfer knowledge and great ideas into our minds.

In most of cases we do not need any gadgets, because for sure we already have some of them and can start with them. Let’s say you never run but want to make a marathon. If you will try with half marathon or even 10 km distance, you will probably have injury and extremely demotivated. It does not make any sense. Do this in smaller steps. Just few hundred meters to check what do you feel. After, you can try 1 km and slowly – important, slowly – increase this distance, even not day by day, but week by week.

Perspective Matters

One additional problem is perspective, especially in social media. Right now, it is super simple to observe a lot of people with huge wins, highflyers. The problem is items we can see are only small parts from their real work. Everyone can admire Michael Phelps, swimmer, Olympian with 23 gold medals, but only few people remember he trained every day for many years. It was very long journey with many stumbles and weaknesses, but he changed workouts into his habit. Similar to this, everyone can put Steve Jobs quote as a sign of something important, deep knowledge about life – even if in personal life, he was a total asshole. It is my opinion after reading his biography from Walter Isaacson and checking some facts: as a father, a cannot glorify other father who did not acknowledge his daughter and did not take responsibility for her, even if he was a marketing expert.

Television, internet, other people, social media show us only bright side, only effects, only something worth to mention. They do not show effort, a lot of time in the workshop, in the gym, they do not show tears and falls, mental crises in the process. They do not do that, because is not fancy, is not hot to say “you just need to make one small step every day” because it is looking like something extremely boring. And… it is boring, because there is no success, there is nothing worth to talk about. But the truth is, it is required. There is no shortcut, and we need to spend a lot of time on something if we want to archive success.

Second problem with perspective is our vs their goals. We often do not know ourselves and build our own goals only because we saw something interesting. Someone built great company other person ran ultramaraton, another one is dancing master. It is often inspiration but does not mean it will the same for us – we can try but should not force that if we will not feel real, internal motivation. Present days it is very problematic because a lot of people do not even want to spend some time alone, do not want to answer some critical questions like what do I really like what do I want to do, who I want to be? If you set your goals because you saw something, stop, take a breath, and think about answers. Without them, you can only waste a lot of time and energy.

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it

Seneca

How to do it properly

Does it mean we should not make any new year resolutions? Of course not. Having goals is an incredibly good idea, especially if we will describe these goals and filter them properly. They allow us to stay motivated, to change, to become fulfilled as people. To be effective, we should describe them properly – here the principle of SMART comes to our help. This principle focuses on how to describe goals to make them clear. Let’s go through the steps:

Specific – sentence “I want to lose weight” explains almost nothing. We need to be precise. Why? When? How much? It is much better to say “I want to lose 10 kg within next 5 months, because my current state in not healthy. My plan assumes 2 kg per month” it is more specific, writing this down allows you to always read this again and check why you decided to do something.

Measurable – you should measure progress in some way. It will allow you to check if you are doing it right. You can for example check your weight and OBWOSY, if you take some online course, you will have probably progress bar and it’s also good

Achievable – of course you can say you want on Mars within next few months… But what are the chances it will happen? Such goals do not make sense. Goal must be achievable, in other way, you will soon lose all your motivation.

Realistic – your goals should be not so easy, but also not so hard. It should be something you can do, with effort, with learning new stuff, but still possible do to. Running a full marathon within next three months if you did not run before can be really hard and also means high chance of injury. But if you will extend that to six months and try half marathon after first three months… It is much more realistic.

Timely defined – already mentioned partially in Specific. You should know when exactly you want to start, when want to end and what milestones you will try to achieve. Without this information process will not happen.

If we have goals defined with this principle, we can start working on them. Of course, you can say “why should I spend so much time just for writing, instead of acting?!”. Without plan, your actions will quickly turn into failure. Also, it is complex process, I know, so it will keep you from making too many changes at once. It makes a lot of sense – if something is really important for you, you should focus on that. You can still plan multiple goals, but they should not be in conflict, remember day has only 24 hours, you need to sleep, eat and have some activity to do all other things.

Additional Tips

Another piece of advice: announce your goals to the world, to your friends. verbally, on social media, everywhere you can. It will be like a commitment. Admittedly, you do not actually submit it to anyone, but nevertheless you will feel additional positive pressure: I want to do it, I want to keep it, because after all, I said I would do just that. Keep in mind that you want to turn it into a process: it may seem tedious, but you know it will bring the expected results, and that’s why you will continue it. You can let others know how you are changing, what you are doing

Also, tip from stoic – remember almost nothing depends on you and external factors can make mess with your plans. Be ready for that, be ready to even complete change your plans. It does not mean you should give up; it means it does not make sense to do something if it will take too much time or energy or is just not possible (go back to Achievable and Realistic rules).

And the last but not the least thing: if you want to do something important in your life, you really do not need to wait until the new year, or until next month or even until next Monday. Start today, by just plan what you want to archive and by making small, even incredible small, but visible step. It can push you forward, after that you can gain some very important internal motivation. Do not wait, there is no reason for that.

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