Your New Year’s Resolutions Probably Won’t Work, unless….

It’s that time of year again, when many of us strive to make positive changes for the coming year. And like many times before, many of us will try to make resolutions for the coming year, even if, deep down, we know they have little chance of sticking. How can you improve your chances for success? Let me share some thoughts with you that could possibly help.

First, a resolution is often framed in very vague terms with a very loose or nonexistent timeframe. Instead of a list of resolutions, why not make a list of specific GOALS with measurable guideposts of attainment? You’ve likely heard of the acronym SMART goals. This approach to goal setting is very helpful in attaining your desired result but what does it mean? It’s a commonly used acronym that was first coined by management expert, Dr. Edwin Locke, according to an article by Joseph Krause on the website, It means Smart; Measurable: Attainable; Relevant; and Timely. For reference, I am using a book my daughter got me for Christmas, Getting Back to Happy, by Marc and Angel Chernoff, TarcherPerigee, 2021, ISBN 9780143132783. I think she is sending me a message with that gift.

SPECIFIC Be specific in what you trying to accomplish. Give it “defined parameters and constraints,” for greater chances of success. For example, don’t say, “I am going to lose weight this year.” Instead, say “I will lose 20 lbs by February 28.” That is much more specific and gives your mind a better chance at understanding what you desire. Most people understand a properly defined and framed target than just a vague desire.

MEASURABLE Using the example above, knowing that you want to lose 20 lbs by a certain date gives you something that you can measure progress on, which helps you to stay on track and helps you to stay motivated.  The concept of a baseline is very helpful in this case. Knowing where you and where you want to be will help point you in the right direction.

ATTAINABLE Your goal must be realistic enough that it can be relatively easy to achieve so that you don’t get overwhelmed and give up on it. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You need to go step by step and not bite off more than you can chew. To lose 50 lbs you first need to lose 20 lbs. To become a millionaire, you first must save $500,000. But do try to push yourself a little and make your goals a little ambitious.

RELEVANT Your goal has to mean something to you for it to matter. Choose a goal that means something to you and has significance for your life and for your larger, over-arching goals.

TIMELY We all work best within deadlines. Deadlines help you focus your efforts and give you something to work towards, in a reasonable but demanding time period.

My favourite motivational speaker and author is Darren Hardy. He uses the staircase analogy when talking about working toward your goals. In this analogy, your goal is like a staircase but trying to always look at the entire staircase in order complete a single step will cause you to trip and give up. To avoid discouragement, focus on each step at a time in your daily journey towards your goal.

In other words, if you’ve set large goals for yourself, looking at the big goal every morning will soon overwhelm you and cause you to give up. Using the previous example, you will need to lose 1 lb before you lose 20 so break your goal down into small, easier to attain goals. If you want to lose 20 lbs by February 28, which is 8 weeks away from January 1, break your overall big goal into smaller, weekly goals. Dividing 20 by 8 is 2.5 lbs per week. Draw yourself a chart or use a journal and write your progress down. That’s why a baseline is so important. Your baseline is your weight on January 1 and your goal is 20 lbs less than that. The baseline allows you to measure your progress more easily.

Another reason why the typical New Year’s resolution doesn’t work is because it is not organized enough. A resolution is more like a wish. Writing down your goals down and measuring and marking your progress gives you a roadmap to follow, focusing your attention on attaining the goals you have set for yourself. Make goal-setting a way of life. It doesn’t just have to be at the start of new year. Give yourself annual goals that can be broken down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. Writing them down and measuring your progress against them will greatly improve your chances of reaching them.

One of my goals in 2022 is to exercise more. I used to exercise more but in the past couple of years, I’ve let my physical fitness slide and I’ve gotten out of shape. One book I read a few years ago, called “The School of Greatness” by Lewis Howes, has a section in it that talked about designing your perfect day. I used to think and fantasize about that “one day,” when everything would be perfect, that I would design my schedule exactly to my whims and desires. That is self-defeating because it’s not very realistic. I’ve come to realize that I can design my perfect day within my current life and work circumstances. Instead of fanaticizing about the perfect “one day,” I can simply organize my day according to what I am trying to achieve in life. I’ve designed my perfect schedule for the first week of January because beyond that, who knows what will happen. I can control the controllable and focus my energy on the immediate future, within the constraints of my present circumstances. Once the first week is complete, then I can focus on the following week, and so on.

Something else that I can control towards the achievement of my goals are negative influences that prevent me from attaining them.

  • I can choose to limit my TV for no more than an hour a day total.
  •  I can choose to focus my energies on activities that bring me joy and fulfillment.
  • I can choose to avoid petty conflicts that have almost zero positive impact on my life.
  • I can choose to eat properly and avoid alcohol during the week.
  • I can choose to limit my consumption of social media.
  • I can choose to avoid the news and all the negativity that surrounds it, over which I have almost no control.
  • I can choose how I spend my time and what I read, watch, and listen to.
  • I can choose positivity over negativity and learn to control my thinking.
  • I can choose to be a better person and treat my wife, family, and friends as best as I can.

I’m not saying to forget about having resolutions. Trying to improve your life by controlling your outcomes through positive efforts is great. I’m just saying that by reframing your resolutions into goals instead of what might seem like mere wishes, will improve your chances of success. Success breeds success because it’s self-motivating and empowering.

Another aspect that will help you attain your goals is mindful gratitude for the good fortunes in your life. Focus on the good that you have accomplished in your life and all the wonderful things you have been able to accumulate. Focus on the people in your life that you love and be grateful for them. Good friends, a good family, and a good life partner are the best gifts anybody can have. Your life becomes what you think about so if you choose to focus on the positive parts of your life, your outlook on life will improve tremendously.

Here’s to your continuing success in the coming year. All the best and thanks for taking time to read my article.

2 responses to “Your New Year’s Resolutions Probably Won’t Work, unless….”

  1. Wonderful post.

  2. SMART goals are amazing, and I’ve just recently learned how vague my goals are. My resolution now is to turn all my vague resolutions into actionable and measurable tasks. And I’ll need to drop my ego and do the smallest steps even though they feel insignificant on their own. At least I’ll be taking steps in the right direction. Anyway, thanks for this post!

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