Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?
Yes, it’s January and it’s that time of year when many people begin the process of pursuing their New Year’s resolutions. This annual commitment to radically reinvent our lives is probably the biggest setup for failure we could ever perpetuate, and for some reason we keep making these promises year after year, and turning them into unfulfilled promises.
You may have heard the playful way of defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Gallup did a study on New Year’s resolutions and learned that about 180 million Americans make them. Sadly enough, by Valentine’s Day, just over 80% of them have gone by the wayside. Oh well, chances are great these promises will be reincarnated the following December 31st.
From my perspective, I think pursuing a practice with an 80% failure rate is a good pursuit to take a pass on.
The reason for this high failure rate is in our DNA. Simply stated, human beings are designed for consistency and sameness rather than radical change. Most of our days are committed to patterns and routines, and those patterns and routines help us get through the day and sustain our lives. The benefits that patterns and routines provide come with the price tag of being difficult to change or break without serious thought and intention.
If you doubt this, move the garbage can in your home or office to a different spot and then count how many times you go to the old spot to throw something in the trash.
I’ve come up with a solution to this problem. Yes, I have found a New Year’s Resolution Solution!
It’s very simple, just like most Quarter Turns. Instead of a New Year’s resolution that requires one massive shift in your behavior, create a series of small, incremental shifts that will ultimately get you to your larger goal. That’s right – create a New Year’s Plan!
Here’s an example:
Many of you are probably thinking about a getting yourself back into shape – eating healthy and / or exercising. It’s probably the most common New Year’s resolution. I’ll also venture to say that you are over-estimating how rigorous and often you’ll be able to practice your new workout or diet program.
Think about it, if you are currently exercising zero times a month, and starting January 1 you make a commitment to workout four to five times a week, how long do you really think you’ll stick with it?
A week? Maybe a month?
Ultimately, that is too big of a jump, and more often than not, you fail. Then, as a bonus for this over-commitment, you get to beat yourself up and feel badly about your miserable failure.
What if, instead of a giant commitment, you start with committing to a brisk walk two times a week? Maybe you give yourself an edge by having a loved one, friend, or pet go along?
What are the odds you’ll stick with that plan? Are they better or worse?
Look, I get it. A brisk walk twice a week will not cause you to shed 20 pounds and give you those washboard abs you had back in the day.
It will get you started at a sustainable pace and move you towards getting healthier.
If (when) you succeed at this commitment through the end of January, maybe you add an additional day of walking, or starting a light jog. If (when) you make it through another month, you can consider adding some light strength training.
After a month of that, you have some real traction and progress. So, take some more steps on your path to success. Maybe you meet with a fitness trainer or purchase a DVD from one of your favorite fitness gurus.
The key here is to start small, have a plan, and keep adding incremental changes and modifications until you create a new habit.
You can use the same strategy with other things you want to create in your life. Organizing your office or home. Learning to play an instrument. Paying off debt. Taking a cooking class. Starting a blog. Learning a new skill in the workplace.
Insert whatever you want into this formula and create the plan.
Start small, with things that you know you can commit to and achieve to build the habit.
An added bonus is that because you make a commitment you can actually keep, you get to feel good about what you accomplish. You prove to yourself that you can create new habits that are in line with the person you want to become, rather than clinging to the habits of the person you already are.
Does that sound like a formula for real and sustainable change?
Some objectives to consider this week if you choose to:
- Decide what new habits you want to create in your New Year’s Plan.
- Create a calendar for the next 12 months, with timelines for incremental shifts that add to or modify your commitment based on what works for you.
- Decide on some measuring tools and milestones to track your progress.
- Treat yourself well even if you miss a few beats. Continue to adjust your plan to something that works for you.
- Make sure you celebrate your success when you get there, and along the way!
Ditch the New Year’s resolutions forever, and start making meaningful, intentional changes in your life today!
That’s the New Year’s Resolution Solution.
Thoughts for the Week:
Although no one can go back and make brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. -Carl Bard
Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end. -Seneca
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase just take the first step. -Martin Luther King
Not all of us have to possess earthshaking talent…Just common sense and a great attitude will do.” – Myrtle Anuvil
Over every mountain there is a path…although it may not be seen from the valley. -James D. Rogers
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything…They just make the best of everything. – Unknown
When you come to a fork in the road…take it. -Yogi Berra