Why Resolutions Fail
Ever heard of The Focus Workshop? If you were lucky (and lived in central Indiana in 2007) then you could have been one of the 100-plus attendees at my initial goal-setting program: The Focus Workshop.
It was a roughly four-hour event that covered (in excruciating detail) a process for setting long-term, one-year and quarterly goals. In addition, I also provided systems for managing weekly objectives and developing habits. Each participant walked out with a binder packed with insight to help make them better, both personally and professionally. The plan was set. All they had to do was execute.
Over the next year, I spoke to many of the attendees and learned something interesting and a little depressing: No one looked at their binder more than a couple of times. It had so many rules, guidelines and templates that it felt overwhelming. Instead of making massive progress toward life-changing goals, they got right back into their old routines.
The Promise Of A New Year And A New You
The concept of creating a New Year’s “resolution” may have started as far back as the 1600’s. Since then, we’ve become obsessed with the concept that January 1 represents the perfect opportunity to get rid of all our crappy habits, flip a New Year’s resolution switch and strive for perfection.
This perfection we’re all hoping to achieve is typically characterized by a handful of improvements:
- Eat healthier.
- Exercise more.
- Lose weight.
- Live more economically.
- Spend more time with family.
We all know what happens next. You’re super fired up to introduce the world to the new “you,” which typically results in a gym membership (maybe even a trainer), Dri-Fit workout gear and a $500 Vitamix to blend your daily green smoothie.
By the middle of February, you’ve fired your personal trainer and lost your gym card, and you can’t believe you paid $500 to make three disgusting energy drinks (in your defense, the Vitamix is hard to clean). The worst outcome of this entire exercise is that you now feel like a failure. You convince yourself that this is just another example of your not having the discipline to follow through. Dejected, you hang on to a very small glimmer of hope that next year things will be different.
Try A Different Approach
As you’ve certainly heard hundreds of times, there’s a famous quote defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Maybe this year, we should try something new.
You are enough.
The main problem with the New Year’s resolution is that it’s built on a foundation of guilt. You start with the premise that you’re flawed in some way and conclude that the only way to feel better is to make a significant change in behavior.
This flawed approach leads you to wake up on January 1, look yourself in the mirror and (essentially) proclaim, “The person I am right now isn’t good enough! I must change to be like everyone else!”
Please stop this insanity. This year, when all of your peers are obsessing over what they need to improve, do this:
Take out a piece of paper or create an electronic document, and start two lists.
List 1: Characteristic
Here, list every positive trait that defines who you are today. Don’t overthink this exercise; it isn’t a competition. Simply brainstorm everything that comes to your mind, even if it seems mundane (e.g., “I’m punctual”).
List 2: Accomplishments
This list should contain every accomplishment from 2019. Remember, it doesn’t have to be amazing (e.g., “I finished my first Ironman”). Start with something simple. This year, I wrote down, “I helped my son buy his first car.”
When everyone else feels stressed and worried about fixing their inadequacies, you will start the new year with a surge of confidence and momentum. And guess what happens when you feel confidence and momentum?
You’re more likely to make positive changes in your behavior and achieve breakthrough goals.
This content was originally posted in Forbes, January 2020. Read the full article.