So we’re less than a month into the New Year and if you’re anything like me you’ve probably already failed to stick to your New Year’s resolutions. It’s almost gotten to the point that you enter into the New Year knowing that you’ll break your resolutions almost as fast as you made them. Which is stupid.
I’m not a sociologist, psychologist, or any other o’gist who would claim to be an expert on the subject, but I am a guy who has failed at keeping New Year’s resolutions quite a few times…so that should count for something. That said, I’ve also made a few significant changes in my life that I’ve successfully stuck with. So there’s that too.
Regardless, I think I’ve figured out the 2 things that most New Year’s resolutions lack that often render them a complete waste of time. Keep reading if you’re interested in hearing my take on the subject…and potentially turning your resolution success rate around.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
New Year’s resolutions are typically made about something that you find particularly difficult to tackle. Otherwise they wouldn’t be much of a resolution, now would they. However, instead of approaching them head-on with the weight and intention they deserve, we eek out milk-toasty resolutions like “get fit” or “quit smoking” or “spend more time with the family”.
It’s almost like we think that if we say something that sounds good, we get credit for it and something will miraculously happen. But then we leave our resolutions in the mushy, non-committal land of mediocrity where more time is spent talking about what shoulda-woulda-coulda been vs. actually doing what needs to happen to make something happen.
Simply put, I believe that most New Year’s resolutions fail because they are impotent and uninspired – lacking the teeth and the heart needed to ensure that you’ll successfully see them through to the end.
So the solution to this New Year’s resolution quandary that we often find ourselves in is obvious and two-fold:
- Give your resolution some teeth that provide you with the specificity and plan needed to pursue something, as well as the consequences if you don’t.
- Connect your resolution to the heart behind why it is important. In other words, articulate and own what’s at stake if you don’t make a change.
How to Gain Greater New Year’s Resolution Success
For me connecting your resolution to what’s at stake (i.e., the heart) is the most powerful thing you can do to improve your New Year’s resolutions stats. However, giving your resolutions some teeth is more straightforward. So I’ll start there.
Give Your New Year’s Resolutions Some Teeth
One of the primary reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is because at the end of the day they don’t really mean anything…they have no teeth. Sure…the statement “get fit” makes sense, but it doesn’t say anything specific enough for you or others to understand what you really mean by it. This leaves the door to failure wide open to walk right on through.
So instead of leaving your resolution in the lofty “get fit” stratosphere where it’s more of a suggestion left up to interpretation, bring it down to reality. Actually say something that you and others can implicitly understand and hold you accountable to.
The best way to do this is to state your resolution in terms of a goal that you plan to accomplish vs. something that you’ve kinda sorta resolved yourself to possibly do someday, somehow. Maybe. Meh!
So for instance, instead of saying “get fit” say something like… “Lose 20 pounds by April.” This is an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal – it’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you want to learn more about S.M.A.R.T. goals, take a look at this post I found that you might find helpful.
And then, to really set yourself up for the potential of greater success, follow up that S.M.A.R.T. goal with even sharper teeth by doing the following:
- Come up with a plan of attack to get there…and remember, be specific.
- In this plan you should establish intermediate goals along the way that will help you get to your ultimate goal. If you only focus on the ultimate “lose 20 pounds” goal you might get overwhelmed and more likely quit vs. focusing on several intermediate “lose 5 pounds” goals that you can successfully achieve along the way.
- Establish appropriate consequences if you don’t stick to your plan. And conversely…if you do stick to your plan, reward yourself in a way that isn’t counter to your goal.
- Share your goal with someone who truly cares and will motivate you in a way that works for you. For instance, if you respond well to a good’ole butt-kicking, share it with a natural butt-kicker…who loves you. If not, don’t…otherwise, you might go back into hiding.
So if you give your New Year’s resolutions some teeth I think that you’ll more likely find yourself proudly looking back at your efforts vs. sadly shrugging your shoulders in defeat…like you have so often in the past.
Connect Your New Year’s Resolution to the Heart behind Why It’s Important
I think giving your New Year’s resolutions some teeth is incredibly helpful…especially for those of you who are more disciplined and task-oriented than I am. However, personally what I’ve found to be most powerful is connecting my resolutions to the heart behind why it’s important in the first place. Put another way, what’s at stake if I don’t do something about whatever it is I’m resolving to do?
Probably the best way to drive this point home is to get a little personal. So sticking with the “get fit” example…
About 6 ½ years and 35 pounds ago I was a pink, fleshy blob lacking any energy or motivation to do anything. Although I had once exercised regularly, after I got married I stopped. Not certain why, I just did.
On my way home from work I would often try to figure out what I could do with my 2 young daughters that would allow me to plop myself down in the middle of the yard where they could just run around me. Picturing Jabba the Hutt wouldn’t be too far off.
It was sad. For years I knew something needed to change, but it hadn’t…I hadn’t. However, once I connected the dots to the heart behind it all, my girls…real, healthy, and sustainable change took place.
So here’s what I realized was at stake if I didn’t make the changes necessary to living a healthier life:
- I very likely wouldn’t be around as long for my girls…i.e., I’d croak sooner…leaving Britt, my girls, and their families (if I made it that long) to live their lives without me.
- For the years that I was alive…I’d be a bland, uninspired, tired version of myself…giving my girls less of a daddy to enjoy, less to be proud of, and less to aspire to. In other words, I’d be giving them a “less-than” childhood and a model for aiming lower in life. Awesome!
- Britt’s side of the family doesn’t struggle with their weight. But mine does…and since my girls were really young at the time, I had no idea if they would or not. Regardless, my slothful ways weren’t showing them how to approach diet and exercise in a healthy, everyday way. That wasn’t loving, fair, or helpful to them.
There are other heart connections, but you get the picture. (However, if you want to read more about how and why I turned things around, check out the post I did a few years back – Redeem Your Own Self…Live a Healthier Lifestyle.)
Fortunately, I can honestly, proudly, and happily say that my girls now do see the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Which I hope will set them up to live healthier and more engaged lives. And…and…odds are they’ll get to enjoy a “better-than” me for many more years. We all win!
And none of this would have happened if I had simply resolved myself to “get fit” again…like I had so many years before.
So if you, like me, have suffered from failing to stick to your New Year’s resolutions more times than you care to remember…try giving them some teeth and connecting them to the heart of what’s at stake. I think you and those in your life will be glad that you did.
And just because it’s not January 1st, don’t wait until next year to establish a resolution that has a chance of success. Do it now…there’s no time like the present!
Take care friends,