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New Years Resolutions Don’t Work – Here’s Why

New Years Resolutions Don’t Work – Here’s Why

I just Googled ‘New Years Resolutions’ – guess how many results turned up?

Over 24 million.

I’m not particularly surprised. Coaches and lifestyle guru’s right around the world are espousing the need to make ‘realistic’ resolutions and offering all kinds of ways to stay on track with them.

Not me.

Let’s face it — it’s pretty pointless waiting all year to decide on one or two things that you kinda, sorta want to stop doing, but that you know full well you’re not really committed to following through with anyway.

How crazy is that?

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Resolutions don’t work for 4 reasons.

1. They’re all about what you think you should do.

Stop smoking?  Start exercising?  Eat healthily? More work/life balance?

These all sound good on the surface, but typically a resolution is based on what you think you should be doing, rather than what you really want to be doing.

Too often, resolutions are decided upon by looking at other peoples expectations or by reading a magazine that tells you how to ‘get fit by summer’.

Nonsense – forget about what you or other people think you ought to be doing and look at what you really want.

2. Resolutions are like goals.

Some resolutions are like goals in that they’re about getting more of something.  The trouble is that goals – which have been pushed down our necks by the self-help industry for at least the last 20 years – rarely work.

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The problem is that as soon as you set yourself a goal you’re saying to yourself that you want more in your life than you have right now. The very nature of goals make you look forwards at what’s next, never at what you’ve got right now.

Goals have the tendency to make you feel less-than, because there’s something you don’t have now that you aspire to have in the future.  Goals introduce a gap between where you are and where you’d like to be, which instantly makes part of where you are right now a place you don’t want to be – and this is how the very nature of having goals can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem

Most people tend to think they need to set themselves goals and objectives to see things happen, but that’s missing the point. Show me a goal-hungry person and I’ll show you someone who’s always wanting something better to come along, someone who’s convinced – albeit perhaps not consciously – that reaching their goals will lead to their happiness. Even if that person reaches a goal it’s all too likely that it lacks meaning and personal relevance, and so the hunt for meaning, relevance and happiness goes on.

Once you reach a goal, what’s next? Gotta have another goal. Then another, then another. When do you get to stop and just enjoy life right where you are?

The real gold and real value is in the experience, NOT in the end result.

3. There’s no motivation or commitment.

Over a third of resolutions don’t make it past January and over three quarters are abandoned soon after. The reason?

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No commitment.

The problem is that you’re taking something that doesn’t mean anything to you and trying to make it happen.  Resolutions lack a foundation of meaning and personal relevance that makes sure they run out of steam.

Sure, you might get an initial burst of motivation that gets you started, but that never lasts. Motivation is like the big rocket boosters on the space shuttle – it gives you an initial spurt of energy to get up and get moving, but it’s just not sustainable.

What you need is something more fundamental, more central and more important to you. What you need is something that comes from the inside, something that’s based on what’s important and what matters to you.

That’s the only way to get behind it, have confidence in it and keep the motivation and commitment going.

4. The timing’s all wrong.

Not only are you coming off the back of the holidays and getting back to the harsh realities of the world, but you see the whole of the year stretching ahead of you and summer’s a whole 6 months away.

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It’s not exactly an inspiring picture, is it?

And what kind of person waits all year to make a choice about something anyway?  Why wait for one particular day to make a decision, when there are 364 other equally great decision-making days available to you?

So forget about making New Years Resolutions.

Living a full life isn’t about making some woolly, half-hearted decisions that don’t really mean anything. That’s not what truly confident people do.

Instead, make confident choices based on what really matters to you, and jump in with both feet.

Featured photo credit: Josh Boot via unsplash.com

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Steve Errey

Steve is a confidence coach who helps leaders build confidence.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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