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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

More by this author

Steve Errey

Steve is a confidence coach who helps leaders build confidence.

How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence New Years Resolutions Don’t Work – Here’s Why 7 Ways to Stop Being Treated Like a Doormat I Like You a Lot How To Muster Your Confidence And Tell Someone You Like Them Stuck in Rewind. 7 Beliefs That Will Help When You Get Stuck

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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