Every year, we see articles from experts claiming that the vast majority of people who make New Year’s Resolutions will abandon them, usually in the first few weeks.
And they’re right.
You may be tempted to say, “So resolutions are a waste of time.” But let’s take a closer look. Most resolutions fail because they make one of these four simple, easily correctable mistakes:
1. They aren’t measurable. I think this is the single biggest reason our hopes go down in fire. Many people resolve something like “I want to stress less over the little things.” That’s a great idea, but it’s still just an idea, not a goal. There’s no way to tell, at the end of a day, whether you’ve done it or not. You need something specific, something where you know exactly what to do, and whether you’ve done it: something like “Every day for ten minutes, I will listen to Calm Pacific Ocean Sounds With Bonus Humpback Whale Track™,” or whatever.
2. You don’t write them down. This seems trivial, but it’s not. The written word is transformative, giving your thoughts structure, clarity, and power. Take two minutes to write down, on paper, by hand, exactly what you’re planning to do, and then sign and date it at the bottom, like a contract. I think you will be amazed at what a difference this makes.
3. They’re based on outcomes, not actions. The biggest resolution in America is always, “I want to lose weight.” Unfortunately, that tells you nothing about what action you’ll take to get there. Instead, you need something like “I will burn calories by spending 30 minutes a day chasing whippersnappers off my lawn,” or whatever.
4. They’re too ambitious. When you have a new idea, it’s easy to get fired up and launch a one-person crusade against the twin demons of laziness and apathy. But remember that you won’t always feel fired up. You’ll get tired, you’ll get busy, you’ll get angry, you’ll want to blow it off. Your friend will be in the hospital, your left big toe will get some kind of weird boil thing on it, you’ll start pursuing your heretofore unrevealed passion for high-altitude macramé. Regardless: start small, with something that feels a little bit easy. You can always build on it later. And consider committing to just a month at first, rather than a whole year. It’s less intimidating, and you can always extend it later.
There, now I’ve solved all your problems in life. Aren’t I helpful?