Why New Year’s Resolutions Rarely Work

The way I see it…

It’s that time of year again… the struggling gyms are ready and waiting for their version of Black Friday. The diet Gurus are launching their ‘ALL NEW’ diet books and online weight-loss programs in hopes of going viral as the next mega-fad diet. Everyone else is trying to find a new way to capitalize, not necessarily on the New Year, but on the coming onslaught of New Year’s resolutions.

Of course, by February the gyms will inevitably be empty again (though they will keep collecting the fees for another couple of months while folks are in denial about their failed resolutions) and pizza places and ice cream shops will begin picking up the pace again as people jump willingly off the trend wagon they put themselves upon on January first.

I get it. I really do. The new year can be a fresh start and a new beginning. A new decade makes that mindset even more appealing and I expect even more resolutions than normal will be made.

But why do such a large proportion of them fail?

The way I see it… the vast majority of resolutions fail simply because we choose the wrong resolutions to begin with, and we do them wrong.

How can a resolution be wrong, you ask?

For resolutions to stick, they should be things you are passionate about and help you grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. They should be moving you toward fulfilling your dreams and improving your life. Passion makes all the difference in the level of stick-to-itiveness. We tend to fool ourselves into believing that we can be passionate about something by the way we phrase it, but the reality is harder to face. Need an example? Say you resolve to join the gym and get into shape. It’s a good goal, being healthier is a good thing. But are you really passionate about going to the gym, or just tired of being fat? Being tired of something rarely leads to the kind of life-changing commitment that it takes to follow through. Diets have the same problem, instead of moving toward something bigger, they tend to be about taking things away (i.e. 2000 cal Starbucks drinks, pizza, ice cream, etc.).

If you were really passionate about going to the gym, you wouldn’t wait until January first to start.

We also tend to do New Year’s resolutions wrong. In fact, this is the biggest point of failure for them. Their very structure sets you up for failure. They tend to be vague and have one glaring flaw that I will get to in a moment.

New Year’s resolutions tend to start like this, “In January I will sign up for a gym and go at least three times a week…” or “Starting January 1st I will do… whatever”. You see, they are fundamentally flawed because the human brain views these as open-ended, vague, unspecific resolutions. Why? Because goals need to be specific, trackable, and most importantly, HAVE A DEADLINE.

New Year’s resolutions tend to have starting times, launch dates, but rarely have finite goals of progress over a measurable timespan. In every other facet of life, we have deadlines that keep us on track. In the business world, it is quarterly earnings. For authors, we have word counts and book launch dates. For many, Christmas is a deadline. If you are doing the shopping, and the cooking, and the decorating, and having the family over for the celebration that is a deadline. That date approaching is what gives you the drive to keep going and get everything done so that when the guests arrive, everything is ready. It doesn’t matter whether you started in July, or November, or December 15th. All that matters is that you get done before Christmas. The deadline drives the success, the start date is largely irrelevant.

So good luck with your resolutions this year, but chase your passions and set a deadline to fulfill it.

P.S. you can do this any time of year, not just in January.

Happy New Year, and welcome to the Roaring 20s.

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