Why New Years Resolutions Are A Bad Idea
I’ve made New Years resolutions in the past.
Some have worked. Others have fallen by the wayside. It seems that’s how things go for a lot of people with annual resolutions.
This year I’ve been thinking a little about resolutions. There is a positive outlook at each New Year and what it means to kind of get a fresh start on life.
And it’s good to think about ways you can improve yourself, your company and those around. It’s good to look for motivation and a way to better yourself.
But now I’ve been thinking about resolutions in the context that maybe it’s not the best form of motivation.
The Fate Of Resolutions
Setting a resolution is risky business and probably a bad idea.
An example that happens every year in every gym across the world are people looking to lose weight. Somewhere in the last 50 years working out became the way to lose weight.
So every January and February people show up to the gym that they haven’t set foot in since last February. They step on the treadmill and churn out some miles.
That goes on for a month or so and then people start falling off and it becomes okay to quit.
Hey, at least they gave it a try.
We don’t often hear about successful resolutions. We don’t think back every December and recap how we did on our resolutions. Instead, people are already thinking ahead and focusing on what they’re going to do in the New Year.
So our view of resolutions are warped. It’s become accepted, in a way, that resolutions aren’t supposed to work.
Dreams vs. Plans
I follow Hank Haney on Twitter. He’s one of about 15 people I follow. He has great advice about golf and much of that advice carries over into other parts of life like this quote:
A goal w out a plan is nothing but a dream. Make a plan to improve and work ur plan one step at a time.
— Hank Haney (@HankHaney) November 5, 2014
I love that and I’ve repeated it with myself and with others when asked.
It sets up well for New Years resolutions.
It makes us feel good to set a resolution. We tell people about the great thing we’re going to do and we get started. But we often get started without a real plan. We lumber into the gym and jog a few miles every day.
But we don’t set a specific plan.
As a result, our resolution is simply a dream. Nice, but it doesn’t change anything.
Create A Plan You Control
The resolution we’ve been talking about is usually “I want to lose weight”. Maybe it’s “I want to lose 20 pounds”.
In a way, that’s not really in our control. There are multiple factors that go into losing weight.
A plan needs more specifics and it really needs to be something you can control.
Here is a good plan in this situation.
Improve Overall Health
- Walk 4 times every week
- Eat fewer than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day
- Meditate for 10 minutes 3x per week for 3 months
- Meditate for 10 minutes 5x per week for 3 months
- Meditate for 20 minutes 5x per week ongoing
That’s a plan. It’s within a person’s control. And something to keep in mind with plans is that you don’t burn yourself out. It’s ambitious to get into the gym in January and start burning up the treadmill with miles, but if you go too far you get burned out and you’re more likely to quit.
The Right Kind Of Motivation
As a final point on resolutions let’s touch on motivation.
The motivation to make a change in life needs to come from within. There have been studies done on motivation and a major part of its effectiveness is when people feel that they are in control, that they made the decision.
We often tell people our resolutions. That’s a first step in the wrong direction. I get why we do it. We’re looking for a little added boost and a reason to commit.
But looking for external motivation to accomplish something often doesn’t work at all and if it does it really only works in the short-term. External motivation eventually wears away and you’re left looking inside. And if the motivation isn’t inside you then you’re screwed.
When looking ahead to the New Year, look at what you want to accomplish. Goals are great. But make sure the goal or goals you have set are within your control. Make sure that you have an internal drive and an internal focus to achieve the goals. You’re doing it for your own reasons. It doesn’t matter if others know what you’re doing or even if they know once you accomplish the goal. It’s about you.
And create a plan. Make it a step-by-step plan with a long-term focus.
From there all you have to do is take the first step and then keep stepping forward. That’s what it takes to improve.
Resolutions are bad.
Plans and internal motivation are good.