4 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Are Overrated (& What to Do Instead)
- By: Angela Horn
New year’s resolutions don’t work. If you want to achieve your goals in the 2019 you need to learn how to create habits that stick. It’s easier than you think.
Research has shown that New Year’s resolutions have an 80 percent failure rate, yet year on year we keep coming back for more. I know I certainly have.
From running a marathon and blogging consistently to earning more money and quitting coffee, my goals over the years have been nothing if not lofty. (I mean, quit coffee? Seriously?)
Let’s unpack why New Year’s resolutions don’t work, and then we’ll look at what we can do instead to get the results we want.
1. THEY MAKE YOU FOCUS ON THE WRONG THING.
Humans are all about results, they’re what drive us to aim higher and go further. When you finish your first 5k you immediately set your sights on running ten.
But if you’ve never run a mile in your life, resolving to run a marathon in 2019 is a big ask. As Seth Godin points out, “If you set your bar at ‘amazing,’ it’s awfully difficult to start.”
The reason it’s difficult to start is that your eyes are on the prize, which in this case is 26 miles and a whole lot of training in the future. You’re focusing on the outcome instead of paying attention to the process.
2. THEY SET YOU UP FOR DISAPPOINTMENT.
When you don’t achieve your goal you immediately beat yourself up. You berate yourself for being a failure or a quitter. You wonder what’s wrong with you.
You don’t take the time to consider why you never achieved your goal, you just bemoan the fact that you didn’t. Now, on top of not fulfilling your dream of running a marathon, you’re also disappointed in yourself.
3. THEY MESS WITH YOUR SELF-ESTEEM.
When you repeatedly fail to do the things you set out to do, your self-esteem is going to suffer. We thrive on our successes. Each win, however small, builds our self-confidence. The opposite is also true. When you fail repeatedly, you’ll eventually start to believe you’re not good enough.
4. THEY INSPIRE POOR TIME MANAGEMENT.
When you make New Year’s resolutions there’s an unspoken assumption that you have 365 days to make good on them. On January first the end of the year can seem like a lifetime away.
This apparent lack of urgency inspires you to breeze through the first few weeks of the year. You reason that you’ll ease into things slowly. Before you know it, it’s March and you haven’t even laced up your new shoes, much less gone for a run.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF MAKE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
Instead of setting big goals, aim to get one percent better everyday. It sounds pathetic, I know. What’s one percent in the greater scheme of things?
Humans love the big wins. They’re inspiring, and, if we’re honest, they’re a little bit sexy, too. But as James Clear—author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits— points out, it’s the small daily habits and choices that transform us.
He ran the math on what that looks like. If you get one percent better every day for a year, you’ll end up 37 times better. Get one percent worse, and you’ll find yourself at zero.
Clear also reminds us that consistency is more important than perfection. You’re going to fall short occasionally, so be ready to accept it. Just dust yourself off and get back in the game. Don’t use the misstep as an excuse to go crazy. You know what I mean. You figure you blew your diet anyway, so why not make a meal of it?
Create an Implementation Plan
Have you ever thought the reason for not achieving your goals was a lack of motivation? Me, too, but it turns out motivation isn’t what we need to get where we want to be. What we need, and science has proven this, is an implementation plan.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to get in shape. Saying “I’m going to exercise more,” isn’t going to cut it. At best, it’s an intention, something you aspire to.
However, if you map out your new workout regime for the next week, you’ve created a plan to implement your goal to exercise more. Clear says the simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
He offers examples for how this looks in action:
- I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
- I will study Spanish for twenty minutes at 6 p.m. in my bedroom.
- I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym.
- I will make my partner a cup of tea at 8 a.m. in the kitchen. [Source: JamesClear.com]
Even with this new way of looking at the year ahead and everything you hope to achieve, there will still be days (many of them, probably) when life happens, and all you want to do is collapse on the couch and zone out on Netflix and M&Ms.
That’s when you need to dig deep and go to the gym anyway. You can’t imagine it in the moment, but doing what you said you would do is going to make you feel way better than the alternative. Even if it’s not the best workout, showing up is what matters.
Remember: it’s the small choices that transform you into the superhero you aspire to be.