The Failure of New Year’s Resolutions
The Failure of New Year’s Resolutions
They say that the path to change is to accept that you have a problem, to acknowledge the issue and then make a change in yourself so you don’t continue to propagate poor behaviour. Countless programs are based on this premise of rising up to say your problem before you can tackle it like an enemy of the state.
While that works for some, I say it can’t work for our annual tradition of resolving ourselves to make great changes and then abandoning those plans by Valentine’s Day. Telling someone a lie is bad, but believing that lie yourself is worse. When it comes to resolutions, just 8% of people achieve their goals. In fact, 25% of resolutions don’t even make it through the first week.
Let’s look at a couple of the most used resolutions. Losing weight and spending less money.
Whoever came up with the idea for New Year’s resolution must have been a genius working for a marketing firm contracted out to the big retailers. Making a resolution during the festive season is like an alcoholic promising not to drink any more while their sitting in the bar at happy hour.
On the one hand, during the holidays you’re surrounded by food. You’ve got your turkey and stuffing, you’re mother’s apple, raspberry, and lemon pies, and don’t forget the chocolate oranges. There is so much food that every single person says, oh it’s the holidays I’ll get back to normal next week. It’s a time of celebration. We’ll set a goal next week when we do our resolutions.
On the other hand, Christmas has just passed and if you’re like the other 99 percent of the population, you’ve spent more than you should have on gifts for the kids. Then as the season wanes, the stores bring out boxing day specials that seem to last two weeks if not more; beds, sofas, stoves, movies, games, crayons … Everything must go, partially because the stores don’t want to count their inventory, partially because everyone else is doing it so they have to too. Gotta keep the momentum and bring in those customers. Then of course, the sales stop and you’re in the dead of winter. You get your Christmas bill and realize there’s nothing left to do for the next four months except watch the snow fall or get some retail therapy. I can hear the cash registers rolling.
No, the festive season isn’t the best time to make a resolution. You’re doomed to fail even before you start. And then of course if you’ve promised to reduce your spending, it defeats the point by buying a book on keeping your resolve and following through with resolutions.
Let’s be honest, look at the reasons why we make these resolutions. Eating too much is unhealthy, buying too much is bad for the bank account, smoking too much, drinking too much, watching too much TV… You get the point. We make resolutions to stop habits we’ve built over the years and likely celebrated over the holidays. Break the cycle. Forget resolutions on New Year’s Day. Trust me, they won’t work. Take the time between now and Valentine’s Day and make a plan. Observe your habits and write down what you don’t like and then on the day you’ve written down in your plan, change. Don’t change because someone put you on the spot and asked what your New Year’s resolution was. Make the resolution make sense. Resolving yourself to find love isn’t something you can put on a timeline.
Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Do it when you’re ready and willing to make a change. And then choose a sustainable plan that you can look at periodically to gauge your progress. Set incremental goals that you can achieve and feel good about. Don’t set one goal that’s so far off the you may as well be promising to visit the moon.
Oh, one more thing. The greatest leaders use plans. Plans have a greater chance of success and sustainability. Take what you learn for your small goals and turn it into a movement. You’ll thank me for it.