Resolutions Won’t Help You Succeed (But This Will)
One week of the 2021 has come and gone already and I’m guessing most people who are reading this have given up on their resolutions. That or they’re seriously contemplating on dropping them all together.
I understand what you are going through. There’s been a lot of things going on. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic with a vaccine being issued to the public in Spring. There is also political turmoil in America. Or maybe you’ve been down this road time and time again and you feel like nothing is changing.
I’ve been there before.
I too used to set resolutions for myself and pump myself up every day telling myself:
“This year is going to be your year. You’re going to work out, build a business, make some money, and kick ass!”
Well I can say that all started kicking off pretty well last year. The several years before that? That’s a whole other story.
You see, resolutions simply won’t work for you. It’s gotten to the point now where people are tired and sick of the word. I mentioned it to my personal trainer and he was like “Nah, I hate resolutions.”
If my personal trainer — a man who is paid to get people to set health goals and to train people — is sick of them, I’m betting others are too.
The idea of setting resolutions and committing to them sucks. So for those who are in that similar position, allow me to show you precisely why this system doesn’t work and how you can succeed.
Resolutions Have Low Success Rates Due To Too High Expectations
For years now, you’ve probably been setting resolutions for yourself. Whether it was lying to yourself or to bring it up around family and friends around New Years day, you scramble to find something to save yourself the emotional pain.
The emotional pain that you honestly do nothing with your life beyond the usual routine that you’ve subjected yourself to.
It’s a depressing cycle for sure, but you’re not alone in this cycle. According to the University of Scranton Psychology, it’s estimated that about 8% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved.
That’s not a good track record. Especially when a large portion of people are still invested in these things. But the results speak for themselves when you look at the actual science behind goal setting and success.
When people think of resolutions, they immediately spring to things like:
- Quitting smoking immediately.
- Getting more exercise.
- Eating healthier foods.
- Surfing the internet less.
While these feel like good resolutions, they’re not the types of things you want to be telling yourself to succeed in those areas. Yes, quitting smoking, eating healthier and exercising are good, but these things take time to process.
Many smokers I’ve talked to have told me they tried to quit multiple times. They’ve tried so many options and all of them failed.
I’ve been trying to lose weight and be an active individual ever since my mid 20s. It’s only been this past year that I’ve made that a reality.
I found that one of the reasons people relapsed in these is that they’re placing too much pressure on themselves. The expectation that you have to succeed in this can easily overwhelm someone and so they relapse.
And while we think the list mentioned above isn’t that bad, it only starts to get bad when you think more about the steps necessary to achieve those goals. That is what overwhelms people.
Example: Network Marketing
A good example that I use all the time is network marketing. One of the strategies to get people into this industry to hype up “the dream”. They’ll sell you on high earnings, a flashy car, and amazing products. It’s convincing and very persuasive.
But they also make it sound easy. They make you think everyone wants this stuff and loves it and as soon as you tell them about it, they’re sold on it.
The reality is that isn’t how sales work. People will be reluctant to the idea. Others have been burned by network marketing companies posing as pyramid schemes and won’t want to deal with you. Others will look at the price and say “I’m not going to spend that much money on this.”
Getting to the level where you get a fancy car and make lots of money will take a year or so to get there. In many cases longer.
What happens once you realize this, you admit to yourself you made a big mistake. You shutdown and stop selling. Next thing you know, you’re quitting the business and sitting in the same position you were before.
This example is similar to goals where the car, money, and “easy sales” are your resolutions. They feel good and get you hyped up until you realize you need to work to get there. Once that sinks in, the pressure to achieve is tougher on you amongst a whole host of other issues that push you to give up.
Resolutions Lack Intentions
Don’t set resolutions, set intentions.
The reason for that is simple: resolutions lack any kind of intentions at all.
Think about the environment in which you are setting your resolutions for a moment. It’s a fresh new year and many people are in the mindset of “new year, new me.” And so in light of this, they think it’s exciting and somehow revolutionary for them to be setting resolutions.
You’re high off dopamine and at the point it takes little convincing for your brain to offer a suggestion and you’ll take it. After all, your brain convinced you to stay up past midnight the night before. So why not set some goals at the turn of a new year?
The problem is that there isn’t any intention behind it. A lot of the thoughts people have on resolutions are things that make them feel good. That or it’s something to say in conversations so you don’t feel bad.
That sort of attitude isn’t going to motivate you to try and achieve those resolutions. It’d be a first for people to achieve a goal they want under the premise of “I don’t want my friends/family to think I’ve done nothing with my life.”
When it comes to actual goals, you’ll work towards them because you want to achieve them.
Intentions really matter as it sets the tonne for how you go about achieving the goal. It also determines how you’ll approach problems and how you’ll react to anything along the path towards that goal.
An example of why intentions really matter is the example of me losing weight.
I’ve had a weight problem ever since I was 12 but didn’t set any resolutions at the time. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that I did during my teenage years. Based on my own mental state at the time, my reason for weight loss would probably be more bent on getting girls to like me or that I had something to work towards so my parents wouldn’t think I’m wasting my teenage youth.
Of course these are terrible reasons, and may be typical for a teenager. However, adults leaps of logic for setting goals can be just as outlandish as that. To know the difference, you merely have to achieve those goals.
When I went to lose weight for the first time, I dropped 21 pounds in a 6 week period.
The reason I was able to push myself was because for the past decade, I’ve been unhappy with my body. The reason I workout now is because I’m getting older and that means dealing with problems my dad is dealing with: heart problems.
The heart conditions on my dad’s side of the family stems from being overweight and not exercising much or smoking.
My reasoning for working out is more refined. It has more intention. It’s a stark comparison to wanting to workout so I can impress women.
In order for you to be making resolutions more successful, it must stem from your intentions with that goal. Specifically, it’ll help you to answer the question “Why?”
Why do you want to achieve this goal in the first place?
Starting with why you wish to achieve something allows you to be more invested in something. If it’s a goal that you believe in, you’ll say it because you want to tell people about it. Not use it as some excuse to get people to think you’ll be doing stuff this year.
Resolutions Are An End Point
I associate resolutions with the final results of a goal. The end results of a goal is a big deal. But as I mentioned in the first point, there is a lot of work involved to get to the end result.
When you are setting a resolution, you are essentially setting the end marker. But between you and that marker is a whole lot of other stuff. Obstacles, people that’ll support you along the way, challenges, and growth.
All of these things are to be cherished as these are what make your goals special to you. While people will be making the same end points or goals as you, every person out there isn’t going to have the exact same set of circumstances, or decisions that you’ll be making.
The idea here is that you enjoy the journey and that you notice other behaviours along the way. And those behaviours could also influence other aspects of your life.
Furthermore, even if you do fail or struggle to overcome challenges, that doesn’t mean the journey up to this point is a waste. There will always be something to be gained from starting something. It’s why I think the act of starting is a powerful thing rather than just saying you’ll do something.
Resolutions Don’t Set Habits
Resolutions also fail in setting habits. The reason stems from the fact this is an end result that you hope to achieve one day. In many cases, people aren’t going to be digging into specifics about what that resolution actually means unless they want to be overwhelmed.
Instead, we naturally gravitate towards easy to say phrases.
“I want to lose weight.” “I want to quit smoking.”
If you actually go on the journey to achieve those results, you’ll uncover there is more to it than that.
I can’t talk much about quitting smoking, but for losing weight, there is a tonne of things I have to do. There is researching eating trends and figuring out what are the best foods to eat, learning to read the nutritional facts, training myself to be eating in moderation, uncovering strategies to curb cravings, exercising regularly, knowing how to do the exercises properly, ensuring I’m using the proper muscles in exercising session, and several other things.
There is a lot of habits that I’ve been acquiring specifically so I can lose weight.
But by that same token, this goes to show just how easy it is for us to be making habits out of thin air it seems. Because we often think that habits just appear out of nowhere when there is actually a sequence of things that lead up to it.
I’ve made a habit to go to the gym at a specific time and now I don’t even think about it. I simply get up, get ready, and head off. Even if I have to work out in a mask, the only thing that deters me at this point is if I injured myself — as was the case earlier when I stubbed one of my toes and it looked pretty nasty. I’ll spare the details but I’m fine now.
By that token though, it’s easy for us to be creating habits. And if these are habits that you enjoy and get value out of, you’ll find ways to do more of those things. Again, I want to be working out because I have a laundry list of reasons for why I want to.
On Resolutions To Quit Something
In the case where you want to be quitting something, the goal here is to not simply quit a habit. Instead, you want to find something to replace it with. There is a specific psychological reason for you to be doing what you consider a bad habit.
People who overeat often see food as a means of feeling comfortable.
Smoking habits begin as a means of interacting with other people and being social.
People stay in abusive relationships because they want to feel love and maybe their abuser might provide it eventually.
Even if the habit is bad and your reasoning behind it may be flawed doesn’t mean that you can remove it entirely from your life. Instead, you need to gear those emotions or needs towards something more productive.
Furthermore, pay attention to your triggers. What causes you to reinforce that bad habit? Once you know those things, make an effort to avoid them. If you struggle with overeating, make a point of avoiding stores that sell baked goods or specific sections at the grocery store.
The only way to truly quit something is to replace it with something else that you know you’ll do.
They Often Lack Tracking
Because many people’s resolutions often are a mere thought and a conversation topic, they lack another necessary part of setting goals: tracking it. If you have no idea how close you are to your goal, then you’re not going to be motivated or invested in it.
My suggestion with any kind of goal that you want to achieve is to be writing it down. This doesn’t mean putting it in your phone as it can easily be buried by a bunch of other stuff. Write it out on a piece of paper and put it someplace you’ll see it.
For me, I use a notepad that’s sitting by my desk at all times.
Everything from your short-term goals to your long-term goals, it’s essential that you write it all out.
The reason for that is that this allows you to break things down into much smaller chunks. Remember that our mindset, no matter how much we train it, can still be overwhelmed by something massive. By breaking it into smaller steps, it’s easier for us to process it and make it into a habit.
Don’t just say you’ll lose 30 pounds. Say you’ll eat healthier by having a grocery list every week, and work out five times a day. You can track those things as you can mark off how many times you worked out and whether you brought a grocery list with you.
Don’t just say you’ll quit smoking. Whenever you buy a pack of cigarettes, note how long it takes you to finish them. After that develop strategies that’ll take you longer to go through a pack every time you get one.
Don’t just say you’ll aim to make $10K per month. Look at your revenue streams and see what can be increased or if you can branch out to something else. Follow that up with strategies that’ll make these streams viable and lucrative for you.
On top of all that, you want to be checking in on yourself and reflecting on a regular basis. Not necessarily every day, but seeing your progress every week or so. If you notice things are slipping back, look at what’s changed and make adjustments. If things are good, keep doing it, but also think about ways you can make the system better.
Tracking is all about building habits and putting them into a system and then tweaking that system.
Stop Resolutions, Set Goals
With the turn of the new year, I encourage people to be setting strong goals. And while that could be taken as resolutions, I have never seen them as such. Yes it’s a new year and therefore new goals, but it typically stems from the month prior in reflection over what worked and what didn’t.
December is an opportunity to overhaul things that don’t work and to reinforce the things that are working and getting you somewhere.
I would encourage you to shift your mindset about resolutions to see them as this. Better yet start calling them simply goals for the new year. By treating them as goals and investing in them, you’ll see a higher success rate in achieving them than you would by setting resolutions.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon
Originally published at https://ericscottburdon.com on January 11, 2021.