We’re at that time of the year when people are either making resolutions, or slowly beginning to realize – just a few weeks into the new year – that they probably won’t reach the ones they’ve already made. And that’s the point, New Year’s resolutions don’t count – only follow-through matters.
It doesn’t matter how many resolutions you make, or how noble sounding they are; if you can’t follow through they’re virtually meaningless.
So how do you make your New Year’s resolutions stick? There’s no one answer, but several possibilities that can make this year’s resolutions more lasting and effective than they have been in the past.
[Here is a model for setting goals based on the bible!]
Cold Turkey Won’t Work For All The Same Reasons It Hasn’t In The Past
One of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail is because of the “cold turkey factor”. By cold turkey I mean that most resolutions attempt to put you on a course that you’ve never been on before, or in one that’s far more radical than anything you’ve ever tried. That’s the exact reason why they don’t work.
For example, if one of your resolutions is to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year, you’re almost doomed to fail. There are reasons why you’re 50 pounds overweight in the first place, and they won’t go away over night, so setting such an ambitious goal will probably be doomed to failure, and early on at that.
No resolution can succeed if it will require a radical change in direction. That usually comes about only after successive steps, which is our next topic…
Setting Doable Resolutions
There’s no point in setting resolutions if they’re not doable. This gets back to the cold turkey factor – setting a resolution that requires a complete change in behavior is doomed to fail. The better approach is to set low resolution – one that’s completely doable – as part of a series of resolutions throughout the year that are designed to achieve a bigger goal.
Rather than setting a resolution to lose 50 pounds in 2014, it will be better to make a resolution to lose 10 pounds. It’s probably well within the realm of achievement, and once you succeed at that level, you can set a new resolution to lose an additional 10 pounds. You can keep doing that until you reach your ultimate goal of losing 50 pounds.
In point of fact, you won’t be able to lose 50 pounds if you can’t lose the first 10 – that’s why the lower amount needs to be your resolution. Even if you don’t reach your 50 pound goal by the end of this year, you will still be well on your way if you “only” lose 20 or 30 pounds.
The point is, New Year’s resolutions are rarely life-changing. We may have good intentions in setting them, but that’s not the way they usually play out. By making your resolutions doable, you set yourself up for success that you can build upon to reach the bigger goals.
Making Change Automatic
One of the best ways to make your New Year’s resolutions stick is by finding ways to make them automatic. This works particularly well for financial resolutions.
For example, if you have not done terribly well saving in the past, you can set up automatic payroll deductions into your savings account. You’ll be achieving the goal of saving money, except that for the most part you won’t see it happen or have anything to do with it beyond creating the payroll deduction.
[Take the 52-week savings challenge!]
Let’s say that another resolution is to increase your retirement funding this year. You can do this simply by increasing your payroll deduction into your retirement account. What happens from there will be completely automatic so you’ll be able to achieve your resolution without any active effort.
You can do the same thing when it comes to paying bills. If you’ve had problems paying bills on time in the past, setting up automatic debits through your checking account or credit card could automate the bill paying process. You’ll achieve your resolution of paying your bills on time this year, except that the process will move largely out of your hands.
Look to automate your resolutions as much is possible, especially early in the year.
The 21 Day Rule To Creating A Habit
If one or more of your resolutions involves breaking a bad habit, you may be aware that the only way to do this is to replace it with a good habit. I forget the source, but it’s been determined that takes 21 days to create a new habit. If that’s the case, you should plan for the first few weeks of this year to create the good habits that will replace the bad ones you’re trying to get rid of.
Many people fail to break bad habits because they simply try to do it by avoiding it (ie, “not doing it”). But if the best way we can break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one, you might be best to focus on creating the good habit more than anything else. Take whatever bad habits you have, decide which habits you want to replace them with, then use the 21 day rule to cement the good habit in your life.
The point is, bad habits won’t simply stop despite your good intentions or your will to stop doing them. You have to create a diversion – a good habit – that will replace the bad one. That will take a few weeks, but it’s worth the effort.
It’s Not How You Start, But How You Finish That Counts
It’s worth remembering that it’s never the intensity or the desire of a New Year’s resolution that counts, but how you follow through on making it happen.
Keeping that in mind, be careful not to make your resolutions too bold – you may be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, set smaller, more doable resolutions, and be prepared to invest the time and effort necessary to make each happen. It’s far better to have one small resolution achieved, than a half dozen grand ones that you’re never able to bring into reality.
The strength of a New Year’s resolution isn’t in the declaration, but the follow-through that makes it happen.
How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions so far?