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New Years Resolutions Don't Work, so Here's What You Can Do Instead

New Year is approaching meaning that a lot of us are thinking of resolutions for 2020, or in fact, for the whole decade ahead. I have bad news for you: New Year’s resolutions don’t work! Let me tell you what strategy will work though so that you can start the next decade on a strong note!

New Years Resolutions are fun, they make us feel better about the next year and are an excuse to postpone good habits. Let’s be honest, they’re almost a procrastination technique! 

Let’s be honest, New Year’s Resolutions are almost a procrastination technique

We often create these with activities that are good for us: eating healthy, working out regularly, learning a new skill, reading more books, quitting smoking etc. And most of the time we truly want these things to become a reality for us! However, research shows that up to 80% of New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to February. Final statistics differ between sources, but the consensus is this: only 10 to 8% of people actually end up making their resolutions a reality. I’ll add some sources in the description if you’re interested!

Up to 80% of New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to February.

Why are the numbers so low? Why don’t resolutions work? Because most of the times they put too much pressure on us with no easing in (we want to go all-in! And if we don’t stick to it once or twice we can give up because this doesn’t feel right anymore, we see it as a binary variable). Also, we often don’t have set metrics attached to them and are too ambiguous or ambitious about where we want to get, we aren’t strategic about making this a habit and we also aren’t in the right mindset to make this change work! 

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

We seem to expect ourselves to wake up on January 1st and have a completely different attitude towards things and just know how to make these resolutions happen. And, to be honest, the last thing I want to do on January 1st is to be ambitious or super active, I want to welcome the New Year on a very relaxing note with a nice brunch or something like that! Personal preference, of course, New Year’s Eve is a big deal for me haha!

Of course, there are many other variables that affect our rate of success of achieving the resolution, but I don’t want to focus on them in this video. I want to talk about what you can do instead to start 2020 – and the new decade – on a strong note!

Sidenote: if you’re reading this after New Year’s Eve regardless of whether you’ve set your resolutions or not, use this technique at any time!

Use this strategy instead:

1. Reflect on your year and achievements.

Think about what you have achieved, what skills you have learned and what you can improve upon. 

I’m doing a 3-Day Reflection Challenge, which is absolutely free – so if you’d enjoy some guidance and structure to your reflection exercise, please join me! Sign up by pressing on the image below:

2. Think of what you would like to achieve next year: personally and professionally.

Be ambitious, but stay realistic. There’s a saying that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 5 or 10. It’s true, so try to stay realistic about what you can achieve in the next 12 months or 365 days.

3. Set SMART goals

Based on what you have written, set SMART goals for those areas – you can learn more about setting smart goals in my other video, How to Define What Success Means to You:

Making those goals smart is a great way to create an action plan for yourself for the next year, with goals that aren’t abstract or ambiguous, but almost tangible. This increases your chances of actually reaching them – something that we obviously want!

4. Identify which ones will require creating a habit

It is very likely that some (if not most) of your goals will require creating a habit, go through them and mark which ones you think require that. For example, working out on a regular basis or practising a skill. Identify them so that you can approach those goals strategically in the next step – when we create an action plan for you to reach your goals. We’re being strategic about habits for a reason: because they don’t happen overnight. It takes work to develop a habit and there are some best practices on how you can do that, some of which are:

  1. Attach this behaviour to a trigger: another behaviour that’s a habit and happens almost automatically. For example, brushing your teeth or any other almost automatic ritual behaviours you have that happen almost if not every day. Associating the new behaviour with an existing one will eliminate uncertainty around when to do this new behaviour and will increase your chances of actually doing it

  2. Reduce the perceived barriers to starting this practice and increase for habits you want to eliminate. Shawn Achor, the author of the Happiness Advantage calls it the 20-second rule: you can increase your chances of adopting a habit by making it very easy for yourself to take the action. And vice versa. For example, if you’re trying to work out every morning, put your workout clothing right next to your bed. Or if you’re trying to reduce the amount of Netflix you watch, log out of your account!

  3. Stick to it for at least a month. It takes time to develop a habit, some people say it’s 21 days, some say it’s a month – regardless, it has to happen for a prolonged period of time to become a habit

  4. Start small and build up your practice as you progress. And of course, recognize your progress! Keep a diary to track it and proactively identify which milestones are the most meaningful to you. Celebrate them!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

5. Create an action plan to achieve your goals

Once your SMART goals are on paper, it’s time to plan how you’re going to achieve them. 

Working backwards from achieving your goal, outline the steps that it will take to get there. Specify what action it will require from you, the desired outcome and when you want it to be done by. 

The beauty of this method is that it’s not all in or all out on January 1st, this is a year-long plan to achieve what you want to achieve that year. Yes, there are deadlines and you do need to work for it, but you don’t have that excuse at the back of your head that if you haven’t been keeping up, you might as well give up.

Don’t try to achieve everything at once, start with one goal in January and build up from there!

6. Change your mindset

The final step is changing your mindset: get excited about this new year, about the opportunity to achieve your goals and to start acting on them!

You can do this! It’s all up to you, not anyone else. You’re in control of how you spend your time in this coming year and everything else is excuses. If it’s a priority, you will find time for it – otherwise, you just didn’t prioritise it!

I hope this method sets you up for a great 2020! And if you’re reading this after New Year’s Eve, remember that it’s never too late to set goals – we’re not all in or all out here! So set your goals now 🙂

Let me know what your goals are for 2020 in the comments!

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