As we get toward the end of the calendar year, so many of us will contemplate creating New Year’s resolutions. While I believe that it’s a really good practice to review the year that has passed, and make some plans and goals for the next year, I’m not so sure about the New Year’s resolution. It sounds like a great idea in practice, but various studies have shown that between 90% and 95% of resolutions fail, and most of them fail within the first quarter of the New Year. That means most likely that you’ve failed to achieve your New Year’s goals, yet you are probably thinking of what your resolutions will be for 2016.
Why do we do this? Why do we court a failure that is nearly sure to follow? Because we all want to do better. We all want to be the people we dream we will be, the people we know we could be if we could just find the right formula. The great think about humans is that they are, deep down, optimistic – even in the face of difficulty. We gather our friends and family close, celebrate the darkness, and look forward to a brighter future. How wonderful is that! So go ahead and make resolutions! But how can you make resolutions truly serve you, and not just fall by the wayside at the first bump?
Don’t try to change who you are in a resolution. I so often hear things like this. “This is the year I get thin.” “This is the year I change careers.” This is the year I quit my job and start my business.” These are lofty and admirable goals, but they are hard, and they can take many years to achieve. There will be many pitfalls along the way, and life can interfere. It is important to work toward these goals, but they are hard to achieve as resolutions. Resolutions work better as SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Don’t add more tasks to your schedule. We are all very busy. You struggle to get everything done as it is, and then you resolve to exercise for an hour every day, take more classes, or attend more cultural events. These are all really good ideas, but what activities are you going to jettison to get these things done? Do these things serve your most important priorities, or are the “nice-to-haves”? When thinking about resolutions, critically examine how they will fit into your life, and how they line up with your life’s priorities. If the resolution is a high priority for you, that’s great. What will you stop doing, or reduce, to make the space to inhabit the new activity.
Forget about what others say you should do. This is your life, not theirs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve vowed to do something because someone I admire was doing it, or because it was something I thought something that “someone in my business should be doing”. I recently attended an entrepreneur’s conference, and one of my most important takeaways was to “remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary.” Be confident in your goals and priorities, and while you can learn from others, don’t feel you need to do what others tell you to do.
Make resolutions that celebrate the person you are now. So what are the best kinds of resolutions to make? Try making resolutions that help you become better at what you are already doing? Try being more mindful as you go about your daily activities. Resolve to practice compassion and generosity to your colleagues and customers. If you want to get in better shape, work harder and dig deeper in the exercise you are already doing. Are you resolving to stop doing “bad” things, like sweets, TV, video games, etc? Have some compassion for yourself and recognize that nobody is perfect, and sometimes you need to blow off steam and treat yourself. Could you instead resolve to limit these activities, or to forgive yourself the next time you succumb, and move on. By resolving to do better, you can gain the improvements you seek in life, and if you stumble, just start doing better the next day. Is that a resolution that you can keep?