My business card says that I am the CEO, Chief Eternal Optimist, of my company. As an eternal optimist, it grieves me to learn that people have given up on resolutions. I believe there is always hope, always room to improve and that taking action, no matter how insignificant is better than doing nothing, helplessly accepting our fate.
I agree that there are many good reasons to not make New Years resolutions including:
- They don’t stick. In theory they sound good, but they often fizzle before the first month of the year is over. Set goals, not resolutions. Goals are supported with action plans. Resolutions are just wishes.
- Resolutions are often unrealistic or worse, unspecific. “Lose weight” or “be nicer to people” are simply too vague to have teeth and any hope of success. Creating an action plan will expose unrealistic goals. Losing 100 pounds in three months is a sure failure. Do the math: 33 pounds a month, over a pound a day. You’re likely to quit. Realistically, you can achieve a goal of losing two pounds a week and lose your weight in a year.
- It’s the wrong time of year. Why is it that changes have to be reserved for the New Year? Why don’t we change when we realize that change is desirable, that it might make things better? What’s wrong with quitting smoking in March when the stress of the holidays is a distant memory? I add ideas to my self-improvement list all the time. I don’t wait for January, although the New Year is always a good time to take stock.
- Failure to plan. Blurting out a resolution without any thought of implementation is a common mistake. If it bothers you enough to change, it’s probably significant and therefore not necessarily easy. Just saying you’ll do something is far different from writing a step-by-step plan. Baby steps contribute to the success of the plan. That’s why you want goals, not resolutions.
- Expectations of perfection. Unrealistic expectations of how the changes will happen cause people to give up when they inevitably fail at the new habit they’re trying to forge. Instead of staying the course, they throw up their hands in despair and declare that making resolutions is doomed to fail. You aren’t perfect. You might have to work at saying no to the doughnuts in the coffee room at the office. You might fail. You’re human. Get over it and move forward.
In addition to the above remedies to the reasons not to resolve, here are a few more tips.
- Know your “why”. Why do you want to change that part of you? Why is it important to you? Is it important to you or somebody else? You might discover it doesn’t matter and you can scrap that resolution. Or you might understand how very important it is to you and thus give yourself incentive to persevere.
- Be kind but firm with yourself. I think people are mostly born lazy. We tend to choose the easy path so discipline is vital. The greatest rewards usually require some discomfort. So be firm. But if you fall, forgive yourself. Get up. Dust off. According to Confucius, Success is falling down seven times and getting up eight times.
- Reward yourself. The best rewards are small and frequent, helping you stick with it to achieve the big prize. Realizing your goal is like a marathon: one step at a time. Celebrate that you ran five km. Celebrate you cracked ten km. Eventually you’ll cross the finish line. You know what you like. Express some self-love and take that nap or two-hour walk, your reward for achieving your goal.
Don’t underestimate the power of personal change and growth. My life’s trajectory has been forever altered by my successfully kept resolutions.
In the past I’ve shed the habit of hitting the snooze button several times before actually getting out of bed. Another year I gave up alarm clocks entirely. I eliminated sugar from my diet and the benefits are legion. I gave up dairy, stopped snoring and have never gone back. Resolving to read more books (first one per week, then two and now three per week) has profoundly changed me. I recently achieved an education goal that began as a resolution a few years ago.
I wouldn’t be the person I am without having made resolutions, although, I think they were really goals.
Go ahead. Make some resolutions. You could accomplish great things. You might check something wonderful off your bucket list. Or you might become a better person just because you stretched and grew. I am optimistic about your future.