I felt the pressure on my shoulders, when I resolved to persuade people to keep New Year resolutions this year. It’s not new that people make resolutions, then fail to keep them. In fact, the University of Scranton found that only 8% of Americans successfully achieve their New Year’s Resolutions while 49% have infrequent success in achieving their resolutions. So why in the world do we keep making them?
Well, without mistakes, how would we know what works and what doesn’t? There is no shame in failing, in fact, billionaires consider failing as feedback. When it comes to nailing that resolution however, it’s not about getting it right the first time, it’s about correcting the mistakes in iteration.
In this post, we’re going to look into what went wrong with your previous resolutions and how to get them right, this time.
1. You Fixated on Achieving "Reasonable" Goals.
"The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken."
– Samuel Johnson
I’m sure you have heard this advice before: "keep reasonable goals". For example, if you wanted to start running, the general advice you’ll be given is to take it slow for the first few days and walk for like 15 minutes and then as days go by, pick up speed or extend the distance.
That’s wonderful advice, but did it work for you? What happens when you can’t even survive that sensible 15 minutes walk? What do you do?
You give up (usually); you say "exercise isn’t my forte" (sometimes).
The problem lies in expecting to get a reasonable amount of exercise done, which is a step up from not getting any exercise done at all, but which is not the gist (or the point) of your resolution.
Among your resolutions, there is probably at least one that requires regular practice, like wanting to exercise daily, taking up a hobby or committing to a side project. For such resolutions, don’t fret about getting the "fair" amount of work done every day. It’s the "habit" you should be looking to cultivate in yourself.
Don’t want to do a 15 minute walk? Do 5 minutes and move on. Don’t have time to code for your side projects on some days? Draw a flow diagram on a napkin for the program even though you didn’t get to code it that instant.
Don’t skip any day when it comes to devoting time to that resolution, however small or insignificant you think it may be. Stick to it. Do an iota of work related to that resolution every day. Once the habit is set, the rest is easy. That’s the power of habits.
2. You Succumbed to Negativity From Others
"Sometimes, if you want to change a man’s mind, you have to change the mind of the man next to him first."
– Megan Whalen Turner
Nothing can influence a person more effectively than another person. That can be good, or bad, news for resolution keepers. If you’re surrounded by people who won’t mind giving you the extra nudge, broadcast your resolution. They’ll keep you in check even though you should not rely on them too much.
But keep in mind that going public will not always work out the way you want it to be, especially if you’re hurt easily by negative comments or when made fun of (unless your resolution is to pay less attention to other people’s insensitive remarks).
If you’re serious about your resolution, choose wisely who you confide in. It would be better to succeed on a secret mission than fail because your circle of confidantes didn’t think you could do it.
3. You Weren’t Prepared for a Slippery Path
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
– Winston S. Churchill
We typically don’t have the kind of willpower to stick to our resolutions 24×7. Wavering willpower is something you’re bound to experience and which may lead to a failed resolution. But this, just makes us human, not losers. Just pick it back up where you left off.
It’ll be hard, there’s no denying this simple fact, but there’s no easier way to get back up except to shut your eyes, clench your teeth, hold your breath and push on. What seems like the unattainable and seems to last centuries actually takes only a few seconds in reality. Once you’re done, you would be that much closer to success.
4. You Kept Flimsy New Year Resolutions
"If something isn’t special, then it’s ordinary."
– Nora Roberts
I think one of the main mistakes people do with their New Year resolutions, is that they get over-excited and start making a to-do list for a year. The problem comes when they put things they feel they want to try, only half-heartedly, into the same list. When you add something that you are not passionate about or sincere towards, your chances of failure understandably increases.
For everything you want to add to the list, for instance, photography, take a moment to really think about why it is in the list. Is it because you’re genuinely passionate about photography or because it is the trendy thing to do this season? If you’re not genuinely compelled to achieve a resolution, it probably isn’t meaningful enough for you to devote time and effort into it.
At the end of the day, you can make resolutions at any point of the year, so perhaps you should keep only the resolutions that resonate with your true self for the New Year’s list.
It’s one thing if you are a complete non-believer in traditions like New Year resolutions and it’s another if you’ve just stopped keeping it because of your past experience with it. If you’re the latter, then take a second look at your past approaches towards resolutions and try to identify what went wrong; it could be any of the things I listed above. Correct that mistake and try again this year.
If you can think of something else that people usually get wrong in resolutions, and a way to change that, then please share it in the comments.