Don't Set New Year's Resolutions
Updated: Feb 8
I feel like the older I am, the less I hear about New Year's resolutions. Maybe it's the fact that I'm away from the U.S., or that I just am not in contact with the kinds of people who would believe that they would make a difference.
In any case, I'm not opposed to the principle of New Year's resolutions. They have a purpose, to get you motivated and going into the New Year, and it's a time to reflect on your goals and what you actually want for yourself. Unfortunately, New Year's resolutions don't tend to be concrete, realistic, or measurable enough for a person to actually keep to them.
Instead of New Year's resolutions, do what every company and corporation does, which are yearly goals. In this post, I'll give you a structure that I use myself. Why yearly goals? They're larger scale than resolutions, they probably aren't going to be mainly about a routine item like drinking more water every day, and more importantly, they're going to allow us to track our growth and feel motivated to accomplish these things.
I'm going to give you a fantastic replacement for New Year's resolutions in this article, so if you want to get out your notebook and really set these goals with me, then that's going to be something extremely powerful for you.
What I see a lot of times in my clients before we've done this exercise together, is that if they have done some goal setting for 2023, it's usually 2-3 goals, and not very thought out. If you don't set enough goals, then it's really crushing when those goals aren't fulfilled. Let's set lots of goals, with realistic growth expectations, and we'll quickly find that at the end of the year, we've completed say 10 out of 15 goals that we set, and feel great about it.
What are goals good for? They help us feel in control of our lives. They allow us to be the creators of our existence rather than being target practice for whatever life throws at us. At the same time, they're a large source of our motivation, passion, satisfaction, general happiness, and curbs feelings of anxiety, because we have a clear idea of what's ahead of us.
I challenge clients to set a minimum of 15 goals for the year. I break them into 5 categories that I believe help us to set goals in areas important to ourselves. 1. Goals in personal habits, hygiene, looks, and relationship to myself. 2. Friends, Family, and Relationship Goals. 3. Heart and spirit, spiritual, or community and giving back goals. 4. Financial goals. 5. Work, career, and study goals. Breaking goals down into individual areas like this really helps us to think and come up with interesting areas of growth that tend to be quite holistic. If we want to take it a step further, I might add 1 emotional goal and 1 thing we want to let go of in the new year.
Lastly, when it comes to goals, maybe the most important, and yet most difficult thing for everyone is making sure that goals are SMART, meaning specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound, along with including a plan for how I want to get from point A to point B. I can't tell you dear reader how many times I've heard clients with goals such as I want to feel more confident, I want to act less awkward, I want to be emotionally stable, I want to eat more vegetables, etc. First of all, none of these goals are SMART, because we're missing the measurable piece, and probably also specific.
Something that helps, is to use a ranking scale of 1-10. 10 being the most, and 1 being the least. I can rate where I'm at now, and where I want to be at the end of the year. So if our goal is to be more confident in social interactions with non-athletes, and right now I feel like a 2, maybe it's realistic to feel like a 6 or 7 by the end of the year. And I'm going to then project plan at least the upcoming month for how I get from point A of feeling like a 2, to feeling like a 3 by the end of January.
The last very important step to setting goals is to set check-in times for each goal. How often do I check my progress and rate myself on each goal? Some should be daily, others weekly, and for sure some should be monthly. If we're checking in on a quarterly basis, then we probably need smaller goals that we know we're working towards on a monthly basis, just so we aren't missing progress over extended periods of time.
Why don't I like New Year's resolutions? They usually aren't thought out, they're not SMART, and they tend to be unrealistic and make a big change too fast. The whole point of yearly goals is to get to point B by the end of the year. If I have a New Years' Resolution to quit smoking, then I try and quit right off the bat, and the likelihood is that by January 20th, I'm already back to smoking. Whereas if the goal is to quit smoking by the end of the year, and every week I reduce my consumption of cigarettes by a half a cigarette, probably before the end of the year I've quit smoking without shocking my body completely, and have achieved that goal in a responsible and thought out way that's sustainable.
So do things differently this year. Make your goals realistic, specific, and measurable with action and habits building over time rather than jumping right in cold turkey. You aren't going to regret it.