Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (And What You Can Do Instead!)


Business men press numbers 2020 at the mobile phone screen .Concept welcome merry christmas and … [+] happy new year 2020


Tis the season to set goals for the new year. But why, when 64% of these resolutions will be abandoned after one month. Yup! Nearly two-thirds of our goals will be long forgotten after just four weeks into 2020.

That’s a dismal statistic but before you throw in the towel and abandon all hope, consider these ideas that can instill long-lasting changes in the new year and beyond:

You can’t set realistic goals without values. But many of us try. Values are our guideposts. They determine what’s most important in our lives and we tend to spend the majority of our time serving them. If challenge and growth are your values, you likely stretch yourself with new experiences. If fitness and health are a value, you may have a gym membership and different sneakers for every workout. Values are not “shoulds.” A “should” is something that usually comes from societal pressure – “I should spend more time volunteering” or “I shouldn’t drink more than one glass of wine.” Often these “shoulds” become our goals, not because they’re important to us, but because we create a belief around them (e.g., doing this will make me a better person, or healthier, or liked). But if these behaviors were important, why haven’t we already started to work toward them? Values are neither good nor bad – they just are. And if you’re true to yours, you’ll likely see that you’re already behaving in a way that’s aligned with your true goals.

Most goals are not a destination, but a journey of behaviors. Even if you have a measurable goal (which is highly encouraged), sometimes external circumstances influence your ability to meet it. This doesn’t mean that you haven’t made progress. For example, if your resolution is to earn a promotion by the end of the 4th quarter, but your company just lost its largest client, your plans may get delayed. But not because you haven’t been doing your part of showing up early, taking on stretch projects and visibly demonstrating leadership abilities. Your efforts aren’t wasted because an unexpected hurdle pops up. Stay the course and if the door has closed at your current organization, those new skills will certainly be valued by another employer. Also, once you attain your goal, you can’t abandon the behavior change or you may be back to square one. Just ask anyone who has lost 10 pounds only to gain it back after reverting to old ways of eating.

Don’t fall for the easy answer. We’ve been a little deceived – behaviors don’t become automatic habits if we do them consistently for 21 days (but boy would that be awesome!). Replacing one habit with another may work, but it depends highly on the behavior, and just because a goal is SMART, doesn’t mean it’s infallible. The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and sometimes we so readily buy into the technique (or App!), that we’re hard on ourselves when it doesn’t end up being foolproof. Behavior change takes planning, commitment, and usually sacrifice. Replacing your designer coffee with home brew may be a great way to save money, but it also may mean missing out on the mid-morning Starbuck’s run with your colleagues. It sounds easy on paper, but may not work in reality. So when setting a goal, play it out to see what else it impacts and if the ripple effects are sustainable. Otherwise, you may be back to square one, happy with your Venti Frappuccino, but still stressing about your empty wallet.

Your environment plays a bigger role than you think. Those around us don’t want us to change because that means that their world also changes. This can be tough if you’ve decided to cut out sugar but your spouse fills the cupboards with cookies. Or if you’d like to be home to have dinner with your family during the week, but your colleagues continuously schedule late meetings. Since it’s not always possible to switch to a new environment, if you have a goal that’s in direct conflict with your surroundings, you may need to make extra sacrifices to make it work, or potentially modify your goal. For example, maybe your spouse can store sweets at the office or another location that isn’t as accessible? Or perhaps you compromise to be open to late meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but not the other evenings? This can be a tough hurdle, but once you understand the influence your environment has on fulfilling your goals, you’ll be in a better position to develop a creative solution.

This isn’t the time to think big. This may sound odd as we’re used to being told to create BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), but often this is exactly what backfires. Attempting to make too many big changes simultaneously or in too many areas of our lives (e.g., work, relationships, health, etc.) usually is a recipe for failure. Instead, why not tweak what’s already working to improve it? Or try motivation pairing, where you add a new (perhaps difficult) habit to an already existing habit to drive yourself to make the change (e.g., my personal rule is that I can only watch a movie if I’m working out, so if I really want to log into Netflix, I’m in for a good workout at least). Motivation pairing will both raise your awareness of incorporating a behavior change, while increasing the odds you’ll implement it.

We measure the wrong things. Do you really want to earn a graduate degree or are you just unsure what your next career goal is? Is losing 15 pounds going to bring about the happiness you want or is that an easier goal than confronting your anxiety? These are tough questions that most of us would rather not face. But the fact is, we make thousands of choices each day (over 30,000 actually), and most of these choices are in service to a primary human goal – to increase joy and reduce pain. But is that new gadget really the answer? Will drinking eight glasses of water truly make you healthier? For each of us the answer is different. As for me, I’d love to say I’ve run a marathon, but have zero desire to spend the time training for it. That probably explains why it’s been on my resolution list more than once without being completed.

The new year is no doubt a perfect time to reflect on the past 12 months and plan for the next 12. Perhaps this year you can try something new to bring about lasting change.

Happy hunting!

Reposted from: Forbes.com

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