New Year’s resolutions are tough. We’d be lucky to make it halfway through February sticking to what we thought would be our new way of being. Why are resolutions so difficult to keep? What can we do instead to make lasting, healthy change?
Here are five reasons New Year’s resolutions suck, and what you can do instead.
1. They’re usually goals you don’t actually care about.
Most resolutions are things you think you ‘should’ do or create, not actual goals that inspire you on a deep level. “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” or “I’m going to save money” sound like great, objectively good goals.
If you aren’t passionate about these things or are only doing them based on outside opinion, however, you aren’t going to have the motivation to stick through changing your habits. Your goal must inspire you on all levels.
2. They don’t give you reason to push through tough times.
If your goal doesn’t fill you with passion, excitement, and maybe even a little fear, it isn’t going to give you the motivation to push through when old habits come calling. Changing the way we live is a challenge. If change were easy, we’d all be doing it a lot more often.
If you’re trying to lose weight but see no real spark to this goal, there’ll be very little reason to ignore that ice cream craving, or get out of bed an hour earlier to do yoga when you feel like sleeping in. With no true reason reach a goal, old habits are just too tempting and too easy to slip back into.
3. They’re usually poorly formed goals.
Most New Year’s resolutions are vague. Consider the above examples: “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” and “I’m going to save money.”
How are you going to lose the weight? How much money do you want to save? What habits need to change in your life to make these things happen? What support do you need to reach these goals? How will you monitor your progress? Is there a time limit on them?
A well-formed goal is very concrete, detailed, and results are measurable so that you can make adjustments to truly incite or increase your progress. If your resolution is a sentence long, it probably doesn’t have the backup needed in order to be attainable.
4. They’re almost always set in the negative.
New Year’s resolutions have us trying to move away from something undesirable, like being overweight, smoking, or being in debt, rather than towards something we want, like being a healthy weight, being able to deal with stress in a healthy manner, or being financially free.
For a goal to be really worth your time, you must move towards something you do want, rather than just move away from something you don’t want. A good goal is set in the positive, moving you towards becoming something you want to become, not away from something you no longer want to be.
5. They give you reason to beat yourself up.
Lastly, New Year’s resolutions easily make you feel like you’re failing yourself. Because they’re often such poorly formed goals, they’re also incredibly difficult to keep for the long-term. This is why the boom of people in the gym or yoga studios in January drops off by mid- February.
You don’t need more reasons to be mean to yourself. Instead, understand that when you have set a really well-formed goal, you’re setting yourself up for success. It isn’t your fault you can’t keep your New Year’s resolution. You just need to set a good goal first!
So, barring New Year’s resolutions, how can you create lasting, positive change in your life?
1. Decide how you want to feel.
Center your goal around the positive feelings you want to feel in your life. For instance, instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to feel light, energetic, and free inside my body.”
Doesn’t the latter inspire so much more passion and energy than the first one? Form your goals around the positive feeling states you desire. This is what adds fuel to your fire, helping you push through when old habits come calling.
2. Set your goal in the positive.
Once you know how you want to feel, identify the thought and behavior patterns in your life that keep you from feeling how you want to feel. You may identify your thoughts and habits around money stopping you from feeling abundant and free.
Identify what isn’t helping you and see where you may need to adjust your life in the opposite direction to create your new reality.
Starting with how you don’t want to be thinking and behaving is great, so long as you use the information from what you don’t want to help you identify what you do want.
3. Make your goal specific and concrete.
When you know how you want to feel and what behavior and thought patterns you must create to achieve this feeling, make concrete plans to reach your goal.
For instance, once you realize you want to feel light, energetic, and free in your body, and that your negative self-talk and nighttime ice cream eating aren’t giving you this feeling, create solid plans for achieving the feelings you want.
You can plan to look yourself in the eyes every morning, tell yourself that you love yourself, and then decide to swap the ice cream for sugar-free coconut ice cream. These are two very concrete steps leading you in a positive direction.
As you get comfortable doing those two things, you can add two more helpful habits. This way, you have a clear plan to get to where you want to go.
How does all of that feel for you? Do you think you would like to give up “resolving” to change, and instead make a new plan that will set you up for real success?