Why Setting a Traditional New Year’s Resolution is a Stupid Idea

By now, you have probably set a goal to lose weight, you have plans within the week to go to the gym to purchase a gym membership, and you’ve immortalized your dedication of your goal in the best way you know how: by posting it up on Facebook.  There’s a problem with this line of thinking.

The Holiday Hangover

People tend to make resolutions at the worst possible time: after taking several jello shots with their friends under fireworks in a public place with a bunch of screaming, happy, singing people.  They are excited and feel supported by their friends and families.  They are motivated by the energy and the passion of those around them.  Then they wake up the next day and realize it’s tomorrow, and that things are normal again, and this past week feels like a dream.  They are (literally and figuratively) hungover.  And unless they’ve conditioned themselves to follow through on their commitments when they don’t feel like it (otherwise known as having integrity), they are highly likely to fail.

Not only are most people not in the same state they were in when they made the resolution, but they are also abruptly placed back into real life where they have to get up for work to please their asshole boss who probably wants them to work harder in order to fulfill his New Year’s resolution: to make more profit for his company.

While their own resolution might include sculpting their own body in the likeness of the Statue of David or writing a broadway musical that will take the world by storm (and prove finally to that stupid high school teacher that they WILL amount to something… someday), the January credit card statement will arrive in their inbox and they’ll realize that they need to cut down on new activities to make up for an expensive, bingeing December.  They don’t necessarily give up on their resolution, but they put it off a couple months until “things slow down a bit.” Common lies they tell themselves to justify this line of thinking are that they are being “realistic” or “responsible.”  The reality is

When People Get Behind on Their Goals, They Quit Entirely

And don’t say you haven’t done this, because the last thing I want to do on my New Year’s blog post is call you a liar.  You wouldn’t lie to me on New Year’s Day, would you?

What happens usually for many reasons (Holiday Hangover included) is that people will get behind on the goal they have set out for themselves.  Because they are behind on the goal, it becomes easier to put it off further and to justify why persisting is a bad idea.  Around February or March, most people have consciously or unconsciously decided that they’ll pick it up again next year – often blaming circumstances or bad luck.

I’m sure you have relatives (or relatives have you) that make a resolution to lose weight every single year – and they get fatter and fatter each time you see them at Christmas.  The solution I propose is:

Focus on Why, Not on What

What doesn’t work unless you are a highly-disciplined, award-winning, competitive bodybuilder is the traditional goal-setting method:  Set a specific, measurable goal with a deadline, say for x amount of lbs for x amount of weeks,  religiously stick to the workout and diet regime like clockwork, and never cheat, unless it’s part of the plan.  Usually this will work for about three weeks.  Then on week four you’ll probably get into a fight with your spouse or get threatened by your boss, and you’ll respond by going to happy hour with your friends who gave up on their resolutions and stuff yourself with a pound of chocolate cake every day for seven days in a row.

You might want to try something different.  Focus instead on how good you are eventually going to look half-naked when the Vegas pool parties open up in April, the cuties you exchange glances with in the sauna, and the old lady you can’t outrun on the treadmill that motivates the crap out of you.  Start by just getting physically in the gym consistently and eating slightly better, rather than writing down the x’s and o’s before you get started.  As you get into the habit of better diet and exercise, you can gradually work yourself into a disciplined routine, and it won’t be so daunting.  For most people, at least initially, goal setting doesn’t work.  Purpose works.  Passion works.

One last thing:

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Don’t try to pick a New Years resolution than sounds good to your buddies.  Don’t broadcast it on Facebook.  Just get to work.  New studies actually show that keeping your goals to yourself increases your likelihood of achieving them.  Let me end by posting a short, three-minute video by Derek Sivers explaining why:  http://bit.ly/RrU8NX

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