Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Do you ever feel like you are your own worst enemy?

Researchers estimate that by the end of January, 50–80 percent of New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned. Failing to keep a New Year's resolution—or any commitment for that matter—makes it easy to feel discouraged and doubt yourself. It’s easy to become your own worst enemy, listening to the bad soundtrack in your head that says you are your worst self: fearful, doubting, self-loathing, indecisive, prideful, lazy, deceitful. It's called resistance . It's the slayer of dreams and it may be getting the better of you.

What if you could find the one New Year’s resolution that would change everything?

But the truth is, everyone battles these feelings. From the CEO to the janitor; the rich and the poor; the educated and the uneducated. Even the highly motivated and high achievers find new commitments challenging.

But what if you could find the one New Year’s resolution that would change everything? What if you could find the one change that would come easy? What if one success could build into another, and another, and another?

Keeping a New Year's resolution is far less about persistence and willpower throughout the year than it is about setting the right parameters for your New Year's resolution in the first place.

Three key parameters make the difference between a New Year’s resolution that will change everything, and one you will let fall away. They are adherence, effectiveness, and efficiency. To demonstrate the parameters, we will use the single most popular New Year’s resolution as a case study: losing weight.

The Case Study

Begin by making a list of at least twenty different things you can do to achieve your new commitment. Treat it like a brainstorming exercise and don’t worry about editing it yet. So, for losing weight, the list might look something like . . .

Losing Weight

Run a marathon

Do the Whole30

Cut carbs

Get a gym membership

Get a personal trainer

Train for a triathlon

Go vegan

Count calories

Sign up for a weight loss program

Try online or infomercial weight-loss aides

Do a video workout program

Cut soda from my diet

Cut sweets from my diet

Don’t eat out for lunch

Always take the stairs

Take a thirty-minute walk every day

Weigh myself every day

Get an accountability partner

Drink a gallon of water per day

Don’t buy tempting foods

Throw out tempting foods already in the cupboard

Adherence

The first parameter is adherence. Which activities on your list will you actually adhere to? Ask yourself, “What will I actually do?” This takes a fair amount of self-awareness, but you should have a good gut sense of what is realistic and what is not.

For example, I have a family of six, and trying to follow a specialized diet just wouldn’t make sense for my family right now. Too much specialized shopping, not enough meals everyone would eat, too much prep time, etc. It will work for most people, but not for me because of my state in life. So go through the list and cross off anything you just won’t do.

We make resolutions at the new year because it is a new beginning, but so is every Monday—even every morning.

Effectiveness

Now that your list only contains things you will actually do, the next question is, “Is this activity effective in helping me achieve my ultimate goal?” Use your experience and gut to edit for effectiveness, but don’t be afraid to look for outside validation.

Perhaps you research the effectiveness of weight loss aides and find out they are not effective or helpful. Keep in mind, too, that while something might be effective—like always taking the stairs—that doesn’t mean it will be effective for you. If you work on the first floor, live on the first floor, and rarely come across a staircase throughout your day, that resolution won’t be effective for you. Cross off everything that is not effective.

Efficiency

You should now have a list of activities that you will actually do and that will actually help you achieve the outcome you desire. Now it’s time to edit for efficiency. The question here is how much effort it takes. Your goal is to take off everything that is highly difficult or that takes a lot of time, energy, or attention. Again, your gut instinct or outside validation should do the trick.

Training for a triathlon might be something you would actually do and that would be highly effective for losing weight, but it also requires a considerable amount of effort. It’s an investment of time, energy, and finances. Cross off everything that is highly difficult or requires high amounts of effort.

By now your list might look something like this . . .

Losing Weight

Run a marathon

Do the Whole30

Cut carbs

Get a gym membership

Get a personal trainer

Train for a triathlon

Go vegan

Count calories

Sign up for a weight loss program

Try online or infomercial weight loss aides

Do a video workout program

Cut soda from my diet

Cut sweets from my diet

Don’t eat out for lunch

Always take the stairs

Take a thirty-minute walk every day

Weigh myself every day

Get an accountability partner

Drink a gallon of water per day

Don’t buy tempting foods and throw out those in your cupboard

Now choose one thing—just one thing—and make that your resolution.

Your list of twenty is down to four or five ideas that you will actually do and that are highly effective and relatively easy. It’s important to remember that the list is unique to you. What is easy for one person might not be easy for another. What one person will actually do is different from what someone else is willing to do. What is effective for one person might be ineffective for someone else.

Now choose one thing—just one thing—and make that your resolution. Because you have chosen just one effective, efficient habit you can adhere to, you are much more likely to be successful. And success builds on success. Before you know it, you will begin to see results, which will propel you to further success.

Two last things:

1. If you have failed to keep your New Year’s resolution in these first few weeks of the year, do not worry about it. Do not beat yourself up over it. Just press on.

2. If you feel like you need to adjust your New Year’s resolution (especially after reading this article), that’s OK. It’s not a failure. Just make an adjustment and start fresh. We make resolutions at the new year because it is a new beginning, but so is every Monday—even every morning. In fact, every moment can be a new beginning.

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