Big Ideas, Goal Setting

Why New Years Resolutions Are More Destructive Than Helpful

Happy New Year! If you’re like most people, January 1st is a time to make changes in your life and become a better you. It’s a new year with a fresh start and you are finally going to make your dreams come true!

I used to really love New Years. It’s the chance to move past the mistakes and failures of the year prior. I always enjoyed making New Years Resolutions. I saw it as a way to take a good hard look at the way my life was going. Decide what major changes were needed to put my life on the track I was heading. Tackle obstacles and make real progress.

There were definitely New Year’s successes. I kept some big resolutions. I told my then-fiance on January 1, 2015, that we were going to get married at the golf course, go on a 10-day honeymoon to Mexico, and buy a house before the year was through. He didn’t believe me. We had been living on a shoestring budget for our entire five-year relationship, and he had surrendered the finances to me out of frustration years prior. He didn’t pay enough attention to my monthly reports to realize I had been slowly and surely paying off our bad debt, building our credit, and saving the money we would need to take some major leaps.

We signed the mortgage in August, signed the marriage certificate in October, and basked in our accomplishments with mojitos at a swim-up bar in Playa del Carmen.

But most of the time, my New Year’s resolutions were not so exciting and were quickly forgotten. Lose 15 pounds before the snow melts? Lets all laugh together, shall we? Finish writing a book? Yeah, I’ve made that resolution about 15 years and counting.

Time To Get Honest

It’s lovely to set goals. We should all be setting goals. Goals are a way for us to reflect and measure the trajectory of our lives. But New Year’s resolutions are flippant proclamations invented largely for people to use as small talk.

We settle on cliches to toss around, read a couple of inspirational quotes, shell out our holiday cash on exercise equipment, organizational gear, or whatever object is going to help us crush our goals. Then we quietly pack it all away a few weeks or months later when we are sick of feeling guilty about failing.

This is not a goal setting practice. This is a failure practice. We pat ourselves on the back every year for coming up with the great idea to improve our lives and practice making excuses and ignoring our habits.

Getting honest means being real about what you can accomplish, AND getting real about what you really want to change. Maybe those extra 15 pounds aren’t getting in the way of the life you really want to live. Maybe the fact that you’ve been stressing out over those 15 pounds for a couple years now is what’s getting in your way.

Maybe it’s somewhere smaller that you can start with. If you failed to lose 15 pounds last year, don’t resolve to lose it this year. Resolve to cut sugar out of your diet. Resolve to take a 15-minute walk every morning. Resolve to talk to your doctor about your struggle with weight loss and see if she can offer insight.

Lying to yourself about what you will accomplish in the next year is destructive because you are only practicing failure and learning to accept that you are not a person who keeps New Years Resolutions.

Goal-Setting Is Not A Once A Year Thing

We feel pressured to set goals in the time between Christmas and the New Year, so we throw out whatever we think of first and peter out in enthusiasm quickly. But when we are making that first attempt, it can feel a little strange at first. You’re thinking about your habits and trying to change them. Maybe you are fighting with yourself a little bit. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to follow through on the things we know we need to do.

But that’s because we do not practice setting goals and being aware of our patterns. So it feels strange and uncomfortable when we do. We feel relieved when we finally cave to the realization that we aren’t really going to change. We are happy (although we won’t admit it to ourselves) that we can slink back into comfortable stasis where we don’t have to think too hard about our patterns.

Goal setting should be year round. Whether you schedule it into your life, say at the first of the month, or whether you have another method, setting goals should be a constant thing. Goals help you guide yourself on the trajectory of your life. If you don’t know the direction that you want to be going, then you are doomed to drift where ever life tosses you.

Practicing year-round goal setting makes New Years Resolutions obsolete, and gives you the practice you need to define manageable, measurable, and satisfying goals. Instead of practice failure every year, get better bit by bit and accept that every day is a new chance to live the life you’ve always wanted.

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