Does this sound familiar? Every time January rolls around, you purchase new gym shoes, study vegetable-based recipes (and subsequently buy a bunch of spinach), and commit to a year of gratitude, generosity, and physical exercise. You promise this year will be different. At the stroke of midnight, you swear to surrender all your vices. New year, new you- you’re devoted this time.
You’re not alone. Despite having a bad reputation, 40% of Americans still set resolutions every year. Why the bad reputation? As people, we’re notoriously excellent at having good intentions and notoriously terrible at sticking to those intentions. In fact, we’re so skilled at breaking resolutions that January 17 has been officially deemed as Ditch Your Resolution Day.
How do you break the cycle? How do you stick with your intentions? Let’s see if you’re making one of these cardinal mistakes.
You’re Not Specific With What You Exactly Want
You want to lose weight. You want to save money. You want to give back more. These are popular and admirable goals, but they’re impossible to achieve. Why? Because they aren’t measurable. They aren’t specific. They don’t actually say much at all!
After all, do you want to save a single dollar- or do you want to save $5000 this year? Because, technically, you’ve achieved your resolution if you save that single dollar.
Vague goals make for vague plans, which make for vague intentions. To harness your resolutions, you must commit to making concrete plans. For example, you need to commit to saving a specific number (i.e., $5000).
You Don’t Define Exactly How You’re Going To Do It
There is an infamous quote, A dream without a plan is just a wish, and this quote is quite fitting when talking about New Year’s resolutions.
Let’s return to the money example. You decide you want to save $5000 this year. That’s great! But how exactly do you plan to achieve that? Saying I’m going to spend less or earn more isn’t enough. That’s about as vague as declaring you want to save money.
To really define this goal, you’ll need to do some soul-searching number-crunching. How are you going to save that $5000? Are you going to set aside $500 from 10 paychecks? Are you going to work offer to work overtime or take on a second job? Are you going to cut back on travel or groceries or personal care this year?
Make your plan as specific as possible. It should be listed out step-by-step. Write it down! Even if it “feels” hard, it needs to be viable and realistic.
You Don’t Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability is one of the most essential parts of the process. Accountability varies, but you should be willing to do it! For instance, maybe you agree to share your resolution on social media. Or, maybe you make a friendly bet with a few friends to see who can stick to their goals the longest.
Again, writing down your resolutions is essential. But don’t just write down what you want to accomplish. Write down why it’s crucial for you to accomplish this goal. Are you hoping to save for a down payment for a house? Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to build an emergency fund?
Remembering the motives for the goal keeps you disciplined- even when the motivation inevitably wanes.
You Quit At The First Sign Of Slipping
Let’s say you commit to setting aside a portion of your paycheck each month into your savings. You’re motivated! You’re ready to achieve your goal! Unfortunately, two weeks into the first month, your car breaks down, and your dog has an emergency vet bill. There goes the money allocated for saving.
At this point, many people feel tempted to quit altogether. After all, they’ve “failed.” What’s the point of moving forward?
The point is that success isn’t an all-or-nothing accomplishment. Success is built on failure; it’s defined by a process of endless trial-and-error; it’s cultivated via dedication and persistence and resilience.
If, at the end of the year, you save $3500 instead of $5000, did you really fail? You could argue that you have. But what if you learned new discipline along the way? What if you realized that you could take on a saving mentality? What if you were able to change your relationship with money drastically, and by next year, using these new skills, you end up saving $8000?
You Wait For January 1
Haven’t been able to stick to your resolution? Don’t wait for an arbitrary time! This is your life- at any given moment, you have the power to change the way you live. Life doesn’t start over in January. If you’re feeling unconvinced, consider this popular Chinese proverb, The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.