The reason why so many of you have already failed is exactly why I hate resolutions.
Don’t get me wrong; I think the idea of starting fresh and bettering myself is highly enticing as well. But, along with many others, I have years of resolutions that weren’t met. And, those resolutions are likely the same as everyone else’s.
Along with many of you, I would also like to better my fitness level, be healthier, get out of debt, buy a house, provide for my family, travel the world, learn a new language, drink less and all the of other things. Who wouldn’t?
So if resolutions are so great, then why aren’t more people able to stick to them?
Here are three reasons that I, along with a number of you, have already discarded New Year’s resolutions:
Resolutions are too broad
First, let’s replace the word “resolution” with the word “goal.” Goals aren’t meant to be overly broad. Use a business model for your personal life by sticking to small, targeted goals and using a clear plan to achieve them.
Let’s use the example of getting in shape, since this is probably the most common New Year’s resolution you will make. If you resolve to get into shape and don’t have a clear plan of attack, how exactly will you ever get into shape? By wishing it? By doing the things you have always done? I don’t think so.
You will go out and buy a gym membership like countless other people, use it three times and then give up, because you are unlikely to notice any differences and because you have no idea what the heck you are doing or what results you really want.
I am not trying to shame you. Just like you, I am in the same boat. With that resolution, I wouldn’t know where to begin either. But, just wishing for something and putting in a little amount of effort will not help you.
Instead, narrow down your focus. Don’t resolve to get into shape; get your heart rate down, improve your cholesterol levels, learn to run five miles or go to a fitness class two times a week.
These types of goals ARE motivating. And, as you will learn below, they are SMART.
Resolutions focus on the external rather than the internal
Through personal experience, I have found that resolutions are really focused on external wants and needs beyond internal characteristics.
The reason this makes resolutions hard to keep is because most of the time, the external wants and needs are based on an internal characteristic may be lacking. Before you get all wound up or think I am being too harsh, let me provide some examples.
Using the fitness goal again, let’s break it down. What is really so lacking in the first place that you feel the need to improve your overall fitness? If you already have a love of fitness, then maybe the challenge motivates you?
If being active is foreign to you, why do you want to improve your fitness? Is it related to your physical and/or mental health? Is it related to your self-esteem? What are your internal pulls for wanting to get fit?
This process is really important because, like so many other things in our lives, putting a Band-Aid over a deeper issue won’t solve the problem.
Using our example, if you have answered yes to both of these internal motivators and you are looking to get healthy AND improve your self-esteem, I think you will likely agree with the majority of the people who resolve to get in better shape. But, you are ahead of them because you have discovered your reasons for it.
You are now able to take these reasons and apply them to how you make goals.
If you want to improve your health level and your self-esteem, you have now broken down the resolution even further. You now have even smaller goals.
You could make your goal to seek the advice of your doctor, look up nutrition information online, attend a seminar about the relation of food to disease, take your gym’s orientation, learn your body stats or anything else.
Say that your real fear is your body fat percent level. You can easily test this to discover where you are and then ask your doctor for advice or resources about how to lower the number (within healthy ranges, of course).
Alternatively, if self-esteem is the issue, you could pursue your goal to improve your physical fitness while taking some self-help books out of the library, making an appointment with a psychologist, learning how to meditate, hitting some yoga classes, learning deep-breathing exercises and using positive affirmation techniques.
The take-away here is that understanding why you resolved to do this in the first place is just as important as the resolution itself.
Resolutions aren’t SMART
Okay, there are some variations here, but back to the business model again, resolutions aren’t SMART — but goals can be SMART.
So, what does SMART even mean?
As I mentioned above, goals need to be specific. Specific means breaking the goal down as far as you can so that you are left with something that only deals with one area. Resolutions can be fine, so long as you break them down into really specific goals.
You need to be able to measure your successes. Without feeling like you’ve accomplished something, you will likely give up. Back to the fitness resolution, if you are looking to get fit, what is your measure of fitness? Weight? Body size? Ability? And in what precise form? Pounds? Inches? Miles?
Be really aware of how to measure your goals so that you are able to celebrate the small successes. The smaller the better because achieving results will motivate you. If you can try to hit two fitness classes a week and maintain this throughout a four-week period, then you can measure how well you were able to keep that goal and adjust after the four-week period.
This really goes hand-in-hand with measurable. Once you know the measurements you are looking to hit, then your ability to achieve these goals will motivate or demotivate you.
If you can hit two classes a week, then the goal is achievable. Push yourself once it is achieved, and make the goal three classes per week.
If you go from a fitness level of zero and make your resolution to get fit, and your goal to hit six classes a week, this is not very achievable. You will burn out quickly. Be kind to yourself, and be…
Base your goals off of realistic facts.
Going from a fitness level of zero to getting to the gym six times a week is NOT realistic.
Even for seasoned gym pros, this may not be realistic every week. Build up your abilities, and don’t expect results overnight. Don’t push yourself so hard that you burn out, this is another major reason that so many resolutions fail.
Finally, make your goals timely. Don’t give yourself the whole year; you will always put things off. A year seems like a long time, and then, it’s passed you by.
Instead, think in weekly or monthly segments.
Use whatever is the best measure of time for your specific goal, keeping in mind the rest of the SMART goal setting formula.
While I’ve used the example of fitness over and over in this post, remember that this advice can be easily applied to ANY goal that you might have. I’ve used it in relation to work, school and personal life achievements.
And if it seems like too much work, then you likely don’t really want to achieve your resolution anyway.
Wishing you all the best of luck with keeping your resolutions this year!