Unpopular Pain-Free Opinion: New Years Resolutions AREN'T That Bad
New Years Resolutions are abhorred by many.
"They don't last beyond January."
"People shouldn't make resolutions, they should change their lifestyles."
"Planning to make a change on a certain date is stupid; just make the change now."
Generally speaking, these statements aren't objectively wrong. Many New Years resolutions do not last (it has been reported that only about 10% of resolutions last beyond the first few months of the new year); however, does that make all resolutions futile? My unpopular opinion is simple: no. In fact, I think they can even be a good tool, given we take a few steps to ensure they are ultimately useful.
1) Critically Think Through Your Resolutions
It's likely that a lot of resolutions don't last because they aren't reasonable. Many of us set our resolutions in the following format: "for the entire year of ______ I will do ______ every single day," or, "I will achieve ______ in _____ year," or "for the entire year of ______ I won't do ______."
This is problematic for a few reasons. 1) Assuming we can predict our behavior for an entire year is pretty darn cocky. 2) Assuming we will achieve a quantifiable result (EG. "lose 30 pounds") in a year's time is the equivalent of shooting an arrow in the dark and hoping you hit a target you can't see. 3) We absolutely must thoroughly think through our statements; what if we can't or don't reach our goal? What if life conditions change? What if I decide in May that this no longer matters to me? What if we DO reach our goal? What's next? Haphazardly setting our minds to random goals that we think will be good for us (weight loss, quitting gluten or sugar, meditating for an hour each day, working out 5 days a week) isn't "bad" on principle, but critical thought is necessary. Our lives aren't linear. Your goal setting probably needs to be flexible in order for it to work.
2) Consider Focusing on the Process (also, be specific)
The Pain-Free methodology is extremely process oriented and very reasonable in nature (it's the main reason I am building my brand around the 10-minute-per-day model). We can set quantifiable long term goals as much as we'd like - and I don't discourage that at all - however, I highly recommend making at least SOME of your goals A) short term, and B) process-based. What if, rather than setting a goal for the entire year of 2019, you set a goal for the first two months of the year, and agreed with yourself that on a certain date you would reevaluate? WHAT IF (even better), this goal was about a small reasonable daily or weekly habit, rather than an endpoint? For example:
A) "I'm going to lose 30 pounds in 2019." Not so good.
B) "I'm going to try to lose 7 pounds in the next 60 days, and on March 1 I will take a look at my progress and reevaluate that goal." Getting better!
C) "I'm going to commit to exercising a minimum of 3 days per week and eating vegetables with at least one meal per day for 60 days, and on March 1 I will see how I look and feel and readjust, recommit, or progress my goal further." YAY!
While some of the more extreme folk may align option 3 with complacency (I actually have a future blog post about the difference between complacency and laziness - read that when it arrives), what this does is allows us to commit to lifestyle changes that are adhered to based on their efficacy. I don't want anyone blindly picking a number and deciding that they're going to reach that number no matter what. I also don't want someone realizing two months into the year that they thought they wanted one thing but actually want another (in this case, for example, maybe this person discovers a love for exercise and decides to put their weight loss as a secondary goal and instead prioritize their physical strength), yet feeling that if they don't stick to their original goal they'll be a failure. We don't want that. Please be smart and reasonable.
3) Get Help with Your Goal(s)
Do you have a friend who could be an accountability buddy for you? If you can set reasonable resolutions together and give each other (and yourselves) critical feedback, DO IT.
Are your goals fitness or nutrition based? Get a trainer or a nutritionist to help you. THEY KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO and should be able to tell you whether your goals are reasonable. Warning: watch out for the more extreme types in this scenario, as they may hurt more than they help.
Are your goals related to some kind of a daily psychological practice (gratitude, meditation, etc)? Keep a written log. This is a great way to check in and keep yourself accountable.
Find some sort of a way to incorporate accountability into your resolutions. It will increase your chances of success.
In summary, New Years Resolutions don't have to be evil. Generally speaking: don't be extreme, don't be inflexible to a fault, don't try to do it all on your own, and make sure you critically think through your options and scenarios. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave me a note or send me a message through this site!
Happy New Year!