Why new year resolution doesn’t work

This is the moment everyone has been waiting for all year.

To farewell 2020, and hope for a brighter 2021.

Some say 2020 is a gap year – something that shouldn’t exist in history.

No matter how your year has been, I am sure there is something worth celebrating for.

This is usually the time when people start doing reflections and planning for next year (they say you are the optimistic kind when you purchase a 2021 planner – well, I bought 2.). You know how the saying goes: new year, new me!

But we also know how the story will unfold: we get too drunk and full thanks to all the turkey, pies and champagne, and we think January is the best time to hit the gym.

After 3 weeks or so, the gym returns to its empty state. And it’s not because of lockdown.

Human beings are driven by emotions. All the time.

We make decisions and promises that we don’t stick to.

You know the truth deep down in your heart: you don’t take action because you don’t want it bad enough.

Now lucky for you, you have stumbled upon this blog post for some reason. Let’s break down the myths of new year resolution and why our momentum disappears before February.

How did new year’s resolutions start

The first new year’s resolution started in ancient Babylon over 4,000 years ago for a 12-day new year celebration. It became more common by the 17th century. An article from a Boston newspaper in 1813 first used the phrase “new year resolution” :

“And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviour, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.”

Source: https://www.trafalgar.com/real-word/history-new-years-resolutions/

Why new year resolutions?

Human beings have wants and needs. Entering a new year makes people feel hopeful, and it feels good to turn a new page with new goals and perspectives. Most new year resolutions revolve around health and career aspects. We have seen people claim they need to lose weight, get promoted and so on.

Why most people fail to stick to new year resolutions

No, there’s nothing wrong with setting goals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve oneself.

People overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a year. – Matthew Kelly

The problem is on the goals.

Most people don’t set specific goals.

How do our brains know how fit we want to be? How many kgs do you want to gain or lose? what is the body fat percentage? How many days are you going to exercise every week? What time are you going to do it?

Similarly, how much are you going to earn next year? “Getting a promotion” is too vague. At the same time, we might have overestimated ourselves and make our brains feel overwhelmed. When we get overwhelmed, we lose direction and we procrasinate because we don’t know what the next step is.

What to do instead

Okay, we need to be specific when it comes to describing what we want to achieve.

But that is not enough.

We all know that changes often too quickly and before we know it, we are throwing our original plans out of the window.

What is the better option then?

First of all, be crystal clear on your vision.

Your vision gives you direction in setting goals. Bear in mind that there are many pathways to achieving your goals. It’s a process of trial and error. We want to double down on things that work. By the way, mindset plays a role in this process as well. We want to remain hopeful that we have all we need to make things happen.

Then we put in the work. Show up every day. Don’t be the guy who stops going to the gym after 15 January. Try things out and see what works best for you. Maybe running isn’t for you. Maybe you should double down on cutting sugar instead. Whatever it is, there are many pathways to achieve the goal of “maintain 20% of body fat throughout the year” (see, the goal isn’t to “lose weight before summer”).

How to foster that discipline to show up every day? Isn’t that tiring?

Glad you asked.

No, you don’t need willpower. You don’t need motivation either. To create any routine that sticks, you need to start small. Often we underestimate the significance of baby steps. We always imagine hitting the gym for 60 minutes, 3 days a week. And then when it comes to the time we need to go to the gym, the thought of staying there for an hour is too much. We decide to skip it altogether. You see the problem here?

Start small. Day 1, take a walk for 5 minutes. Day 2, increase to 10 minutes. Next week, you can tweak it to be jogging for 10 minutes. In 3 months, you will be hitting the goal of “walking 10,000 steps every day”. This is how you stick to a new habit. And creating that clarity in step 1 is how you set goals that you can achieve and measure. I am learning my 5th language at the moment, and all it takes is 5 minutes every day on an app. I have been maintaining an impressive streak so far. This is, after all, the definition of habit. And taking baby steps is the key to training up our discipline.

You can trick your brain this way as well. How hard can it be to practise scales for 5 minutes? How hard can it be to write 200 words today? When you break it down like this, it feels so much easier to accomplish. And once you taste success and satisfaction, the whole motivation loop kicks in and you naturally will be able to perform more reps.

It isn’t that complicated.

And this is also why “new year new me” won’t get you stick to your promises and goals. It lacks the clarity of “new” and how you are going to become someone you said you would.

90-Day Sprint

While some people love setting yearly goals, my preferred method is to have a direction in general, and I take full force every 90 days for a life upgrade.

I believe that if we put laser focus on the right things, results will manifest. And I also think that setting artificial deadline creates more urgency.

We can achieve the 1-year goal in a quarter. It is like sprinting. It requires high level and high intensity action-taking. It requires much more focus, consistency and discipline. Qualities that we all should cultivate as successful human beings.

What’s Next

Now we know new year resolution is just a fuss.

You can make a change anytime.

Don’t wait till next year to make a change.

Start taking the baby steps NOW. As long as you keep moving, you will not fail.

Let me know what goals you are setting now!

P.S. I am launching a beta program in January 2021 for overwhelmed millennials to better understand and express themselves so that they can have the clarity and courage to go after the life they want! Again, don’t wait till next year to make a decision. Changes happen anywhere, anytime. Read the details and join the waitlist here: https://findyourforte.carrd.co/