New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap.
“Why wait for an arbitrary date to make changes to yourself?” your more cynical friends say.
Then there’s those people who will make very enthusiastic, very idealistic resolutions… only to give them up a few days later.
Ok, so New Year’s resolutions can suck.
It doesn’t help the word ‘resolution’ is as vague and nebulous as the promises people often make to themselves when the ball drops. Also, people often adopt an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach when it comes to their goals – where, when they find themselves slipping, just throw their hands up and give up.
But does that mean you should give up on resolutions entirely?
The start of a year is the best time to set yourself up to reflect on the year that’s passed and what you want the new year to bring.
Here are three ways to set the resolutions that you’ll actually keep.
1. Set systems, not goals
Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comics, famously talked about this philosophy in his blog. Goals are good for simple things, he states. However, the world moves too fast and is too unpredictable to set a winning goal for yourself reliably.
This is where a reliable system comes in.
Losing weight is a goal. But setting yourself up to drive to the gym five days a week is a system. Even if you get there and you’re not feeling it, you’re likely to still follow through.
Another common resolution is saving money. Saving money is the goal, but a system is putting aside every $5 note that passes into your hand.
So why are systems so important?
Goals are hard, man. Even the most motivated ones among us have limited supplies of willpower and if day by day passes and our goals don’t seem any closer, we’ll inevitably lose steam. Systems, on the other hand, are a way to ensure you continue working towards your goal.
2. Do less than you can
This might seem counter-intuitive but…
Many resolutions people set themselves revolve around getting more serious about hobbies – maybe you want to exercise more, read more or become more serious about photography or writing. Still, even resolutions around things you’re passionate about can quickly fall by the wayside.
That’s because when you make yourself do something repeatedly, even when you don’t feel like it, it can start to feel like a chore.
To prevent that from happening, allow yourself do less than you can. If reading 10 minutes a day is starting to feel long, then allow yourself to that cut down to eight minutes. That way, you will feel less obliged to fill certain quotas for the sake of a resolution.
3. ‘Commit to one’
Starting a resolution is often the hardest part, closely followed by making the time to follow through.
That’s why the ‘commit to one’ philosophy is so important. The idea being that even if you don’t reach your goal for the day, you can try to complete one activity for it. For example, if your resolution is to do 10 minutes of mindful meditation every day, but one day find you’d rather collapse into bed, commit to at least one big, mindful deep breath. It’s better than doing nothing and makes you feel like you’re still putting in at least some of the work.
‘Commit to one’ can be applied to a bunch of things. One pushup if your resolution is fitness, one page if your resolution is to read more, one dollar put aside if you’re trying to save money, and so on. Baby steps.