If You Actually Want Your New Year’s Resolutions to Stick ??? Do This, Not That

There is lots of scientific research on why setting goals on January 1 never really works out, and why, by March or April, we've all backslid into our old habits. Often, it's because goals aren't specific enough, or we haven't found the best way to track the work we've done. Or, perhaps we don't actually believe we can achieve that new version of ourselves for the long term.    

But, I've started to think about these sorts of commitments in a new way to some success, and I thought I'd share it in case it might be helpful to you. The reason I've always struggled with resolutions around a new season is that they “feel” like I've added something to my already-full plate. In the era of endless amounts of streaming music, new “prestige” television shows to catch up on, incoming emails, and neverendingly updated social media feeds, we already feel so busy. Like our time is booked for way too long in the future. Adding a new personal commitment on top of that just doesn't feel sustainable, even though we want it to be.

So, because we're finite people in an infinite world, build that into your resolutions. If you're going to add something or do more, find something you'll take away or do less. Name where the time and energy are going to come from. Don't just say “I want to eat healthier.” Try “I want to eat more protein, and fewer starches.” Instead of “Stop drinking so much caffeine,” go for “Less coffee. More herbal tea.” 

Here are a few more ways this could work:

  • Wake up 30 minutes earlier; no technology after 9:00pm
  • Exercise 45 minutes a day; stop using smartphone after work unless someone calls
  • More fiction, less Facebook
  • Save more in Roth IRA; cancel my Amazon Prime subscription 
  • More sex, less Netflix
  • Wash dishes as I dirty them, so no more whole sink-scrubbing before bed
  • More quality time with friends, less time grumbling about my co-workers or annoying family members
  • Add three new podcasts that will teach me something new; get rid of three old ones that are basically just the same episode over and over
  • Less reading about my hobbies in books and online forums, more actually doing my hobbies

The resources to do something different have to come from somewhere. So, our job is to name where we'll get them, usually by letting something else go. This isn't two different goals: going to bed earlier and waking up earlier seek the same end result. They work in tandem to make sure you get enough rest and spend the right time doing things you care about. By naming a positive and a negative at the same time, you both raise a question and answer it at the same time. 

This might not pay of all your debt or guarantee you'll get down to your pre-college weight, but it is a digestible, tangible way to remind yourself come February about the things you care about. Give it a shot. 

What are some other formulations that might help you follow through on your lifestyle changes? Post your thoughts in the comments below.