finance in order

New Year’s resolutions are for the birds.

Literally.  Take them out of your psyche and toss them on the ground like stale bread crumbs and let the birdies peck them up and make some good use of them.

I’ve been ranting about the uselessness of resolutions and focusing on goal setting activities that actually work instead for years.

I spent almost three years working in a health club, and the New Year’s Resolution members were a running joke.  “Just wait a couple weeks for them to give up, and the gym will be ours again,” the regular members would say.

And sure enough, by February or March at the latest, 95% of those new members were back to their slovenly ways.

Here’s my brief beef with resolutions.

My Anti-Resolution Resolution

  • 92% of people never keep their New Year’s resolutions.
  • 49% of people start out strong and then peter out, resulting in no change
  • This results in feeling worse about yourself and your life than you did before those shiny, worthless resolutions.
  • In short, resolutions don’t work.

This doesn’t mean that January 1st isn’t the perfect time to evaluate your life and make some changes.  In fact, I highly recommend it.

Just do it effectively and set yourself up for success.

#1 – Write a personal mission statement.

One of the things that’s lacking when it comes to stick-to-it-ive-ness in our New Year’s resolutions is a purpose.

In order for change to be lasting, we need to firmly connect to WHY it’s important.

Write a Stephen Covey style mission statement for your life.  What are you for?  What are you against?  What values are you committed to and why?

Taking this approach crystallizes your motivation and makes it more likely that you’ll actually follow through on the changes you’d like to manifest in your life.

#2 – Make small, incremental changes one at a time for lasting change.

Rather than overhauling your life with massive changes to your diet, exercise routine and relationships all at once in the New Year, start a habit of making one small change at a time.  Too much change is overwhelming and impossible to sustain.

If you think about the huge goal of going from being a total couch potato to exercising one hour every day, it’s so big that you’re likely to psych yourself out before you even begin.  Instead, choose a small, manageable goal that overrides your overwhelm.

For instance, start with an easy 5 minutes of exercise each day.  Increasing one minute over time is an easy way to move in the right direction without getting overwhelmed.

#3 – Create new desirable routines to make your success inevitable.

Studies show that our willpower is like a muscle that gets fatigued by overuse.  We have a very small, limited amount of energy available for activities that involve will power.  When that energy is tapped, we no longer have the energy necessary for change and we give up.

You’ve probably noticed this lack of will power on days when you aren’t feeling well; you’re more likely to cheat on your diet or skip that trip to the gym.  If you have to rely on will power to make yourself do something 100% of the time, you’re eventually doomed to failure.

The way to create sustainable change is to make the new behavior into an automatic routine because you don’t need to use up precious willpower to make yourself do it.

Think about the routines in your life that you do every day, automatically, without thinking: brushing your teeth, taking off your shoes at the front door, checking your email.

Once a behavior is automatic you don’t have to use up your dwindling supply of will power to accomplish it; you just do it without thinking.

Focus on one new routine (something small, manageable and well-defined) and do it for 30 – 40 days so that it’s a true habit before attempting another.  This is the secret to making big changes over time.

Are you making New Year’s Resolutions this year?

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