Making New Year’s Resolutions? There are Better Ways to Waste Your Time

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Photo: Pixabay/TeroVesalainen

On the path to self-improvement, I typically stand behind any effort intended to provide earnest, meaningful change. There is one popular practice, however, that I’ve never understood – New Year’s resolutions.

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions! – Joey Adams, comedian

We make New Year’s resolutions every year but can you think of a less successful method to enhance our lives? Creating resolutions is a communal expectation. Then, when they inevitably fail, we feel like a quitter. We think of “valid” excuses and blame competing prioritizes. The higher achievers among us will even beat ourselves up for lacking the discipline needed to prevail. I reject these negative insinuations.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions should be retired for the simple reason that we need to continually adjust throughout the year. Why wait for an arbitrary date to start (or stop) doing something that matters? If it’s not important enough to start/stop doing at the time we realized that it’s an issue, is it really a priority?

I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. – Anais Nin, author

To get anything done, you need a sense of urgency. Waiting a month or even a week is not urgency. When someone decides to start their diet in a few weeks, are they really committed to dieting? Or, is it easier to say, “one day, I will eat better.” Quick note: If your sentence starts with “one day”, accept that it is never going to happen. Same goes for “Once this holiday is over…”, “I plan on…”, and, of course, “On January 1st, I’ll…”.

Instead of setting goals that have an unnecessary futuristic start date, focus on ways to enact sustainable changes today. According to James Clear, this involves only two steps – deciding the type of person you want to be AND proving it to yourself with small wins. Want to be someone who is 20 lbs lighter? Decide how you can lose 2 lbs by Saturday. Want to be someone who speaks a second language? Start your online course or finish the first chapter of the practice guide before you go to bed tonight. This method allows for zero procrastination and immediate gratification without the need to proclaim a grandiose resolution.

Save yourself the aggravation. Be frustrated by the tribulations associated with what you’re actively attempting to accomplish, not with what you fantasize about doing. Put your plan together – determine your objectives, intermittent goals, due dates – and enact it immediately. January 1st may be behind us, but if you can start today, you’ll already be ahead of all those broken resolutions.

VIADavid Kahn
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David Kahn
David Kahn, PhD is an Organizational Psychologist focused on delivering business solutions that link culture and engagement with the business goals of the organization. Check out his latest book, "Case, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes" and read more of his work on leadersayswhat.com.