The 6 Worst Resolutions Most of Us Will Make for 2014
Well, here we are again... 'Tis the season, right?
Time for gift giving and celebration, time to eat, drink and be merry, and yes, time to start sketching out those New Year's resolutions. (See also: Small New Year’s Resolutions You Can Start Today)
But before you pen your list for 2014, you might think twice about the goals you choose to set.
After all, it's no secret that we're notoriously bad at keeping our resolutions. Oh, we start out with the best intentions but inevitably, we just can't seem to make those new habits stick. Even more discouraging is that most of those resolutions are carry-overs from years past, meaning that we've tried not one, not two, but several years — sometimes decades — to make our resolutions a reality.
And here we are again.
So, rather than simply going through the motions, let's look at some ways to improve that list and thus, our chances for success. (See also: Tips for Making Resolutions Stick)
The Worst Resolutions Ever
First and foremost, there are some resolutions that you should never make. As in, ever, because they're the hardest to keep and hence, the most commonly broken. Unfortunately, they're also the resolutions we most frequently make, so let's start by scratching these off your list.
I think we can all agree on the appeal of having six-pack abs and a backside that looks good in everything. Ditto on the benefits of being more flexible and strengthening your heart.
But if you think listing this as a resolution will transform you from a couch potato to a lean, mean exercising machine, you need to think again. Yes, in the beginning, we're all fired up and excited about the prospect of that svelte new physique, so we happily commit to gym memberships and personal trainers.
The problem is that when we don't stick to this commitment (and we typically don't), we're left with a gym membership we don't use in addition to that nasty feeling of failure. This is bad for both our wallet as well as our self-esteem and in the end, we'll give up on the resolution altogether. (See also: How to Revive Your Resolution to Exercise)
So, let's instead try to face the real reasons we aren't already working out.
For example, are you just so busy that you barely have time to think? If your schedule is already hectic, you're not likely to suddenly find time for a regular workout without first adjusting said schedule.
Have you tried working out before but find yourself frustrated because you're not seeing results? Then you may want to try setting more realistic goals, adjusting your diet and/or talking to a trainer about your technique or regimen.
The point is, if you're not already committed to creating that fabulous body, simply writing it down as a resolution won't be enough to change your disposition. Figure out why you've been putting it off and that will help you decide how to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. (See also: 10+ Ways to Exercise in Under 5 Minutes)
I'm a big proponent of eating healthy. I love salads, for example, and I try to serve grilled or baked fish to my family at least twice a week. I even spent three years as a vegetarian and I can honestly say that I felt noticeably and amazingly better while I was doing it. (See also: 10 Healthy Things to Eat in the New Year)
But that doesn't mean that I don't still enjoy a cheeseburger with extra onions now and then, and I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic, so although I've cut down on sweets, they're not gone completely.
And I've found that this allowance for indulgence works well for me. Diets, unfortunately, do not.
Telling yourself that you can't eat something is the quickest way to trigger a craving for it, and if there's one thing TV vampires have taught us, it's that the "thirst" always wins. Besides, you can only eat so much cottage cheese and grapefruit before you'll start to get bored and once you lose interest, the diet is all but over.
The result is that you give into a craving, fall off your diet, and then feel guilty for the small pleasure.
Drastic diet changes also often require you to change more than just your calorie intake and that can make this goal even harder to achieve. (See also: Goal Setting, Defined)
Some diets insist that you eat only their products, for example, or that you buy and cook expensive and hard-to-find produce, making your resolution to eat healthier more difficult and costly than you had expected. And what happens when we run into too many obstacles? Yep, we find reasons to quit and do something else instead.
To make a conscious effort to be happier is a wonderful idea in theory, but you first need to figure out why you're not already gloriously cheerful and then decide how to address those obstacles to contentment. (See also: Things You Can Do to Be Happier Today)
Simply making the vague "I'm going to be happier" statement doesn't deal with whatever it is that has been consistently tanking your mood; that requires some soul-searching and self-improvement work, two things we often shy away from.
After all, soul-searching can be painful. It requires us to be honest about our shortcomings, and given the choice between owning our circumstances or investing in a quick-fix, we'll opt for the quick-fix almost every time. And although the "change your life" programs and practices may deliver some initial bliss, it's superficial and thus, typically short-lived.
That doesn't mean that you can't benefit from some "get happier" mantras, but you'll have to dig deeper if you want the happiness to last.
And before you trade this resolution for an equally vague "eliminate stress," consider this: An ongoing study at the Longevity Project suggests that those who are happiest are those who's lives have purpose, which means responsibility, accountability and yes, the stress of working toward a goal.
I'll fess up — this one has been on my list for as long as I can remember. And I've made many valiant attempts to see it to completion. The reason I keep falling short is that I'm not quite sure where to start. Do I organize my closet, my desk, my kitchen cabinets, or all of the above?
My solution to this anxiety was to invest in things I thought would enhance the process. The problem was, I just ended up with a bunch of file folders and storage containers but still no real concept of where to begin. (See also: Easy Organizing Changes You Can Make Today)
I finally had to admit that I'm simply not an organized person.
Once I admitted that to myself, it was easier to get realistic about how much organization I could actually manage and then not feel guilty because I don't match my socks before putting them in a drawer. I put them in the drawer — organization accomplished.
Which brings me to the second reason this particular resolution is so hard to achieve.
Are you having trouble functioning because of all the clutter or are you just trying to stop the looks of disappointment from your more organized friends and family members?
Determining your reasons can help you decide exactly how much organization you really need, so I strongly suggest you consider both why you're unorganized as well as why you feel you need to become organized. Would compiling all your important papers into a filing cabinet suffice, for example, or are you a serious candidate for the next season of "Hoarders"?
Fall in Love/Get Married
Who doesn't want to find that special someone that you'll spend the rest of your life with? The problem is, love doesn't work that way and making this kind of resolution is just setting yourself up for failure.
It's one thing to decide you'll "put yourself out there more" so that you can meet new people, but the rest is unpredictable, and if you try to put a new relationship on a clock, you'll just wind up being disappointed or, worse, settling for someone just to complete your goal. (See also: Get a Drink on Your First Date)
A better option would be to look at why you feel this resolution is worth listing in the first place. Are you just tired of not having a "plus one" or is there something deeper going on?
It's easy to believe that life will somehow become better and more magical with a soul mate at our side but the truth is, that soul mate isn't responsible for your happiness nor can they fix your problems. Only you can do that, and your energy is better spent creating a magical life that doesn't require a better half to make it work.
Plus, cliche or not, it's true: you're much more likely to meet "The One" when you're not looking and what better way to shift your focus than to start working on yourself?
Save More Money
The idea of saving is certainly a sound one and in theory, this resolution is worth your time. But unless you have a specific plan for saving, you're probably not going to reach this goal and may in fact, end up frustrated and even further in debt. (See also: Set the Right Goals to Save More)
The reason? There are two actually.
First, if you've made any of the other resolutions listed above, you've probably added some new expenses to your budget, making it even more difficult to squeeze some savings out of your paycheck and that leaves you feeling torn between doing the things you really want to do versus stowing money away in an emergency fund.
Secondly, we're an all or nothing society. When we do something, we tend to do it big, expecting to implement a complete 180 turnaround in our behavior and habits. But of course, life doesn't work that way and as soon as you declare "absolutely NO frivolous spending whatsoever," that Kindle you've been wanting goes on sale or oh, look! Payless just texted you a coupon for 20% off everything in the store.
You'll refrain of course, because you're committed to making this very important change in your life, but sooner or later, you're going to start feeling deprived. After all, you work hard for your money and if you can't even afford to buy yourself something nice once in a while, then what's the point?
That frustration will soon lead to an inner rebellion, and you'll find yourself binge-spending to make up for all the suffering you had to endure in the past.
Making a Better Resolution
But what if you really do want to get in shape, organize your life, save more money, etc?
The trick is in your approach, and as I've already mentioned, the more vague the resolution, the harder it will be to accomplish. If your goal is simply to do something "more," for example, then how do you know when you've done it? Exactly what constitutes more? 10%? 20%?
Goals need to be measurable, as in "I did exactly that," so that you can check it off your list. You don't just want to lose weight for instance, you want to lose 10 pounds. And you're not just trying to save money — you want to stash $3000 to put toward a new car. (See also: How to Measure Your Goals)
The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to track your progress and reach your goal.
The second thing to remember is that you are who you are. Just as I had to come to terms with my tendency to be disorganized, we also have to acknowledge our tendencies to eat fast foods, skip the gym, veg on the couch, and spend instead of save.
That doesn't mean we can't instill some new and healthier habits, but it does mean we have to be realistic about our expectations. If you've never run a day in your life for example, setting a goal to run a marathon is just a tad over-ambitious.
Better to start with something much smaller, such as walking around the block every evening or taking the stairs at work. Want to write the Great American Novel? Start with writing for 10 minutes, three times a week.
To save money, take a $20 out of each paycheck. Eat healthier? Commit to a salad two or three times a week and at least two full glasses of water a day. Every one of these goals is completely doable and still guaranteed to give you that "look at me" feeling when you succeed.
Yes, I realize these smaller goals may not be as impressive as your original list, but you're much more likely to achieve them and how awesome would it be to actually not have any carry-over resolutions when you make your list again for 2015?
What terrible resolutions are you planning to make for 2014?