Eliminate Failed New Year's Resolutions with 3 Simple Steps


Ahhh....New Year's. The time of perpetual hope. Well, at least until the end of January. I, like many of you, have put together a list of New Year's resolutions that I will try to set out to achieve in 2011. And I, like many of you, have taken a moment to reflect on the sad past of New Year's resolutions forgotten.

There are the resolutions that are long-term and ambiguous:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce my debt
  • Give to charity
  • Buy a house

Then, when I decided to really challenge myself, there were the resolutions that were long-term, but had a specific quantitative goal attached to them:

  • Cut 10% off my debt
  • Cut $10,000 off my debt
  • Lose 10 lbs.
  • Lose 2% of my body fat
  • Give 10% of my money to charity
  • Buy a home in XYZ city for under $250,000

Yeah, those didn't quite work either.

The problem is that when resolutions end up being goals that you can't measure exactly through every action, they end up being worthless.

For example, I might set the goal of losing 10 lbs. over the course of the year, but I have no idea how much any one action (one less slice of pizza, one more mile on the treadmill, one less drink at a party) actually has towards that specific quantitative number. Additionally, our minds work in the moment, not over the course of a year.

The Key to Succeeding in Your Resolutions

Succeeding in your resolutions really requires you to live in the moment, be passionate, and challenge yourself. It's not really about the resolution at all. It's all in the ensuing actions that you take to fight towards that resolution. So how do you do it? Here are three steps that might just work:

Step 1

Identify what you will be really passionate about this year. What do you really, really want to achieve? Keep the list simple and short — one to two items. Too many resolutions will mean that you don't succeed in any.

Step 2

Ask yourself one question when making a decision that will impact you achieving your goal. Print out this question. Stick it to your computer monitor, make it your wallpaper on your smartphone, and laminate it into a card and stick it in your wallet. The question is: "Am I giving it everything that I've got?"

Step 3

If your answer to that question is "yes," great! You have taken one small step towards succeeding in your resolution. If the answer is "no," then give it everything you've got! Nobody wants to live with regret. We only get one chance at this. Fight for what you truly want.

Why Does This Work?

This simple three-step strategy for resolutions works because:

  1. The question changes your habits. If you are serious about your resolutions, changing your habits is the only way to succeed at them in this and future years.
  2. It challenges you and keeps the fire burning.
  3. It is simple.
  4. It works universally. Losing weight; reducing debt; performing at work; being a better husband, wife, brother, sister...you get the idea. The question is universal.
  5. Most importantly, it keeps you focused in the now, at the moment of action and decision that is going to impact whether or not you achieve your resolution.

Give it a shot. What could it hurt?

May your 2011 be a happy, prosperous, and successful one.

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Guest's picture

Just like a budget, I like to keep resolutions:

1. realistic
2. simple

Two steps, which is about all I can remember.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

I would make sure any goal you set is a SMART goal. That way any goal or resolution you do set won't just get lost in the ether.

Guest's picture

Agreed. Keep it to ONE goal, make it specific, make sure you're totally obsessed & passionate about it, and set up your environment to remind you about it and/or make it easy for you to do it.

Guest's picture

I love the question. If you can't answer "heck, yeah!", then it's probably one to skip.