Go Ahead...Skip Your 2018 Resolutions
Behavior is a design challenge, not a motivation challenge
[Cues record player]
“It’s that time of year…when the world falls in love…”
…with thinking about health-related resolutions to make for the new year.
We power through the holiday season with gluttonous gusto. What’s that? Another cheese plate? Don’t mind if I do. (wiggles fingers)
We rationalize these choices by saying, “It’s fine. It’s not January yet.” Once January hits, we tell ourselves this will be the year we’ll [give up carbs/run every morning/become a vegan/quit drinking]. But behind this inflated proclamation, the question looms, “How do I actually make my New Year’s resolutions stick this time?”
A few years ago, I planned to read the remainder of the unread books on my shelf at a rate of one book per month. I was satisfied, smug even, with the schedule I had created and entered into my calendar. I even blocked off a weekly time slot to accomplish this goal. I finished the first book and started a second. But somewhere between the prologue and chapter three, life happened. Weeks later, my pace had grinded to a halt; my newfound dreams but a distant memory by spring. Oops.
Sound familiar? Take heart, my friend—you and I are in good company: only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions.
That’s fewer than 1 of every 10 people.
I’m over it. You?
In the weeks ahead, you’ll see countless posts about how to make effective resolutions. But it’s silly to operate on the last-century management model of annual reviews and goal setting. This old-school approach focuses on past behavior (with a heavy dose of judgment and punishment…ugh) at the expense of creativity, outcomes, and growth.
It’s time to modernize…to have different, more regular conversations with ourselves about how to best serve our wellbeing. So I propose we make a pact: 2018 is the year of NO New Year’s resolutions.
Who’s with me?
Before setting out on a new, better approach (to be further explained in the coming weeks), I’ll unpack why we fail to stick to resolutions. Whether it’s "I'm going to quit sugar” or “I’m going to lift weights three times per week” or [insert goal here], we seldom achieve our resolutions. Here’s why:
Setting overly ambitious and/or restrictive goals that are difficult to maintain: When we sit down for our “annual reflection,” we miss getting into rhythm with progress as it actually happens in our lives. Instead, we’re encouraged to dream big at the start of the year…and the consequence is resolutions that are too ambitious and/or restrictive because they’re out of cadence with the rhythm of our lives. Naturally, we struggle to change our behavior consistently, which then makes it impossible to form a habit.
Getting derailed by small failures: It’s easy to say the answer to successful behavior change is to make small changes every day. But life happens: distractions, obstacles, and poor time management, to name a few. We become mired in guilt when our choices are amiss…especially when we place such a heavy emphasis on gearing up for a big start.
Focusing on the “should”: These days, we “should” all over ourselves with that preachy, critical inner voice scolding us for our choices…and admonishing us to get our shi(f)t together. This is a doomed directive. We already know we “should” eat a plant-forward diet/save more money/read more…but knowledge alone doesn’t create sustainable behavior change. Neither does guilt.
Failing to ask, and really connect with, “Why?” When we base goals on the principle of “should” our plans aren’t grounded in something actually meaningful. This leads to immediately (often subconsciously ) devaluing them, making them a lot easier to drop.
So now you’re at a crossroads. You can either force fit yourself into the old, resolution-based model and strive to become one of the eight percent. Yikes.
You can cast aside those ridiculous resolutions in favor of a better approach…one that recognizes that creating the behaviors we want to support our wellbeing is a design challenge, not a motivation challenge.
Curious to learn more?