Depending on who you believe, somewhere between 80 and 90% of people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions.
While it would be easy to accredit these numbers to laziness, or lack of discipline, or just the stress of daily life, I believe that the real cause of such a startling statistic is simple…
Most people have no idea how to set resolutions the right way.
When they sit down on New Year’s Eve, the goals they set and the resolutions they commit to are made with a fundamental misunderstanding of human behavior and the process of habit change.
If you are a member of the 90%. If you started this year with the best intentions but have already fallen off the wagon and broken one (or all) of your resolutions…don’t worry.
In today’s article, I’m going to show you how to (re)set your New Year’s resolutions the right way and set yourself up for sustainable success in 2020 and beyond.
1. Less is More (a Lot More)
With the excitement of a New Year, it’s easy to set audacious goals for the “new you” and write out a laundry list of all the ways you’re going to improve yourself and your life.
You’re going to start exercising 5 days a week, working on a stricter schedule, going on a weekly date night, dusting off the old guitar, and reading for 60-minutes a day.
And you plan to do ALL of this at the same time.
In theory, this sort of radical personal transformation sounds great. But in the real world, it forgets one important component of human behavior.
Changing habits is hard.
More importantly, changing habits take time and attention. Studies have shown that most people can only change one big habit at a time unless they experience a radical shift in their environment (e.g. moving to a new city, starting a new job, etc.)
Luckily, the solution is simple.
SEVERELY limit the number of resolutions you set and focus on the 6-12 most important habits that would have the biggest impact on your life.
Focus on the biggest win first and work to implement no more than one new habit a month.
After you make the first habit stick, move on to the next one.
I know that just reading this is making my fellow type-As cringe and recoil in their seats…but trust me. By focusing all of your time, energy, and attention on the most important areas of growth is the only lasting prescription for success.
2. Tap Into the Power of Sequence
One of the easiest ways to effectively reset your New Year’s resolutions is to tap into the power sequence by “stacking” your resolutions in a way that makes each consecutive resolution easier.
Burnout and failure happen when we try to do too much at once. Real progress happens step by step. Sometimes it’s slower than we may want, but the growth is more sustainable.
For example, if your goal is to lose 30 lbs of fat and run a marathon in 2020, don’t start by trying to run 5X a week, eating keto, and taking a ton of supplements all at once.
Instead, do something like this…
During the first month, consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep a night (sleep deprivation leads to high cortisol levels and overeating. Fix this first, and your appetite will lessen, making it easier for you to lose weight).
Once you’ve improved your sleep, commit to getting outside and WALKING, not running, for 30-minutes every morning.
Once you’re moving consistently, commit to skipping breakfast and eating a healthy lunch (don’t worry about mastering dinner yet).
Then, once you have more energy and you’ve acclimated your body to exercise, start running only two times a week.
By stacking your resolutions and focusing on the right sequence of changes in your life, you’ll make it 10X easier to actually achieve your big goal of losing 30 lbs and running a marathon.
With this new framework in mind, consider the most significant goal you want to accomplish in 2020.
What smaller goals will it take to get there? What kind of sequence can you create to see the success you want?
List the smaller steps that come to your mind. Then, focus on one or two of them at a time. When you approach your goals this way, it may feel like progress is too slow, but you’ll end up achieving more in the end.
You CAN achieve your monstrously big goals when you stack smaller goals, breaking them down into feasible steps that won’t become barriers to your success.
This simple principle is one of the biggest secrets to success with goals; when you approach your goals sequentially, they’re not a huge deal. They’re approachable. They’re possible.
3. Focus on Themes Vs. Objectives
Life is unexpected.
You have no idea what opportunities will come your way, what adversity you will experience, or what challenges will arise.
So, instead of focusing on achieving specific objectives in a certain way, focus on the themes you want to bring about in your life.
You can’t always control outcomes like how much money you make, how much weight you lose, or how your marriage evolves.
But you CAN control the processes you follow and the actions you take. And when you have a specific theme for the year, it allows you to create a mental “filter” to help you determine what’s worth your time and what isn’t.
For example, if you set the goal to make your first $1,000,000 in 2020, you may or may not achieve that goal. Even with the best systems, the best marketing, and the best sales team in the world, you can’t force your customers to pull out their credit cards and hit “Buy Now.”
You CAN control the actions you take. And if you shift the conversation and clearly set “Financial Freedom” as the theme of 2020, you can take the actions necessary to live in alignment with that theme.
And if you don’t hit your objective? It’s okay…as long as your processes were in integrity with your ambitions.
Think of what you want most in the next year. Write it down. If it’s more of an outcome goal, try to turn it into a theme, as we did above.
Now, think of what you’ll need to cut out of your life to be true to that theme. What have you been doing that just won’t work anymore? Which of your actions don’t coincide with your theme?
Next, ask yourself if there’s anything you need to START doing. Don’t go too crazy…you don’t want to add so much that it becomes overwhelming. Just think about a few simple things you need in your life so that you can end the year feeling like you lived according to your theme in the best sense.
4. Resolutions Are About Direction, Not a Destination
When you focus only on the end goal, it’s easy to get demotivated and fizzle out early in the year (e.g. the second week of January).
But when you focus on the direction you’re trying to go in rather than the destination, things become a lot easier.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Success is a journey, not a destination.”
You might think this is just a feel-good mantra for people who aren’t achieving massive goals, but the truth is, focusing on the journey is key to lasting success.
Let’s say you resolve to wake up at 5 a.m. every day. If you try and start this on January 2nd, you’ll likely fail and hate yourself for failing, making it harder to continue with a new habit.
Instead, move in the DIRECTION of waking up earlier. Start by waking up 15 minutes earlier every two weeks. Then wake up 15 minutes earlier for the next two weeks and so on and so forth until you finally join the (highly overrated) “5 am club”.
We tend to dream big, try to do too much, and then beat ourselves up when we fail. To see the success you want for yourself, you’ve got to shift your mindset.
Shifting your focus to the direction rather than the destination will change the way you see progress, the way you see your success.
Suddenly, each small step matters. Rather than only celebrating when you run that marathon, you feel a sense of accomplishment from walking 30 minutes each day.
You’ll feel pleased when you start waking up naturally at 6:30 rather than your usual 7:00, even if it’s still quite a ways from the 5:00 a.m. you’re shooting for.
Plan these small steps. Set a timeline, carve out time in your day to make your dream happen.
When you focus on the direction, you have smaller steps you can focus on and little victories to keep you moving forward.
5. Prioritize Addition Through Subtraction
“When things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting.” – Anonymous
How often are your New Year’s resolutions things that you want to START doing? Do you usually think of habits and activities you want to add to your life when you make new goals?
This habit is all too common, but the truth is, the most helpful thing you can do to move toward success is not to add anything new to your life but to subtract the things that are no longer working.
To make more money, you don’t need to add a new side hustle.
You simply need to eliminate your distractions at work, stop doing things that aren’t your job, and prioritize furthering your growth and education in your existing field to make more money.
If you subtract the things that aren’t serving you, you’ll make the right habits automatic.
If you want to lose weight, you don’t need to start by going to the gym five days a week. You just need to stop binge eating at 10:00 p.m. and drinking 500 calorie frappuccinos every morning.
To connect more with your family, maybe all you need to do is disconnect from your phone when you’re around them. Stop spending so much time on your Instagram feed or your emails, and stay out of your office when you could be sharing a meal with your family.
If 2023 left you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and unfulfilled in any way, it’s time to subtract what isn’t working for you.
What do you need to STOP doing to get to where you want to be? When you think of where you’ll be at the end of 2024, how do you imagine yourself? Which of your current habits or routines don’t make it into that picture?
Of course, you don’t always have to cut something out entirely, but perhaps a habit needs to be shaved off just a little bit so you can become your best. For example, maybe you have to do a lot of your business from home, which means doing work when your kids want your attention. Block out time where you’re ONLY focused on your family, and then time where you focus only on work. This way, you can get unencumbered, quality time with the people you love, and then get more done with fewer distractions later on.
It might be hard to think of the things you need to cut out, but do yourself a favor and let go of the things that aren’t serving you. Get introspective. What is not leading you to your ultimate vision? Be relentless, and let go of the things that are holding you back in any way.
Now, after going through these ideas, it’s time to sit down and think seriously about your resolutions…and I want to hear about them. Drop a comment to let me know what kind of great moves you’re planning to make in 2024.