Why Make New Year’s Resolutions?

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

For the past two weeks, we’ve been giving you plenty of suggestions to help you establish your goals for 2007. But even after reading all those ideas for changing your life for the better, you may be unconvinced that setting yearly goals is important, Indeed, there are plenty of good arguments against making New Year’s resolutions. For example:

  • They don’t work. You make them, break them, and eventually forget about them, only to make new ones the next year. What’s the point?
  • They aren’t necessary. If you want to make improvements, make improvements not promises. You don’t need resolutions to accomplish your objectives.
  • They are demoralizing. Failing to follow through on your yearly goals makes you feel bad about yourself. When you feel bad about yourself, you are less likely to succeed.

Those are some of the reasons you should ignore the rest of this message. Here are a few reasons you should heed it:

  • Studies show that people who set goals achieve more in life.

In one study, researchers from the University of Maryland-College Park College of Business and Management reviewed years of past laboratory and field studies on the topic of goal setting. Ninety percent of the studies showed positive or partially positive results when dealing with the link between goal setting and higher performance. The researchers concluded that “specific, challenging goals led more often to higher performance than easy goals, ‘do your best’ goals, or no goals.”

In another study, researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University asked 56 female undergraduates to do as many sit-ups as they could in 90 seconds. One group, told to “do their best,” averaged 43 sit-ups on each day of the four-day study. The other groups, which had been given the specific goal to do consecutively more sit-ups at each session, performed significantly better, averaging 56 sit-ups on the last day of the experiment.

  • ETR staff members can attest to the benefits of making resolutions.

For instance, when Jon Herring resolved to get healthier in 2005, he lost 25 pounds, became lean and muscular, and improved both his mental clarity and energy levels. In 2004, Charlie Byrne resolved to run in the New York Marathon – and he reached his goal that fall, not only entering the race but finishing in less time than he’d aimed for.

  • My own experience proves that setting goals at the beginning of the year increases your chance of accomplishing them.

I started making formal New Year’s resolutions when I started writing ETR almost seven years ago. Since that time, I have done a number of personally rewarding things I would never, ever have done otherwise:

  1. Working with an old friend, I co-wrote a screenplay that is currently being shopped in Hollywood.
  2. I wrote and published five business books, four of which became national best-sellers.
  3. With the help of Paul Lawrence, I produced and directed two low-budget movies.
  4. I became moderately fluent in Spanish.
  5. I got my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Tempus Fugit, Carpe Diem

This formal, goal-setting ritual works mainly because it is linked to the natural cycle of the seasons. Every year has seasons (even if you live in Florida) that remind us of the passing of time – that if we don’t take the initiative to make changes, the following year will find us in pretty much the same position (or worse) than we find ourselves in now.

The beginning of a new year feels like the right time to make those changes … to give ourselves a fresh start by working and living smarter (and enjoying it more). And, indeed, if you start off the year by making a commitment to do that, you’ll be light years ahead of the competition by the time December rolls around.

Each year, I create my own list of goals. Here they are, in hopes that they’ll inspire you to make your own:

My 2007 Health Goal: I resolve to get more sleep, which will help me be more productive and less vulnerable to flu and cold viruses.

I also resolve to become more fit by exercising harder. This year, I will set goals for pull-ups (probably 20, strict), push-ups (100, strict), sit-ups (100) and running (100 yards, 220 yards, and 440 yards). By combining Dr. Sears’ PACE program with a strength training program, I will make myself physically younger this year.

You, too, can make yourself physically younger this year. It doesn’t matter how old you are – even if you are disabled or infirm. If you’d like some good inspiration on this subject, I recommend watching Murderball, a compelling documentary about rugby-playing quadriplegics. This movie won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. One of the players profiled, Mark Zupan, wrote a book with Tim Swanson called Gimp: When Life Deals You a Crappy Hand, You Can Fold – or You Can Play.

My 2007 Wealth Goal: I resolve to become wealthier each and every month. This is a promise I have made and kept every month since 1988. If you are just starting down the road to personal wealth, you don’t have to pick a specific monthly or yearly target. Just resolve to get richer every four weeks. Figuring out how to do that – and taking small, daily actions to achieve that result – will work miracles. Just try it. It works.

My 2007 Personal Development Goal: I resolve to finish the collection of short stories I’ve been writing, get better at Spanish, and bring my Jiu Jitsu game to a new level. I will do that by making these activities part of my daily routine. If I need help to make progress, I will get it.

My 2007 Social Development Goal: I resolve to give more away. That means time, money, knowledge – everything I have of value. I’ll do that by contributing to causes I believe in, by writing more helpful books, by helping ETR and AWAI (and my other clients) produce better information products, and also by spending more time with my friends and family.

In case you are new to the game, or for some other reason don’t feel completely comfortable setting goals for 2007, here are three lists – for beginner, intermediate, and advanced readers – that will get you started:

I. For Beginners

Your Health:

  • 10 minutes of running three times a week, following Dr. Sears’ PACE program.
  • 10 minutes of calisthenics three times a week (on alternative days from the running), following either Matt Furey’s Combat Conditioning, Doctor Sears’ PACE program, or Doc Darville’s 60 Going on 20 program.
  • Five minutes of yoga or stretching every day.
  • Seven hours of sleep each night.

Your Wealth:

  • Read Automatic Wealth for Grads … and Anyone Else Just Starting Out and use it to plot your long-term wealth-building goals.
  • For specific wealth-building ideas, regularly read ETR along with one of the following (depending on your interests): (1) Investor’s Daily Edge for recommendations and practical strategies to protect your portfolio, (2) Profit Center Dispatch to learn about hot new business opportunities, or (3) Andrew Gordon’s Income investment service to discover stocks that promise safety and higher-than-average profit potential.
  • Start saving at least 10 percent of your gross income.
  • Enroll in one investment or wealth-building program.

Your Personal Development:

  • Start or restart a hobby that will improve your mind and strengthen your spirit. Something that will challenge you. (Not watching television. Not playing golf.) Then devote at least one hour to it once a week.
  • Read ETR’s “Word to the Wise” every day.

Your Social Self:

  • Every time you meet someone (even if it is someone you see all the time), smile at them. Beginning each interaction with a smile will make each and every relationship more comfortable and more fruitful.
  • Shake hands with vigor. When speaking to someone you have just met, say their name at least three times.

II. For Intermediate Readers

Your Health:

  • 10 minutes of yoga or stretching every day.
  • 20 minutes of short-duration, high-intensity exercise three times a week. (Try Dr. Sears’ PACE program for good workouts.)
  • 20 minutes of intense calisthenics three times a week.
  • Set and achieve goals for strength and speed. (For example: 12 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, and a 75-second quarter-mile.)

Your Wealth:

  • Read Automatic Wealth once.
  • Increase your saving to 15 percent of your gross income.
  • Increase your daily reading to 30 minutes each morning.
  • Get to work an hour earlier. Devote that time to a major wealth-building objective.
  • Choose a way to develop a second income. Learn everything you can about it. Start the income flowing before year’s end.
  • Develop wealth-building habits. For example, learn to ask yourself before you engage in any commercial transaction, “Will this make me wealthier or poorer?”

Your Personal Development:

  • Make your challenging hobby a daily experience. Devote at least 15 minutes a day to it.
  • Keep track of your progress and development in a blog or journal.
  • Begin to learn a new foreign language.
  • Learn something (or more) about wine.

Your Social Self:

  • When you are with your family, be with them. Don’t read. Don’t do any work. Be in the moment.
  • Develop the habit of thanking people. Once a week, send out a postcard or note to someone you like, telling them exactly what it is you appreciate about them.
  • Start giving some of your money to help the poor. Find a way to do so without hurting them or making them dependent on you. Don’t expect thanks. Do it because it makes you feel good.

III. For Advanced Readers

Your Health:

  • 15 minutes of intense yoga or stretching every day.
  • 30 minutes of short-duration, high-intensity exercise three times a week or 15 minutes six times a week. (Try Dr. Sears’ PACE program for good workouts.)
  • 30 minutes of intense calisthenics three times a week or 15 minutes six times a week.
  • Set and achieve high goals for strength and speed. (For example: 20 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, and a 60-second quarter-mile.)

Your Wealth:

  • Increase your savings to at least 25 percent of your gross income.
  • Net at least $100,000 from your second stream of income.
  • Invest in real estate, following Justin Ford’s Main Street Millionaire program.
  • Achieve an above-market return on your investments of at least three percent (i.e., if the market makes 12 percent, aim for 15 percent).
  • Diversify your portfolio into indexed mutual funds, blue-chip stocks, quality municipal bonds, gold, private equities, and real estate.
  • Set specific, seven-year targets for creating an additional million dollars or more in net worth. (Reread Seven Years to Seven Figures if you have any questions about how to do that.)

Your Personal Development:

  • Become a qualified expert at your hobby.
  • Attain fluency in a foreign language.
  • Every day: read a poem, look at a painting, and listen to a beautiful piece of music.
  • Become adept at your journal writing. Expose it to outside criticism (and learn from what your critics say).
  • Read a book a week that will help you become a more powerful, interesting person.

Your Social Self:

  • Give away at least 10 percent of your income.
  • Donate at least 10 percent of your waking time to helping others.
  • Desist entirely from criticizing, complaining, or condemning.
  • Do something kind at least once a day.

If you need more inspiration to make 2007 the year you accomplish some important goals, reread the ETR articles we’ve been sending you since January 1. If you need help, check into ETR’s goal-setting program.

[Ed Note: What are your goals for 2007? What steps will you be taking to achieve them? How are the ideas and strategies you’ve been reading in ETR for the past two weeks helping you come up with a plan and start taking action?] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]