Today we’re welcoming a writer from Ready for Zero to our blog to share about ways to make lifestyle changes instead of short, failed resolutions. Jump in and join us in their Food, Fitness, Finance Challenge!
New Year’s Eve 2012, I was scrambling to think of admirable resolutions and goals to kick off a new year. Like so many others, I was determined to use January 1st as a date to reset and begin working towards new goals. My first draft looked a little something like this:
- Run a marathon
- Volunteer more
- Take a dance class
Problem was – I didn’t particularly want to run a marathon. Volunteering more sounded nice but what exactly did that mean? The only resolution that I could really grab onto was taking a dance class. That was simple. THAT I could do (and did). The other two? I never made any real progress in achieving them.
You might say that I wasn’t motivated enough to make the changes necessary to reach my other goals. But the truth is, I set myself up to fail from the get go. A marathon for a non-runner? It made no sense and yet it was my first impulse. I was focused more on the idea of the resolution rather than the actual meaning of the resolution. And that’s precisely the same reason why so many New Year’s resolutions are doomed from the get go.
6 reasons why New Year’s Resolutions are only setting you up to fail…
1. They’re Grand
Getting a fresh start has become synonymous with undertaking a total rehaul. That’s why so many New Year’s resolutions are based on extreme challenges rather than more modest ones. For fitness, that might mean committing to a marathon (like in my case). For finance, you might make the promise of paying off 110k of debt in the span of a single year. While admirable, those aren’t just resolutions – they’re epic resolutions. It’s OK to aim high, but you might find yourself in trouble if visions of grandeur overtake what’s realistic.
2. They’re Vague
In a speech to the committee at 100,000 Lives, Donald Berswick spoke to the problem of setting vague goals when he said that “Some is not a number. Soon is not a time.”
Vague goals are well-intentioned but aimless. And with less detail and guidance, there’s less accountability. In that way, it’s easy to skirt around the goal and find the loopholes. If you fail to follow-through with a vague goal, you have fewer consequences to answer to.
3. They’re Overly Complicated
Even though most New Year’s Resolutions can be contained within a sentence or two, they’re made up of many moving parts. Without understanding the steps and pieces that make up a New Year’s resolution, you’re likely to feel bogged down when you begin unpacking the details.
4. They’re incompatible with your current circumstances
When you make a New Year’s resolution, it’s possible to fixate on ideals of the challenge rather than what’s practical within the parameters of your life. For example, if you love to swim but choose to train for a marathon then you’re missing a key element of success: compatibility. Straying too far from your interests can result in a quick burn out while focusing on areas of enthusiasm can lead to a more rapid and motivated progress.
5. They’re focused on ends rather than actions
Ever heard of a January Joiner? That’s the term coined for people who charge out the gate each New Year’s Day. They sign up for gym memberships and go faithfully for a certain amount of time before losing momentum and dropping away. It’s the firework burst of energy rather than the sustainable, slow burn. January joiners are focused on succeeding short term while ignoring that long-term success usually requires a certain pacing.
So should you give up your resolutions entirely if you have so many factors against you? Absolutely not. If you’re committed to making a positive change in your life, you will need resolve in order to achieve your goals. But it’s important that you also reframe what exactly a positive change means to you and what factors that will be involved. When you acknowledge the difference between a one-off goal and a goal that’s focused on changing a habit or a lifestyle change, you can create a plan that will fit into your life long-term.
Here are 6 reasons why you should consider swapping your New Year’s Resolution for a personalized lifestyle resolution.
1. It doesn’t depend on an annual start date
The most important step in creating a lifestyle change is this: you don’t have to start with big changes, but you have to start. While that could mean starting January 1st it could also mean starting October 6th or May 17th. Allowing yourself to push off making a change because you’re waiting for New Year’s day only postpones what you could begin today. Challenge yourself to expand beyond a single date and make the potential for positive change something that can occur anytime.
2. Incorporates a plan for short AND long term goals
As mentioned above, a commitment to change is made of many details. When you make a resolution to change your lifestyle you have to be aware of the details as well as the big picture goals. That usually comes about by organizing a game plan and then sticking to it. Focus, coordination and a reasonable timeline are all important elements to coordinate in order to achieve this. Setting small achievable goals that guide you in the right direction for your larger goals will support your success.
3. Acknowledges and manages slip-ups
As discouraging as it might seem, it’s essential to understand that you will make mistakes as you work towards a goal. But fixating on mistakes is one surefire way to put a halt to your resolution. Luckily, what dictates your success isn’t necessarily dependent on how frequently you slip-up but on how quickly you’re able to bounce back from said slip-ups. That means acknowledging flubs and learning from them rather than jumping ship if something goes wrong.
4. Allows for flexibility
Bridges and buildings are built with the ability to accommodate a certain amount of flexibility in their structure. This is critical in successfully standing up to the force of wind and other natural elements without snapping. Yet even with this flexibility, they’re sturdy and dependable. The same should be true of a lifestyle resolution. If you create a rigid New Year’s resolution it will shatter if you deviate from the plan even in the slightest. Factoring in the importance of everyday “sway” is essential in succeeding. Guidelines should be clear, but flexibility should be built into the overall structure.
5. Strives for a solid foundation as well as balance
Balance is often cited as the solution for a happy and fulfilling life. But what’s often left out of that bit of advice is that balance isn’t indefinite. Inevitably, life will tip in one direction or the other and the balance will be upset. That’s why it’s essential to build on a solid foundation. By giving yourself a dependable stance, you can rebalance more quickly and efficiently. A lifestyle resolution is constructed with this knowledge in mind. Then, you can begin the process of rebalancing quickly rather than overcorrecting in one direction or the other.
6. Utilizes aid and support
It’s become expected that if you put your mind to something – anything – you can achieve it. It’s a good mantra to inspire but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Even people who put their heads down and move full force towards their goal are using more than just personal willpower. They’re utilizing resources… things like research, tools, connections. A positive attitude is the leading light, but you need to ask for directions before you set off into unfamiliar territory.
There’s a lot of pressure around the New Year to make a fresh start or take control of reins that you’ve let loose. But if you’ve pushed off these goals the for the other 364 days of the year, it’s a tough sell to convince yourself that January 1st will result in anything different.
That’s why our recently launched Food, Fitness, Finance Challenge was created to last well beyond January 1st. You can sign-up at any point to begin receiving 14 days of tips to help you make positive and lasting change in your life. So if you’ve been meaning to commit to a new goal, go ahead and make it something that will last past January. Choose to make it a part of your lifestyle and look to set a more sustainable goal. There’s no better time than now.
Claire Murdough is a Bay Area native with an affinity for travel and food. She is a personal finance writer at ReadyForZero.