How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions All Year Long
The new year is amongst us, and so are its many doomed new year resolutioners. Every year we witness the same tired story. We listen to John’s vow to join a gym and transform his body, and perhaps get ready for the Olympia stage. Samantha tells us that she will finally quit smoking weed this year, and of course, uncle Jerry pledges to quit drinking forever.
Like a Shakespearian tragedy, it all goes to shit after a few weeks or so. John is devouring a bag of Cheetos a day; if you ask him about the gym, he will mumble a story about having misplaced his membership card. Samantha somehow gained access to some Hollywood parties, getting high with Snoop Dogg was something she just couldn’t refuse. Uncle Jerry? Well, you should have known… He has had the same resolution for the past twenty years.
So why are people terrible at keeping their resolutions? I believe it’s because they employ ineffective strategies. Let us get into three methods that you can use to keep on track with your goals.
3. Focus on habits more than end goals
Instead of fixating on the end results, we must put a greater focus on the habits that are needed to achieve these results. Your end goal is the summation of thousands of decisions that you have made prior to its attainment. If you want to lose 30lbs before the year ends, every single piece of food you eat is either bringing you closer or farther away from that goal.
If you want to make more money in the new year, every single purchase and investment is paving the way for your result. You are either getting closer or drifting away from it.
Our conscious choices can only take us so far, because they are dictated by the Godfather called ‘Willpower’. When your willpower has been depleted and the Godfather has had enough, the show ends. You find yourself in the bag of Cheetos or smoking that Mary Jane with Snoop Dogg.
To find salvation, you must leverage what ever conscious effort you have in order to create the necessary habits that will facilitate the attainment of your goals.
Start small and build up gradually. Consistency is what makes the biggest difference in the long run. You need to create goals that are bite-sized and manageable. What is the point of running a marathon in the first week of the year only to eat Pop-Tarts and sit on the couch for the remaining fifty-one weeks? I would much rather see someone start off with 20 minutes of exercise per day and then gradually increase it to one hour a day by the end of the year. The second person will see the biggest difference because they focused on creating a sustainable lifestyle habit.
Creating habits takes patience and faith; the beginning is always the hardest part of the process. Many people give up before having created the habit, because they assume that the struggle will last forever. This erroneous theory has ruined many lives. Remember to keep grinding through the preliminary stages of the habit being the formation process. Once the habit is formed, the pain and effort needed to continue drop drastically and your results will be inevitable. It is at this point that you just sit back and enjoy the ride!
2. Understand ‘Parkinson’s Law’
In your high school Physics class, you were probably taught about the laws of thermodynamics. Surely you would have gained a sense of intimacy with Newton’s ‘Laws of Motion’? If your Physics class had any integrity at all, you would have been introduced to Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’.
Sadly, from my experience, many schools omit to teach a fundamental law. They fail to enlighten students with ‘Parkinson’s Law’.
Parkinson’s Law states that:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
You might have noticed an interesting trend in life, where people frequently use the entirety of the time allocated to perform a task. Finishing early is not the norm, especially for large projects. Project managers will testify about project overruns and cost overshoots. Professors at universities will warn you about the tendency of students to submit assignments on the due date or later.
This tendency can be shown graphically below.
This first graph shows the typical Parkinson’s Law effort distribution over time. People often start off projects with a lot of enthusiasm, only to lose it as time drags on—incrementally stretching the project to its deadline date.
The second tendency is often seen in students. Minimum effort is put into the start of any assignment; however, huge amounts of effort are poured in as the deadline approaches. Do you remember those all-nighters that you used to pull off back in school? Yep, that’s the reverse Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law should show you that we spend too much time procrastinating on tasks that can be accomplished at a much faster rate. A useful tactic is to shorten the duration you give yourself to accomplish a goal.
Instead of having yearly goals, try to split them into bi-yearly or even quarterly goals. You have the resources to achieve many of your goals at a much faster rate! The problem is that you have not been conditioned to push the envelope. A benefit of the shorter deadline is that it might allow you to accomplish your goals much quicker. Even if you don’t accomplish them, you will undoubtedly make more progress on them than if you were following the traditional yearly time frame.
1. Remember the bigger picture
Perhaps the biggest reason we fall off our New Year’s Resolutions is that we forget the bigger picture. We forget what made us decide to try to change our lives. We accept short-term pleasure over long-term fulfilment.
When you are feeling doubt, and you want to give up, use your imagination to vividly recount memories with an emotional charge. The memory could be when your cousin told you that you had “let yourself go”. Or maybe it’s when you struggled up a flight of stairs with your lungs burning from all the cigarettes. The memory could be the look of disapproval that your landlord gave you when you failed to pay the rent on time.
Go back to these memories and relive them and feel them fully. Engulf yourself in their flames!
Human beings base most of their decisions on emotions. When emotions are strong enough, they can easily override logical thinking. For example, obesity begins with the emotional responses that one experiences with food. The obese person understands that the foods that they eat are killing them slowly, but the short-term pleasure of eating the food, together with the discomfort of exercising eclipses any logical reasoning.
The person who is 20,000 dollars in debt knows that they should not be buying things with their credit card. But the pleasure gained from the look of jealousy on their friends’ faces when they see the new Gucci handbag far outweighs any logical reasoning.
Emotions can break you or make you, so you must use them to your advantage and not to your detriment. Envision what your life would look like in a few years if you were to stay true to your resolutions. Which new avenues would open for you? Now imagine the opposite. How would life turn out if you were to abandon your resolutions? Is the pain worth it?
Those are my three strategies, so make sure to employ them and share this with your friends. Wishing you the best of luck with your new year goals!