January 02, 2015 / Why You’re Going to Fail At Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
'Hit the gym' and 'be more outgoing' are essentially meaningless.
Happy New Year, everyone.
It’s 2015, and a lot of people like to take stock of the past year, look ahead to the year to come, and make resolutions to improve their habits, their decisions, and their lives. You may have stumbled across JoshSway.com because you’re one of those people – you’ve resolved that 2015 will be a year to improve your dating life, and you’re looking for some advice on how to accomplish this.
You’ve come to the right place, but I have some bad news for you. It’s very likely that you’re going to fail at these resolutions. I’m not saying this to be discouraging, but as a “life improvement mechanism,” New Year’s Resolutions are terrible. For this article, let me start by giving you an example of a terrible resolution.
"This year, I’m going to go to the gym more often.”
Why is “going to the gym more often” a terrible resolution? Because you failed to ask yourself these questions:
What are your parameters?
Okay, so you want to go the gym more often. How much is “more”? Over what time period?
Say you go to the gym twice a week for the whole year. Is that “going to the gym more”? Yeah, most people would say so. Now let’s say you went to the gym exactly once in all of 2014, and then in 2015 you go twice. You technically did go to the gym more, but this is hardly what anyone would call a successful life improvement.
Your resolution should specify as many parameters as possible. How much is “more”? Over what time period? These are the questions you need to answer if you want to have any hope of actually sticking to your resolution.
How are you defining and tracking success?
Let’s look at the verb here. Go to the gym. Go and… do what? Go and workout, obviously, but say you go and walk on a treadmill for five minutes and then leave. And you do that twice a week for a whole year. Yes, you technically went to the gym more often, but those 520 minutes of walking on a treadmill aren’t exactly going to make a massive difference in your physique.
Your resolution should measure outcomes and not just activities. Instead of just “go to the gym more often, your resolutions should be something like “bench press 1.5x my body weight by the summer.” This also gives you a measurable way to track your progress. Otherwise you risk quite literally “going through the motions” yet achieving nothing.
If you were truly motivated, why did you wait until New Year’s Day?
Imagine a 40 year old man, who is married and has two young children. He’s overweight and smokes cigarettes, and he starts feeling light-headed and has chest pains one day. His wife takes him to the ER. Some tests are run, and it’s clear that his heart is under tremendous stress from being out of shape and smoking cigarettes. A doctor tells him if he doesn’t quit smoking and lose weight, he will likely have a heart attack well before his kids ever start high school.
How does that man respond? I’ll tell you what that guy doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Thanks doc. Next January 1st, I’ll get right on that.” No, he goes home, flushes his cigarettes down the toilet, tells his wife to never buy any junk food again, and starts doing some sort of cardiovascular activity in the evening.
Hopefully you see where I’m going here. Your resolution may be something like, “go to the gym more,” but if you were really motivated to go to the gym, you would have just… gone. Instead of simply “resolving” to do so, ask yourself what was holding you back. Maybe you moved and your gym is a much further drive, or you wished you had a workout buddy, or you just hate lifting weights. Your resolutions should be figuring that out and fixing those structural problems.
So don’t just resolve to “go to the gym more often.” Resolve to sign up for a closer gym, or resolve to ask your friends to be your workout buddy, or resolve to find some new workouts that are more interesting than repping 3×10 on the bench press.
Make Goals, Not Resolutions
I happened to luck into this realization when I actually kept a New Year’s Resolution several years ago. I had gotten some dental work done at the end of the year, and I had a follow up dentist appointment at the end of February. So my New Year’s Resolution was basically to floss at least three times a week between then and my next appointment. I kept a little pocket calendar in my bathroom (yeah, this was pre-smartphone days), and checked off every day I flossed. I used to think flossing was the most tedious thing ever, but I found it surprisingly easy to keep this resolution and keep flossing afterwards.
What happened? I made a goal masked as a resolution. I was motivated to floss anyway, it just so happened my dentist appointment was right before New Year’s Day. I had a concrete parameters for timing and success – floss three times for at least two months – and was able to measure success with my pocket calendar.
We’re only a week into the New Year, so it’s not too late to modify your resolutions and turn them into goals. Fix any issues with your motivation, set parameters for time constraints tracking, and most importantly: define success. Turn your resolutions into goals, and I think you’ll find 2015 will be a promising year filled with the self-improvement you’re seeking.