New Year’s Resolutions Reexamined

Have you ever been gung-ho about making New Year’s resolutions, written them down, and then abandoned them after a week?

I have.

In fact, most of the time I forget about my goals the same day I write them down. I know, it’s pathetic. It’s  frustrating when you commit to a change and fail to follow through. There are hundreds of articles on the internet on how to prevent this. I’ve read enough of them and I think I’m not alone in believing that there has to be a more effective way to go about goals.

Disrupting Routines

The number one reason we fail to achieve our goals is they require a change. This could be a small change like wanting to get up a little earlier every morning, or a large change such as eating healthier. We all have routines and goals disrupt routines. For example, one year I made the goal to run every morning. I would wake up at 6 am, get dressed in my running clothes and leave. This disrupted my routine of sleeping and was hard to sustain because it was an uphill battle. It was something I didn’t want to do but was forcing myself to do it. A few weeks in, I abandoned my goal, not because of a lack of self-control, but because I got burned out.

I was viewing the goal in the wrong light. Running was a solution to a problem. In my head, I wasn’t being healthy enough. Because I wasn’t being healthy enough, I needed to run. That would make me a better person. This kind of sounds like punishment doesn’t it? Almost like something your parents would do to you when you are being bad. That is why I didn’t last long.

What is Self-Control?

I once read an illuminating article called, “The Myth of Self-Control.” The author talks about how people with the most amount of “self-control” actually enjoy the tasks they do. They exercise not because it is a form of self-punishment, but because they enjoy it enough to where they want to do it. It also talks about how those that have the most “self-control” avoid the situations where they may be tempted. Healthy eating isn’t hard because you stay away from the bad food altogether. As the post says, “[If] you find yourself in front of a pile of cookies, researchers say the pile of cookies has already won”

This blew my mind.

I find it refreshing to think of self-control, not as a list of things I have to restrain myself from doing. Self-control is about viewing things in a positive light. Avoid the things that are “bad” and focus on improvement through positive activities. You can a enjoy life where goals are seamlessly integrated rather than having to go against the grain. I once knew a guy who had a piece of his paper on his wall that said, “Stop Doing” and “Start Doing.” Every week, he would pick something he would stop doing and replace it with a positive thing. He didn’t view his activities as punishment, but rather, things he wanted to improve on. This is the mindset you need to have.

Redefining New Year’s Resolutions

This year, reexamine how you set goals. Rather than viewing yourself with problems that need to be fixed, think of goals that you’d LIKE to do. I’d like to get better at running and writing. Since I want to do it, it’s easy to commit. Life is already hard enough as is. Don’t waste your goal setting faculties with forms of self-punishment. You will only get burned out.

How do you set goals? Do you agree with me? Is there a better way to view goals? Comment below!

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