New Year Resolutions don’t work – here is a better way

So it’s the time of year to make – or break – New Year Resolutions. Have you made any this year, and how’s it going so far, and do you think you’ll be able to keep going throughout the year?

A number of years ago, I decided to ditch the whole idea of New Year Resolutions in favour of a different approach, which I have found increasingly powerful and productive.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of reflecting on the year that has been, and deciding what you want to do differently in the future is solid as far as it goes. It’s just that to me the concept of a resolution is flawed, as it presumes a complete “gear change” from the way I have done things up to this point, into a “new me”, where I’m immediately so much better than ever I was before. If change and growth were really that simple, surely we’d all be super humans by now? Why is it that resolutions are something talked a lot about in January and then never mentioned again from February onwards? What a waste of our potential, as so often we give up so soon, when all the evidence suggests it takes time to form new habits and perseverance for them to become ingrained.

I don’t know about you, but my experience of change has been more gradual and progressive, yet with the potential to be dramatic and life-changing over the mid-term. Change and transformation is nearly always something you have to stick with, and work at. There are often bumps along the way, and perseverance is needed to overcome hurdles, and find creative ways through them.

So is there a better way? There absolutely is, and it may sound like motherhood and apple pie, as it will be very familiar to you, but it’s all about setting goals and working progressively towards them.

This is what I do.

Every year I create a set of goals for all the major areas of my life – such as personal development, key relationships, career and business, health and fitness, all things financial, learning and development, giving back to my community, leisure and travel and practical matters.

The most important thing is not to write down what you will start doing on Jan 1, rather to write down what you will be doing or have achieved by Dec 31. “Begin with the end in mind” as Stephen Covey of 7 Habits fame advocates. So then the questions become – what do I want to achieve this year? Where do I want to have got to by the end of 2018? What shall I do next in order to move towards my goal? Rather than saying “I will start running twice a week” – and risk giving up for the whole year in mid-January, why not set a goal that might say for example: “by the end of 2018 I will have established a running routine, averaging 10k a week.” – or – “in 2018 I will take part in a 5k charity run [or marathon or whatever….]”. For me, the first steps to get into running included talking with others who already run, experimenting with running routes that worked for me, and once I got going, buying a decent pair of running shoes and using a running app to record my runs.

Once a month I schedule a “meeting with myself” to review my goals for the year, re-prioritise if need be the ones that matter most, and write down what I will do within the next month to work towards the bigger goal. This personal check in is really important – a once a year reflection looking back / looking forward just isn’t frequent enough!

Oh and one final important thing. I progressively plan my goals during the “deep mid winter” months of Jan and Feb, when it’s cold, dark and not always the most motivating of seasons. Then I start implementing my goals ‘officially’ for the year from March 1, when there are signs of Spring and new growth – a perfect context in which to reach out and grow personally. It also means that any first steps towards a new goal can be “prototyped” or prepared for in Jan/Feb, as anything worth doing usually needs some decent preparation time.

One of my goals for 2018 is to set up and establish a business to help accelerate early stage companies in turning “vision into reality” and realising their ambition to get an amazing product to market at scale. Look out for further details in the coming weeks, and do get in touch if you’d like to be part of this journey.