How To Make New Year’s Resolutions That Don’t Suck

by George P.H. on December 27, 2012


I hate working out in January. Every gym is full of people who’s New Year’s resolution is to get fit, and I always have to wait for someone to stop curling in the squat rack.

Fortunately, most of the new people are gone by February and everything goes back to normal. That’s the reality of N.Y. resolutions: 88% of them end in failure.

I’m guessing you don’t want to be a part of that statistic. You don’t want to wake up a year from now and realize that, once again, you’ve done nothing to change your life in 2013.

So today, let’s talk about making New Year’s Resolutions that don’t suck and following through on them.

Why Most People Fail

It’s not that people don’t care about succeeding. Whether it’s drinking less, losing weight or managing stress, all the common resolutions are really important to those who make them.

So where does it all go wrong?

The common reasons for failure are basic. People set unrealistic goals; work extremely hard for a few weeks and burn out; run out of motivation.

All these mistakes can be avoided if you make great N.Y. resolutions and think ahead. When you have a great plan, all you have to do is make an effort. This reduces all the unnecessary thinking, worrying and stress that drives people to give up on their goals. When you have a plan, everything else takes care of itself.

I know what you must be thinking: plans are boring. That’s how I feel, too – I’m a person of action and I hate thinking ahead.

But let me put it to you like this. You wouldn’t try to build a house without a foundation. You wouldn’t show up to the gym without a workout plan. You wouldn’t go to the cinema before checking out the movie times.

So how the hell can you expect to succeed in 2013 if you haven’t thought your goals through?

Hate it or love it, you need to put some thought into your resolutions – now.

Step #1 – Decide What You Want

“But George, I know what I want. Lotsa cash, more sex and less belly fat.”

To that, I say: are you sure about that?

With other people constantly telling us what we’re supposed to want, it’s hard to draw the line between real and imagined desires. Like Chuck Palahniuk wrote, “advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” It can be hard to tell what really matters to you with all the outside noise.

And even when you do know what you want, how can you narrow all your goals down to a single resolution?

Fortunately for you, there’s an ap… er.. exercise for that. I use it with my clients all the time, and it’ll help you pick a New Year’s resolution you can feel really motivated about.

(By the way: to find out why one goal is way better than multiple goals, check out this post on focus by Scott H. Young. It’s pretty neat.)

Exercise: Making a Kick-Ass New Year’s Resolution

  1. Take out a piece of paper and start writing down all the goals you have. Write down everything that comes to mind – you’re looking for quantity, not quality at this stage.
  2.  Looking at your list, cross out all the goals that aren’t very important – in my case, that’s stuff like “learning card tricks” and “reading James Joyce’s Ulysses”.
  3. Now go through the rest of your list and rank your goals in order importance, starting with the ones you care least about.
  4. When you’re down to a few points, it’ll get hard to rank one over another. If this happens, just imagine what life will be like if you don’t reach a goal – and rank the one it’d be hardest to live without at #1.
  5. Congratulations – you’ve found a kick-ass New Year’s resolution!

Step #2 – Think Ahead

If you decided to go somewhere new, you’d do a few things before leaving home. You’d look at a map; make sure you have some money with you; get dressed appropriately.

That’s preparation, and it’s just as important in New Year’s resolutions as it is in going out.

You don’t have to make a day-by-day schedule for 2013, but it will help if you have a rough idea of what you’re going to do. Here are the main things you should think about now, before they become a problem later on.

Be Prepared – “Just do it” is a cool slogan, but you need to know what you’re doing if you want to succeed in 2013. With so much information available for free online, there’s no excuse not to. Find a good workout plan; buy some books; hire a coach if you have to. Do what it takes to be prepared.

Setting Deadlines – Have you ever done nothing for days or weeks, only to miraculously become super-productive as a deadline draws near? So has everyone else. Deadlines work – so set them.

Days Off – A lot of people think that they can just explode into a completely new lifestyle. This is rarely the case, unless you’re trying to drop a substance – in which case you should stay away from it. Go easy on yourself and schedule occasional off-days.

Be Prepared to Execute The Program –Days off are fine when you really need them. The rest of the time, be prepared to “execute the program” – i.e. put in the work – no matter how you feel. Every day won’t be a great day.

Tracking Progress – You need to track progress to know whether you’re making progress or not. If you don’t, you might spend a lot of time an energy doing something  that’s giving you no results.

Handling Screw-Ups – You will make mistakes and screw up. Comes with the territory. But like Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without giving up.” Life is a marathon, not a sprint; set your inner compass to “perseverance” and don’t let your mistakes stop you from being successful in 2013.

Staying Motivated

Back at school, we had this one kid who was a virtuoso electric guitar player. He practiced, on average, for 3 hours a day – so one time I asked him if he ever felt like giving up.

His reply: every single day.

No matter how much you love what you’re doing, making an effort is always harder than doing nothing. You’ll have days when you feel like giving up – and to help you beat that, here’s a cool motivational exercise from the Manual of Confidence. 

Exercise: Staying Motivated At All Times

  1. Make a list of everything you’ll miss out on by not succeeding in your resolution. Think long-term, considering your health and happiness in 2013 and beyond.
  2. Now make a separate list of everything that reaching your resolution will do for you. How will your life change? How will people treat you? How will you feel? Don’t hold back; really use your imagination!
  3. Keep these lists somewhere you can see them – by your bedside, in your wallet or stuck to your door – and look at them as often as possible. Visualize all the consequences of both success and failure; this’ll keep you motivated when you need that extra boost to stay on track.

When I was at my lowest point in my teens, I remember wishing for my life to change every year. But it never did until I realized that it was my responsibility to get everything I wanted for myself. I’m very grateful for that life lesson.

How about you; what are you going to do this year? What are you leaving behind in 2012? What is your innermost wish?

You only live once, so make the most of your time here. It’s up to you to make your dreams come true, so use this guide to get everything you want in 2013 and beyond.

Be the best you can be and have an amazing year.

What are your plans for 2013? What would you like to achieve and what are you going to leave behind? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Oh, and if you’ve read this far – do your friends a favor by sharing this post with them! Everyone deserves a kick-ass New Year’s resolution for 2013. 

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