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Jan 23, 2023

How to set (and keep) your New Year’s resolutions

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Every year we set the same goals: eat better, get rich and find love. Why are we stuck in a resolution rut?

Have you ever turned to your coworker on a Friday afternoon and said, “I feel like I got nothing done this week”?

It can be demoralizing to feel like you’re stagnating. You might even start to get a bit of imposter syndrome sneaking in, as you imagine how much more someone else could achieve with your time.

Failing New Year resolutions can feel similar. You get to October and realise you’ve only read two books, run 5 miles, and are still living in a total hovel. You’ve got two months to sort it out.

“Forget it,” you probably think. “2024 will be my year.”

2023 is going to be your year.

You are not failing to achieve things. You just aren’t setting the right goals.

How to achieve your goals:

  • Make your goals realistic
  • Use the progress principle
  • Give yourself Lucky Girl Syndrome
  • Avoid avoidance
  • Form a habit loop

It’s normal not to achieve your goals. One 1988 study puts the success rate of New Year resolutions at 19%. Time management firm Franklin Covey pulled a very similar statistic from its 2007 survey.

2023 is your chance to beat the odds. And with the right tools it’s going to be a breeze.

The first step?

Make your goals realistic

So you think you achieved nothing last year. That’s not true. You probably got work done – you just didn’t achieve a milestone. 

Wildly ambitious goals – like running a marathon or reading 52 books – are great, but if you chuck in a couple of smaller ones it’s easier to keep up momentum. Gradual change is often easier to achieve than huge, dramatic ones.

Maybe you want to become more well-read and extremely beautiful, like me. I have designed my New Year’s resolutions to make me slightly better than last year, not dramatically better.

My NY resos are:

  • Read four books
  • Get strong enough to fireman carry my partner out of danger
  • Floss my teeth

Use the progress principle

Say your goal is to become a business-to-business LinkedIn influencer by the end of the year. That’s huge. It’s a mammoth task.

But you can break it down with the progress principle.

Instead of working across five different tasks each day, try to complete just one. You could call this your “tick-off task”.

For example, today my tick-off task is “write a longform LinkedIn post”. I’m working on some other things here and there, but that’s the one I’m going to tick off.

Give yourself Lucky Girl Syndrome

Lucky Girl Syndrome – a simplified, cute and much less victim-blamey version of manifestation bible The Secret. If you believe you’re the luckiest girl in the world, you’ll become it. 

Looking for a new job this year? Walk out of every interview declaring “I’m the luckiest girl in the world!” Want to find love? Flick through Tinder declaring “I’m the luckiest girl in the world!”

The empirical evidence on manifestation is yet to land, but there’s definitely truth behind the benefits of self-talk. Speak positive, think positive, be positive.

Even if you don’t get your dream job or find your soulmate, you may find you’re a little luckier, and get a little closer, this year than last.

Note: odds are you are not actually the luckiest girl in the world. You may not be able to manifest your way out of dire situations.

Avoid avoidance

The power of positive thinking can be seen even in the goals you set. One recent study split New Year resolutions into two types: approach-oriented and avoidance-oriented.

An approach-oriented goal is one with a positive outlook: do this, more of this, head toward this. An avoidance-oriented goal is one with a negative outlook: don’t do this, stop this, avoid this. 

For example, if your goal is to have a better diet, you might choose:

  • An approach-oriented goal: eat more vegetables.
  • Or an avoidance-oriented goal: eat less sugar.

The study found that goal-setters with approach-oriented goals were roughly 11% more likely to succeed over avoidance-oriented goal setters.

In short: stay positive! Sometimes it’s easier to do more than less.

Form a habit loop

It takes 30 days to form a habit. You hear it every year, but you never hit that 30 days, do you? This is your annual reminder to just stick it out another week.

Habit loops work because it takes motivation out of the question. In the motivation mindset, you might wake up at 6am to hit the gym and think, “I don’t want a six-pack so badly this morning”. So you go back to bed.

In a habit loop, you wake up at 6am to hit the gym and think, “yes, it’s been 31 days and this is how I wake up. This is my morning habit.”

If you're ready to get started on micro-managing your New Year's resolutions, why not use the best software available?

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