Why you should think twice about making New Year's resolutions (and what to do instead)
Most people who make New Year’s resolutions don’t keep them. Many of us start working toward our goals but fizzle out within a few weeks, and other goals are never even attempted. This year, don’t just ditch New Year’s resolutions - ditch goals altogether - and you’ll get better results. Here’s why.
Goals are not necessary in order to achieve something. Sure, they may provide structure to your life and motivate you for the short term, but they often don’t lead to lasting behaviour change and amazing results. You don’t need goals to do awesome things in life. We’ve been conditioned to set and work toward goals as if that’s the only track to success. It’s not.
For the best results, success, and contentment with your life, you need to commit to habits and processes, not goals.
Here are four problems with goals and how you can solve them by committing to habits instead.
1. Goals reduce the happiness you feel right now.
When you’re working toward a goal, you’re essentially saying, “I’ll be happy as soon as I achieve X.” Then once X is achieved, you immediately move on to the next goal. What about being content with where you’re at now, or at least enjoying working on day-to-day habits?
Why habits are better: You’ll learn to love the daily habits and processes involved in achieving something great. Instead of being motivated by potential happiness in the future, you’ll be motivated by the enjoyment you get from consistent habits now.
2. When we don’t achieve a certain goal, we feel bad about ourselves, even if we’ve made immense progress in whatever we’re trying to achieve.
Our goals are typically quite arbitrary, or perhaps based on someone else’s performance (which may or may not apply to us).
Why habits are better: Instead of obsessing about a particular outcome, focusing on habits will make your daily practice enjoyable, while still getting you amazing results.
3. Goals are limiting.
Goals are made with the assumption that we can predict the future, by trying to figure out where we’ll be and when. Obviously we have no idea what situations will come up along the way. Goals not only shut us off from other opportunities worth pursuing that may come along, but they can also force us into behaviour patterns we no longer feel passionate about.
Why habits are better: Make it a habit to check in with yourself regularly so you can keep track of how you’re doing, without the unnecessary pressure of predicting what will happen in the future. Ask yourself what’s working, which habits need tweaking, which ones you need to let go of, or which habits you’d like to add.
Habits are easy to tweak: say you’re no longer interested in working toward increasing your bench press, but you still want to work on your fitness. All you need to do is switch the three-times-a-week bench press habit you’ve created to something else, like squats or core training. The habit of working on your fitness has already been built.
4. Goals can be overwhelming.
“Write a book” or “lose 30 pounds” can seem too daunting to even try. And when we do try to work toward a lofty goal, we often start out working so hard and so intensely that we give up within a few weeks.
Why habits are better: “Write one page a day” or “walk 15 minutes per day” sounds (and is) much more manageable than “write a book” or “lose 30 pounds”. You’ll still get results – probably even better ones than if you’d committed to an abstract goal instead of a habit or process - minus the stress and overwhelm.
So, what habits are you committing to in the coming year?
Three gym workouts per week? Starting every morning with 5 minutes of meditation? Adding greens to your post-workout smoothies?
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Let me know what you’re committing to in the coming year! I’d love to hear from you.