So you have a New Years resolution? Good luck with that.

fireworks-535198_960_720A new year is upon us, and as 2016 is ushered aside, 2017 brings with it new hope, fresh perspective, aliveness, and a renewed energy.

Except it doesn’t really. In reality, the only difference between 2017 and 2016 is another journey for our planet around the sun. Your life isn’t going to change simply because you’ve put up a new calendar. If you weren’t motivated and weren’t going anywhere in 2016, what makes you think things are magically going to change now?

What I’m saying is…Your resolutions won’t work if you don’t.

When I used to go to the gym regularly, I would always notice big crowds the first 2 weeks of January. The first time it happened, I told a friend, “Great, this place used to be nice a quiet at this time.” He said, “Just wait a couple weeks, it’s New Years.”
Sure enough, the gym got to be a quiet place of refuge again about the 3rd week of January.

It’s so easy to set grand goals, to say to yourself that this is the year you give up smoking, eat better, start reading more, wean yourself off of your social media addiction. But when it comes down to it, few of us actually make real, lasting changes.

So why do so many fail at their New Year’s resolutions?

Here’s what Psychology Today tells us:

“Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.

Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.”

This tells me that the change has to start with you, when you’re truly ready to make a change. For one thing, often we set a goal because we know it’s the right thing to do. We know we’re supposed to be healthier, we know we should have more money in the bank, or whatever this grand idea is we’ve set in front of ourselves. Just because we know it’s the right thing to do doesn’t mean we really want to do it. Do I really want to give up my Wednesday pizza night? Not really. For me to be able to give that up, the satisfaction I have from being healthier has to be able to replace the joy I get from eating pizza every Wednesday.

Another trap we can fall into is setting a goal that is really something someone else wants. Your spouse wants you to lose a few pounds, so you try it for her. Your doctor says you should quit smoking, so here goes nothing.

Ask yourself, do I really want to change? Is this really my goal?

On the second point from Psychology Today, are your goals and expectations realistic? While I believe you should stretch yourself, are you really going to go from overweight couch potato to competing in the Iron Man Competition this upcoming summer? While possible, are you actually motivated and able to jump from a $20,000 income to multi-millionaire this year?

While these are both worthy goals, sometimes we need some stepping stones instead of trying to jump over the entire pond at once. Plus, an unrealistic goal is much easier to give up. Then you wind up not doing anything.

I’ll add a 3rd aspect to Psychology Today’s findings, having a plan and tracking it. If you don’t have a roadmap, you’re chances of success are slim. How do you know if you’re successful if you haven’t defined what that means for you with this particular goal? Does it mean doing 50 pushups every day? Does it mean saving $500 every month? Not having some type of plan means you’re not really serious about your goal. People don’t become successful just winging it. Do you think Marlon Brando just showed up on the set of The Godfather on the day of the shoot and said, ‘what are my lines, and who is this Corleone guy supposed to be, some type of gangster?’ Did Michael Jordan just start practicing his jump shot a few minutes before the game and hope for the best? Seriously successful people put in the work to get there. They have a plan, and take little steps every day to get closer to their goals. And every once in a while with all these little steps you will take a big jump, seemingly out of nowhere. But the big jumps don’t happen without the little steps first.

So there you have it. If the only time you set goals is on New Years, don’t expect me to get too excited and await your results. Goal setting is a life style, and now is a great time to start. Break down your obstacles to success, make 2017 a great year, look at your goals daily, and reevaluate them every quarter. I look forward to seeing your results, not because the calendar changed, but because you changed.

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