New Year’s Resolutions & How To Build Them
If you want to build New Year’s Resolutions that you can keep throughout a whole year, then you should read this article.
Most people spend New Year’s Eve thinking about all the things they’d like to do differently in the New Year, and then promptly forget, start a week late and then fail a week later. Needless to say, this is bad for your life and bad for your psychology.
You don’t want to train yourself to fail.
Instead, you should take a different approach to New Year’s Resolutions. Start planning now, if you haven’t already. I’ll show you where to start now.
What Are The Easiest New Year’s Resolutions To Keep?
Many people want to start with something massive. They want to make a million dollars in a year, or get a rippling six-pack of abdominal muscles to make every member of the opposite sex instantly fall in love with them.
Needless to say, both of those things are stupid New Year’s Resolutions and they’re probably going to fail.
Before I talk about how to create a good New Year’s Resolution, let’s use the above examples of what not to do and contrast them with the easiest way to set yourself a good New Year’s Resolution.
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The above examples don’t contain any habit that can be repeated.
The easiest resolutions to create involve simple, mechanical habits. Specifically, ones that aren’t a million miles away from what you already do.
Getting up at 5am if you currently roll out of bed at 9am is infinitely harder than getting out of bed at 830am.
I know this because once upon a time I used to get up at 9am or later, and now I’m awake by 6am most days – I achieved this by getting up earlier in half-hour intervals.
Anyway, my point is that if you’ve never successfully built a habit before, you need to pick one that’s really simple and one that will become mechanical very quickly.
Something like hanging your coat up when you get in the door as opposed to throwing it over your sofa is an infinitely better use of your willpower than “I’m going to make a million pounds” is. People will scoff at the idea of that habit being useful, but you’re training yourself to set habits. And you’ll succeed if the habit is simple.
Where To Start With New Year’s Resolutions
The reason I mentioned putting clothes away is because it’s easy. New Year’s Resolutions are habit-building exercises.
That’s not to say all of your resolutions have to be simple-to-build habits, but that’s the end goal.
If you want to be rich in 2017, then saying, “I’m going to be rich” is only your dream – it’s not something that’s useful or tangible in anyway.
It’s a place to start.
So, let’s assume you want to be rich by the end of 2017. You have to get from “I want to be rich” to “Here’s a set of repeatable habits that I can do every single day until I’m rich.”
So, let’s start with an unrealistic goal, and plan our way backwards until we get those habits.
Caveat: Most decent goals take multiple years to accomplish. You will automatically assume you can do a lot in one year and you won’t complete your goals. Conversely, you can almost always achieve much more than you expect on a five-year time scale. Plan accordingly.
To get to the first stage, think about what you actually want.
Write the things you want as they come to your head, no matter how stupid they sound, or what the subject is.
- You might want to be rich – that’s fine
- Better body? Ok
- You’ve really been meaning to get your leaky bathroom tap fixed – throw that on the list
- You want at least a hundred Instagram followers or whatever – throw that down too
At this stage, everything goes. It’s a creative exercise in visualisation for your future self. Write it on paper and keep it private so that you don’t have to worry about anyone else seeing your desire to take ballet classes or whatever.
Breaking New Year’s Resolutions Down
Alright, so you have a set of dreams.
Dreams don’t put bread on the table, executed plans do.
So, you must go from having a dream; “get rich,” “get a great body” or “spend more time with my family” and turn that into a plan.
I’d say that creating a good plan from a good dream comes in three stages:
- Find people who do what you want (or an approximation of that)
- Break down exactly what those people do
- Create a curriculum from that but then also add things in so you’ll do better.
Let’s say you want to get a great body. People who stumble before the first point act as though hyou can wish a New Year’s Resolution into being.
That won’t work.
Neither, in most instances, will trying to generate a plan from scratch. You can go to the gym and see all the different machines and weights and whatever and never intuitively work out how to put it all together.
Sure, you can spend hundreds of hours working it all out, but it’s better to just find someone who knows what they are doing and then do that.
Needless to say, with fitness, you need to look at what they’re actually doing. People who think that they’re going to go to the gym three times a week, eat chicken and broccoli 5 times a day and come out looking like The Rock are kidding themselves.
That’s why you have to break down what your inspiration does. Anticipate their exact actions, and write them down. What does a fitness model do at the gym? What do they eat at home? How do they fit their bodybuilding around other commitments? (Again, don’t believe the “you have to give everything!” memes – it’s smoke and mirrors.)
Final Touches: You’ve Got The Syllabus, Now It’s Time To Get The System
I left you at the end of step two there. We’ve found an inspiration and we’ve broken down their system.
Now we need to create a better system around our own lifestyle. Throw in everything that your inspiration does and then improve upon their system so that you can create tiny little habits that you do every day. These habits should be so tiny that you barely notice them.
Obviously, you’re not going to make a million dollars with a tiny habit, nor are you going to become a cover model for a fitness magazine or make a girl/guy fall hopelessly in love with you. So why break your resolution down into tiny habits? Two reasons:
- Tiny habits accumulate. If you spend an extra thirty seconds flossing your teeth, an extra ten seconds styling your hair and an extra ten minutes a week grooming your facial hair, you’re going to look a lot better overall. The same is true with any improvement feature you can think of.
- It’s easier to build a tiny habit and then expand than it is to build a big habit. I started doing pullups this year. I could do one when I started. By May I could do sixty in five sets of twelve and then go about my daily life ten minutes later. I couldn’t have done five sets of five to start.
At this point, you’ve found someone who knows what they’re doing, breaking down their system and then recreating your own. This process will mean that you’ve got no excuses and no last-minute brainstorming to do on December 31st.
I know it’s hard work, but that’s why I’m writing this article now and not in three weeks’ time.
Finishing Touches And Sticking To The Plan
The hard work with New Year’s Resolutions is all about what you do beforehand.
When the clock hits midnight on January 1st, you should be able to simply get on with whatever micro-habits you’ve decided on.
Better yet, you should start your New Year’s Resolutions a week before the New Year so that you’re already on a roll.
Providing you’ve done the planning beforehand, it’s just a case of daily ticking off your list of things to do until they become so natural that you don’t even think about them.
Then plan bigger for next year.