Personal Development

Forget New Year’s Resolutions—Make Lasting Change Instead

It is the time of the year in which friends and acquaintances are posting on social media about their new gym memberships, their new diets, and their plans for finding their passion in the next calendar year. The beginning of the year is a natural time for reflection on our choices and accomplishments in the last year and planning to better ourselves in the next year. Setting goals and evaluating our successes and failures is a healthy practice, and something we need to do to shape ourselves and our lives. New Year’s Resolutions, however, should not be a thing. 

Unhelpful New Year’s Resolutions

Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions because it’s something people around us do. It is a societal expectation to plan to improve ourselves at this time of year, and we are asked to spout out ideas about where we could be bettered. I have made many lists of New Year’s Resolutions, starting in elementary school as class projects. Over the years I have resolved (officially or unofficially) to get in better shape, to lift weights, to lose weight, to cook better meals, to eat more veggies, to find a way to make more friends, to be a better friend, to make more art, to read more books, to be more organized, to have less stuff, to put laundry away after I fold it, to not make piles of junk on the countertops, to dress better, to spend less time online, to be a better partner to my husband, to be more present in the moment with my kids, and I could go on and on… Once you get on a roll listing the areas in which you would like to be “less” or “more” or “better”, it is easy keep going and generate a long list of your perceived failings. 

Let’s be honest—while we all could improve ourselves in countless areas, life is demanding and distracting. If the goal is lasting change that becomes your new reality, having a focused plan of attack is necessary for success. New Year’s Resolutions are not usually created with the level of planning needed to be successful, and are therefore just wishful thinking—like buying a PowerBall Lottery ticket and dreaming about the awesome vacations you could take with extended family and friends. Making long and/or vague lists of what to be better at but then not MAKING THOSE CHANGES HAPPEN is creating a dangerous pattern of failure.

Avoid Creating A Pattern of Failure

Creating a pattern of letting yourself down is easy to do—we are busy and it is too easy to say yes to too many things. For many of us, putting yourself last is the easy choice when we have a lot of responsibilities. We flake on ourselves. We give our time to others at the expense of our own goals. We spend too much time doing things that don’t enrich us or reward our long-term interests. Each time we do this, it reinforces a pattern of behavior that degrades our sense of caring for ourselves.

Say “No” to say “Yes” 

For many of us—this is a big one for me, personally—making the space in my life to say yes to the things I want work on requires me to say “no” to other things that I do not feel invested in.  I have to protect the time I spend on my hobbies from my responsibilities. I study, practice, and teach Brazilian JiuJitsu, and in order to have the time I want to spend working on that hobby, I have to say no to other things. I have to work ahead with my responsibilities to have class evenings free. I schedule social events and doctor’s appointments around class times so I can attend. I prep food for the family for the week on the weekend to free me up and still have decent food to eat. If I didn’t plan to be successful and only made it to class when life didn’t get in the way, I would never be free to go. 

Surround Yourself With Success

Successful people are often successful in many areas of their life. They have figured out the formula that works for them to set and accomplish their goals. Find the people who are successful in the areas in which you want to improve, and join their group! Most interests you could have will have a group you could join to support you and those there who are already successful can teach you what it takes to find your own success. From my own experience in my Brazilian JiuJitsu gym, those who come to class on a regular schedule—regardless of how many times per week they are able to make it—tend to stick around and make progress with hard work and perseverance.  They also tend to be successful in their other endeavors, having learned to manage their time and stick to long term goals.

We become like the people we surround ourselves with, so choose to be with people who support you in your efforts to become who you want to be. If your social circle does not support the person you are becoming, they are not good for you anymore. If your family isn’t supportive, they will always be family, but they can be family you see less frequently until they get on board. Hopefully, you will be developing new relationships as you work your path to successful change, and your new tribe will help push you. 

Make Lasting Change 

Rather than making a New Year’s Resolution or a few of them this year, make a plan of action to be successful. Pick a small change and see it through for a few weeks to create a pattern of success. Then build on that success by adding another small change, and then another. Protect your time by limiting the activities that do not reward you with change toward your goals. Work ahead with your responsibilities to make time for your new activities. Choose supportive and successful people to surround yourself with, to teach and help shape your beginning efforts. These actions will add up, and you will be well on your way to creating an avalanche of successes that is transformative. You will be on a roll and picking up steam to push yourself even harder.

Get Started!

Make calculated, lasting changes. They can start in January, just give them more attention and respect than society’s watered-down New Year’s Resolutions!