Put Failed Resolutions Behind You

March 22, 2024

Jeff Toth, Marketing & Communications Lead, IBAO

At this point in the year, most people’s New Year’s resolutions have failed. But don’t worry. There’s a better way and you won’t have to wait until next year to adopt it.

Why Most Resolutions Fail

Some people take on too much all at once. Some commit to an idea without knowing how to go about it. But one of the biggest reasons resolutions don’t work out is they’re often too focused on outcomes.

Setting a goal like lose 20 pounds doesn’t provide a tangible way to work towards it and its binary, pass/fail nature leads to any little misstep feeling like failure. Constantly weighing yourself and seeing natural daily fluctuations (five to six pounds is normal!) will set you up to be discouraged. So will having dessert or skipping a workout. Hiccups can be enough to cause you to throw up your hands and abandon the whole project.

The motivation structure of a resolution is to put yourself in a situation where you must always do the right thing to avoid feeling bad about yourself. The majority of people have failed at keeping a resolution, so you probably know firsthand that this potential bad feeling isn’t an adequate enough motivator to keep you on track. Not to mention you’re setting yourself up to experience the unpleasantness of that inevitable failure—this time of year it’s probably still a fresh sensation.

The Best Alternative

Instead of a resolution, you can adopt a Yearly Theme. Rather than a pass/fail goal, a theme functions as a suggested direction you’d like to move towards. Rather than something rigid like lose 20 pounds, a theme might be something like Year of Health. As you’re moving through your day, you’ll be confronted with choices like white or whole wheat and with Year of Health in mind, you’ll have a framework to gently guide your decisions. Elevator or stairs? Year of Health! Over the course of the year, these small decisions cumulatively move you closer to a goal of health instead of flaming out on weight loss by March. And if you take a step in the wrong direction, it’s not a big deal—you’ll have plenty of other opportunities to move back towards the place you want to be.

Changing your behaviour is incredibly difficult. This is an approach that’s more realistic, more forgiving and more likely to stick.

What’s in a Theme?

What you choose as a theme and what exactly it means, will of course be specific to you. It could be a single word or a phrase. Whatever you choose, it should be something memorable that calls to mind the change you’d like to make.

Last year was my first attempt at a theme. I went with Year of Follow-Through. I got in better shape, virtually cut out drinking, journaled every day and tried my hand at being a guest speaker. These were all goals I had previously failed at individually, but by adjusting the way I viewed my decisions to see if they were contributing to following through on my intentions, I accomplished way more than I would’ve guessed was possible.

One of themes’ biggest proponents, YouTuber CGP Grey, suggests forgoing a year as the amount of time to try to impose a change on yourself and recommends trying out a theme for a season. This is being published right around the start of spring—a perfect time to adopt a theme like Spring of Outdoorsiness or Spring of Novelty.

Whether you attempt a year or a season, there isn’t a better time to start living the life that’s more like the one you want.

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