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  • Baldwin Diep

New Year's Resolutions vs. Goal-Setting - Why One Works Much Better Than The Other

A lot of us see the New Year as a chance to redefine ourselves. It seems to give us the motivation to actually reflect on our lives and come up with resolutions to try and achieve in the new year. The problem is, those resolutions will likely not last throughout the whole year.

This is because the odds are stacked against you. By the second month, you’ll probably be beating yourself up over not committing to your resolutions and half-heartedly try them once more, only to fail again in just a short while.

New Year’s Resolutions are just not a good method to achieve the things you want. Well-thought out goals, on the other hand, are a much more effective way to successfully complete the things you set out to do.

Here are some reasons why I think New Year’s Resolutions usually fail and how goal-planning is a better alternative to establish long-lasting habits into your lifestyle:

1. Resolutions are just too overwhelming.

When thinking of resolutions, you are usually just thinking of the end result. Not the hours of work, pain, and obstacles you put yourself through. You have an idea in your head of all the ways you want to improve, and you don’t want to wait a WHOLE year to reap the benefits. This need for instant gratification is partly why you won’t last the whole year: if you don’t see the results now, it will leave you too overwhelmed to think clearly about the process and your motivation will fade.

With goals on the other hand, the process is always in sight. By creating procedural, short-term goals that are more within reach, it’s much easier to stay focused keep push through the obstacles in your way. With each step you take, it’s a quiet motivator that will keep you on track and give compounding momentum into the next short-term goal.

2. Resolutions have no clear plan of action to keep you focused

When coming up with a New Year’s Resolution, you know the end result. Great, but how are you going to get there? These resolutions are often too vague to become completely involve yourself with. “I’m gonna go to the gym more this year”. Okay, how much more? For what purpose? Are you just going to go more than you did last year? Without a clear, articulated goal, you won’t really know when you’ve successfully reached it. And without a clear plan of action, you’ll likely get lost on the way.

You’re also leaving too much up to chance. What if something happens that knocks you off your path? Or what if what you’re already doing isn’t working? It’s very difficult to come up with solutions on the spot because when you feel the pressure, it’s much easier to default to what you already know.

Write down the progress goals, the actions and tasks you need to do each week to help you get to each progress goal, the obstacles that might get in your way, and a strategy to overcome those obstacles.

The method to overcome this is to intentionally think about clearly defined goals, and deliberately come up with a plan of action to get you there. Write down the progress goals, the actions and tasks you need to do each week to help you get to each progress goal, the obstacles that might get in your way, and a strategy to overcome those obstacles. Make sure these parts are realistic, specific, measurable so you can monitor your progress and see how far you’ve come along. It takes some real time and effort. But by doing this, you become much more focused and ready to take action because you know what to do instead of just having a general resolution with no method to complete it.

You will also learn to enjoy the journey towards your goal. The little steps you take will start to become easier because you are actually doing something that is worthwhile and developing yourself everyday. You are seeing the results of the person you’re becoming, something that is hard to do when you’re just fixated on the end result.

3. Resolutions don’t give you the freedom to fail

You have to be able to accept that along the way, things will fall apart and you will fail. It is normal and it is natural. You’re putting way too much pressure and expectations on yourself if you think that you’ll successfully do everything right. The thing is, you are supposed to fail so you understand how to learn from it and find a better way to proceed. The real failure is deluding yourself into avoiding all failures by never doing anything. Or never learning from your failures and making the same mistake repeatedly.

It’s hard to accept failure when you’re only thinking of the end and want the instant gratification of success at every turn. But if you want to change, if you want real success, learn how to use failure to springboard you forward. So the next time that challenge approaches you, you know exactly how to address it, giving you the confidence and motivation to keep going.

4. Resolutions offer little reflection, so you don’t see why you want those changes

In writing down your resolutions, you know what you want to accomplish, but why exactly do you actually want that? Is it a valid reason that will really make you happier, more fulfilled? Or is it a superficial goal that you’re doing for reasons other than your own?

Without thinking about the why, you will have nothing to push you forward when times get tough.

But if you really think about why you came up with the goals and how it will improve your life, you'll remember why you want to do this in the first place and it will urge you to keep going when you don't feel motivated. The optimism of your potential future will serve as fuel to get you over the hurdles.

Changing yourself is already a tough burden to bear. We’re naturally inclined to seek the comfort of things we already know because the unknown is so potentially dangerous to our physical and mental self. We can’t experience the pain of failure if we never allow ourselves to try.

Find and understand on a deep level what will really drive you to work towards a goal, and what values you’re willing to experience all the pain and frustration of failure over.


Final Words

So there you have it. If you want to make a list of effective New Year's Resolutions, start out with thinking clearly about your goals, the reasons it will improve your life, and a clear plan of action to refer to when times get hard.

Realize the importance of making these resolutions in your life. It’s not so you can appear better to the people around you, but so you can establish the habits and knowledge that will define you for the future. Make small, incremental changes over the course of your life to transform you for the better and reach those goals that you’ve always wanted to.

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