Why We Shouldn’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

New Year, New Goals?? We say scratch that – let us tell you why. 

We enter January after several weeks of celebrating the holidays when we overdo just about everything. Eating, spending, drinking, planning – if we’ve done it, chances are we’ve overdone it.  

Our response to all that excess trades one extreme for the other and we feel the need to course-correct on a dime, which leads many of us to the infamous New Year’s Resolutions. These are more about short-lived dopamine hits and distractions, than anything meaningful or long term, and the “wish” disguised as a goal, inevitably fails. (That doesn’t sound fun, encouraging, or life-giving.)

When our goals feel like punishments, we won’t embrace them. If they feel too big, we won’t know where to start. And, if our goals aren’t what we have actually chosen for ourselves, we won’t be committed. What gives, right?

What if we could circumnavigate all of those traps and instead succeed ALL YEAR in our goals? 

Well, we CAN. 

First things first, let’s break down a goal. 

A goal has two parts. Formally, it is a desired future state coupled with a set of acts that promote the attainment of that desired future state. Informally, we conceptualize a goal as only a desired outcome. We forget that it must be in partnership with a set of acts that promote the achievement of that outcome. A desired future state without a set of acts that promote the attainment of that desired state – is simply a wish. Read that again. 

In short, goals require us to engage in action, and much of the time that means we need to begin a new behavior or modify an old one. And changing behavior can really throw us off sometimes. But why?

Our brains are wired for results.

When we set goals and engage in new behaviors, our brain starts to work to learn what we are doing and then automate it. It wants to help us create habits because habits don’t require as much effort and attention as new behaviors do, and the brain likes to conserve energy. But in January, in an effort to course-correct, we take on so much change at once that our brains don’t have the chance to help us create these habits we need to achieve the results we want. It gets exhausted, and we quit. Our goal-setting methods work in opposition to how our brain achieves results and this is where the tension is for us by mid-January.

The answer lies in reward.

Our culture struggles with reward and celebration. We tend to focus more on punishment as a motivator because we think that helps us achieve. Neuroscience says it doesn’t. Reward is actually how the brain turns on motivation. When we engage in a new behavior, and reward ourselves for it, our brain wants to help us recreate the scenario where we got what we wanted, in turn sparking us to do that thing again. And when this cycle repeats itself for an amount of time, a habit is created. The brain no longer uses precious energy to engage in that new behavior, and it has achieved a result. So have we.

Go small is the new go big.

The trick to goals is understanding how the mind works once we’ve set a goal, and working with it instead of against it. We know that we can’t sustain big, overwhelming changes for long periods of time, nor can we reward ourselves for those on the daily. Talk about overload. 

Looking at how to breakdown our goal into small action steps, paired with small rewards, is how we go farther faster…because it’s how our brain likes to do things. Instead of tackling reading a book a week, start with one page a day, give yourself a high-five for doing it, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Instead of going to the gym and working out every day, start with putting on your shoes or driving to the gym, and then giving yourself an extra splash of creamer in your coffee. Watch what happens when you begin to compound those small wins over time.

We’ve created a 30-day Habit Tracker that you can download to track your progress and get excited about the small shifts happening in your life. 

Join us for our workshop next month as we continue this conversation about how to achieve the results you want for this year!