In 2018, 70 percent of Americans did not heed the advice in this blog’s title and made resolutions. Moreover, according to a follow-up survey by YouGov Omnibus in June 2018, only six percent of people said they had stuck fully to their resolution.  While personally loving the idea of a new year, new beginning and have traditionally made New Year’s resolution, I now realize the futility of so doing. I’ve recently heard that January 17 is “Ditch your Resolution” Day and “Fall off the Wagon” Day on February 4 in recognition of our inability to stick with resolutions. 

Ellyn Kasich, in a Psychology Today article, explains that

“For most of us, these resolutions last a few days or perhaps a few weeks, perhaps until the gym membership expires, although that is usually long after the exercising has been neglected. There is a very good and very human reason for these lapses and it lies in our makeup and not in any character weaknesses. It is almost impossible to make a resolution, the motivation for which will last for 365 days. It is not realistic and it is not even human. No form of psychotherapy would attempt a behavioral change that lasts a year without any other intervention.”

When we make resolutions, we are setting ourselves up for failure and we’ve all heard the phrase, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

So let’s avoid insanity and make the New Year a time for intelligent self-improvement. Every day is the opportunity for a new beginning and a small change. Today is a new day to commit to a positive step toward a goal. Note, I said a “small change.” Don’t say I am going to lose 10 pounds this week or I am going to earn a promotion this week. Instead, work slowly toward your goal with a small difference such as sharing one good idea at this week’s staff meeting or substituting oatmeal for candy for breakfast. And if you do slip one day, that’s fine, recommit to your goal and start again.  Shiv Galani describes a “seed habit” as a perfect substitute for a New Year’s Resolution.  He explains, “The general idea is to focus on implementing one, and only one, habit to start and then once that foundation is set, building additional habits on top of that.”  You could start by exercising for five minutes per day for a week with the plan of reaching a half-hour in four weeks.

Another alternative to the New Year’s resolution is One Word.  One Word is a theme or mantra for the year. Mike Ashcroft and Rachel O’Brien wrote a book entitled My One Word in 2012. They suggest picking one word to use as inspiration to guide you throughout the year. In 2019,  I chose “leader” for my word of the year. I hold leadership roles at work and in personal initiatives and want to help others to succeed. In 2020, my word is going to be “health” to remind me to recommit to healthy habits and ask myself, “is this good for my health?” Backwoods Mama, a blogger, explains that your one word needs to be simple, easy to remember, flexible, and offer focus. She suggests reflecting on the past year and imagining the person you want to be as you select a word.

The bottom line is to start small with some doable tweaks so that you do not become frustrated or overwhelmed. Small changes may lead to bigger ones. We want to be able to look back in December 2020, and realize that we did embrace change and empowered ourselves to move in a positive direction. Good luck and have a great year.

This is an updated version of a blog posted on January 9, 2019.