The New Year's Resolution Is an Exercise In Futility

Stop committing the same criminal act every year.

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” — Mark Twain

The venerable New Year's Resolution is the siren song of goal setting.

It is fashionable to set goals at the dawning of a new year. Each year brings a fresh slate, a chance to do something new or to become someone new. We can't resist it.

Excitement and motivation are high. We feel anything is possible at the beginning of the year. We are finally going to nail those goals that have eluded us for so long.

Within a month, those resolutions are no longer front and center. Excitement and motivation wane. That freshness of the new year has expired along with our hopes of achieving something new.

The problem is one of specificity, meaning and execution.

Most resolutions are fuzzy, material outcomes:

  • Lose weight.

  • Eat healthier.

  • Get stronger.

  • Get a new job.

Each one is tall on hope and short on specifics. The outcome is the focus, not what is necessary to achieve it.

Lasting change comes not from a goal achieved in the moment but from a change in day to day living. For change to endure, it must become a way of life. It must have meaning.

Regarding execution, we can't help but take too big of a bite. We want to reach those goals as quickly as possible, but big change is scary. We are biologically wired to avoid it. It wakes the sleeping dragon of fear.

Instead of material outcomes, focus on doing meaningful things that are specific and measurable. While doing meaningful things, make small, incremental changes.

Maybe one of those resolutions will finally stick.