Have you ever set New Years Resolutions that don’t last?
Who are we kidding, chances are you definitely have! And there’s a surprising reason most New Years Resolutions don’t last beyond twelve days.
Inside today’s episode, you’ll discover the secret to creating New Year Goals that stick, and the simple process that makes achieving goals easy and effortless.
BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING TO TODAY’S EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:
PLUS, you’re going to get the cheat sheet for setting new year goals in a way that tricks your brain into achieving them.
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You’re Listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode # 52! Today you’ll get 10 reasons why you should ditch New Years Resolutions altogether, and what to do instead if you want to set new year goals for yourself that you can actually hit this year. That’s coming up next, stay tuned.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: every year when January 1st rolls around, you’ve got your word of the year picked out, and your list of new years resolutions or new year goals ready. You start off pretty strong toward achieving goals, but as luck would have it, life happens and something gets in the way and takes you off course toward your new year goals. Maybe this looks like you saying you’re going to get up early the next morning and you even set your alarm, but you hit snooze 4 times and stumble out of bed 30 min later than you said you would. Or maybe you said you wanted to start drinking more water and give up caffeine, but you discover your hand has a mind of its own as you, the innocent bystander, watch it reach for another cup of coffee mid-afternoon (or has that only happened to me?)
The beef I have with New Years Resolutions is that most people go about setting New Years resolutions the wrong way. And because they go about it the wrong way, it makes achieving goals difficult. In case you didn’t know, the average New Years Resolution lasts a grand total of twelve days. Twelve days! That’s basically the same as a nice summer vacation, after which you come home and get back to life in the real world.
I can’t begin to tell you the years and time I’ve wasted setting New Years Resolutions only to snap back to my old habits a couple of weeks later like a rubberband. That is, until I discovered a totally different way to go about achieving goals by changing your habits in order to get the desired result that you want.
There’s a lot of layers to this process to setting good new year goals and achieving those goals, and today I’m going to do my best to show you why the standard old way of setting New Years Resolutions is ineffective, and show the first steps you can take to set new year goals that help make achieving goals easy and effortless.
Chances are, you’re one of those smart people who doesn’t like to waste your time on things that don’t work. So first I’m going to make a case for why you should ditch the New Years Resolution process altogether, and then we’ll dive into what you should do when setting new year goals, instead. Here’s the shortlist:
Number one: New Years resolutions aren’t the most effective method for achieving goals because they only scratch the surface of real change.
Number two: by definition, "resolution” means deciding to do or not do something, which is a black or white approach, and it doesn’t work. This all-or-nothing mentality can set you up to fail, because the moment you “slip up,” you give up.
Number three: progress toward your new years resolutions can be hard to measure. How do you know how much progress you’ve made toward achieving goals? You don’t. And this creates a tendency to focus on the progress you haven’t made, vs. the progress you are making. Focusing on the progress you haven’t made when trying to achieve goals is the fastest path to discouragement and demotivation.
Number four: people tend to make the mistake of setting too many new years resolutions at once, which leads to them achieving no goals at all.
Number five: most new years resolutions aren’t specific enough, and without a concrete plan of action to achieve your new year goals, your brain is going to fight you back and resist change, which is why it is so hard to achieve goals when you’re relying solely on your willpower.
Number six: people tend to overestimate what they can achieve when setting new year goals, so they quickly talk themselves out of doing the work required to achieve these goals.
Number seven: real change takes time. Period. But, since we’re culturally conditioned for instant gratification, it makes it easy to give up before you see any progress toward your new year goals.
Number eight: people tend to confuse new years resolutions with new year goals. I’ll explain more about this in just a moment, but what you need to know is that new years resolutions and new year goals are two different things, with two different, distinct meanings.
Number nine: In case no one has told you, you can set 'new year goals' for yourself anytime of year! There’s nothing special about the time of year that makes you magically inclined to achieve goals. You don’t have to wait until Jan 1 to jumpstart change, so skip the hype.
Number ten: real change happens at an identity level. This is really what I want to explore more with you here today. This is also why focusing purely on the outcome that you want, say, to lose weight, actually makes it harder to achieve that goal (psych!)
So in summary, if you want to set yourself up for failure, set a New Years resolution. If you want to be successful and achieve new year goals that last long-term, keep listening.
Most people make a few key mistakes when it comes to setting new years resolutions and achieving goals in general.
The first is, they don’t understand that there is a difference between a new years resolution and a new year goal. A new years resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. Whereas a goal is simply the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. I think of goals more like the endzone on a football field. That's the aim, and you adjust the plays to get there. And people confuse the two which is why they conclude that new years resolutions "don't work." but inherent in setting a new years resolution is there's a level of attachment people place on them that in actuality causes them NOT to work. As in "if I can’t achieve goals perfectly, then it’s not worth doing at all." But can we agree that pro football players never move the endzone? They simply adjust the plays to get there.
Secondly, following this all or nothing mentality, most people create these new years resolutions / new year goals in one big chunk. As if they think that by changing all of these things at once, they’ll exponentially catapult their way to being a better version of themselves. It doesn’t work like that. Having a “divide-and-conquer” mentality doesn’t work when it comes to goal-setting, because your brain is hard-wired to resist change and cannot focus well on more than one thing at once. This is why you should also stop multitasking, ya know? But that’s another episode for another day.
If you want to make changing your habits and achieving goals easier, focus on changing one at a time. I know it seems like the slow approach, but what’s more important? Setting fourteen new year goals that you can’t hit because your attention is divided between all of them at once? Or setting one new year goal that you can easily attain because you’re singularly focused, before moving onto the next one? Which approach is better for achieving goals in the shortest amount of time? One every few months consistently over time? Or fourteen new years resolutions at once that you give up on, and keep starting over at square one? Tortoise and hare my friend, tortoise, and hare.
Ok so here’s the good stuff that I wanted to get into with you today. It’s the counterintuitive, counter-cultural way to achieving goals and getting what you want. It’s going to sound backward at first. But hear me out because I promise you when you walk away from this episode, you’ll be thinking about your new year goals completely differently.
If you want to create a new habit or change an unwanted behavior, you’ve got to change who you’re being to get the result you want.
Most people do this backward. They create outcome-based goals, rather than identity-based goals. They say I want to lose 10 pounds (outcome). Then, in order to go about getting that outcome, they change their behavior. I’m not going to eat carbs anymore. Then, they mistakenly assume that by changing their behavior they’ll achieve their desired outcome (weight loss) and therefore BE a different person (identity). This is why most new years resolutions or new year goals don't make it past twelve days.
But the problem when achieving goals is that you cannot get the outcome you want, without changing who you’re being in order to get it, first.
Most people say that in order to HAVE this, I need to DO this, then I’ll BE this. For example, In order to HAVE a healthier weight, then I need to DO XYZ like cut out carbs or workout more or hire a nutritionist, then I’ll BE the healthy person I’m seeking to be.
But they’ve got it backward. The secret to achieving goals faster is to change who you’re BEING first, then change what you’re DOing, to HAVE the outcome that you want.
Instead of saying “I’m not eating carbs this year,” (because please, who can last longer than two weeks on a goal like that?!) saying “I’m the type of person who eats like a healthy person” is a more effective way of achieving goals long-term.
As my friend Jess puts it, she says I first imagine my future self: who am I becoming in this process? And when I arrive, what are my values and beliefs at that level? What do I believe differently about myself then, then I do now? And once she identifies that, she starts embodying those beliefs and values now, to get the outcome that she wants.
Most people try and change behavior or their environment to get the outcome that they want. But real change takes place deeper than that: at the belief/values/identity level.
That’s the identity shift. If you want to be a healthier person, embody the beliefs and values of a healthy or fit person. How do they think? Act? Eat? If you want to be a writer, embody the beliefs and values of a writer? They probably write every day, which means they are consistent. They practice their craft, so they’re persistent. So to become a writer, embody the values that writers have: consistency and persistence.
It’s not the goals that matter. It’s the daily activities and ways of being that makes achieving goals possible.
This small shift from what you don’t want (extra weight, clothes that don’t fit, etc) to what you do want (to be a healthier person) helps you stay motivated long-term. No more new year goals fizzling out along the way and going wherever new year goals go to die. By identifying who you want to become in the process of achieving goals, it tricks your brain into making choices that align with your desired outcome.
So to wrap this all up, here’s the cheat sheet:
And most of all, DON’T give up if you don’t hit your new year goal in the timeframe you wanted. Remember: pro-NFL players never move the endzone; they adjust the plays to get there. The process toward achieving goals is exactly that: a process.
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