Why You Probably Won’t Keep Your New Years Resolutions (And how to launch a pre-emptive strike)

New Years is an awesome time.  It’s a time when many people feel like they are getting a fresh start.  A clean page.  A blank slate. 

It’s a new year!  Full of possibilities!  Full of potential!  The sky is the limit!  Anything can happen! 

Indeed, this manic energy is catching.  The electricity of so much hope and optimism is incredible.  The gym is infused with life and effort, the trails are dotted with new runners, determined to get those miles in.  You can see the drive and enthusiasm in people’s eyes.  This is the year.  This is my time.  I am here to kill it.

It’s almost magical.  I remember a few years ago, writing about the Resolution Runners, the way they inspired me as I passed them on the Embarcadero of San Francisco.  The still do.  They still will. 

And then, something will happen.

Reality will set in.  The mania of New Years will fade away.  It will get hard.  The honeymoon period will end.  That afterglow will fade. 

This is where the rubber will meet the road, where the men will be separated from the boys, the cream will rise to the top… and everyone else will just be… milk.

We all know this happens – it’s the classic resolution scenario.  It’s the cliche.  It’s why I never used to make resolutions.  How stupid to lay down a list of "I wills" when everyone knows that "I won’t".

Here’s why resolutions don’t work. 

It’s because they are almost always poorly thought out, extremely vague, and often unrealistic versions of goals.  Google offers up this definition of a resolution: "a decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner".  (It also tells me that "‘Resolution’ is a song included in Nick Lachey’s sophomore solo album What’s Left of Me, which was released in 2006." but that makes me cringe, so I’m ignoring it.)

If a resolution is a decision to "do something" or "behave in a certain manner" then no wonder it’s worthless.  Deciding to do something doesn’t mean anything.  At all.

So let’s ditch the word resolution and find a framework that offers a better chance at success. Let’s set goals instead of making resolutions. 

True, goals can be as empty and worthless as resolutions if formulated sloppily and without real thought.  So, to develop goals that are solid, I use the "SMART Goals" formula.  Here are the criteria that need to be considered to develop a goal that is truly SMART:


S – Specific 

M – Measureable

A – Attainable

R – Realistic

T – Timely

For a full explanation of this method, I’ll refer you to the same resources that I use when I am developing new goals:


Each resource provides a slightly different take on SMART goals.  The SMART goal approach is used by project managers, businesses, educators, and in just about every setting you can imagine.  I have found it super relevant to my life or fitness-related goals.

It’s important to write down your goal or goals.  It will probably only take you about 30 minutes, and it will move you from the "thinking about it" stage, to a much more concrete and focused position.  It will also serve as a valuable guidepost for you along the way – keep it somewhere you can refer to it often.  Consider it the map to your destination.  Pull it out when you feel like you’re beginning to stray.

Aside from an intelligent approach to goal-setting, the number one piece of advice that I can give related to accomplishing these New Years goals is this:

Do expect to lose motivation but do not expect to fail.

You are going to lose steam.  You are going to find your energy waning.  You are going to lose the spark that you had when you set out in the beginning.  It’s going to happen.  These lulls are just a part of life, and certainly a part of any project. 

Expect them.  And, more importantly, plan for them.  Know exactly how you are going to handle it when you wake up one morning and you just don’t feel like it.  It’s either "I’m going to do it anyway.  Even though it sounds like the worst thing in the world, right now.  Even though I want to sleep."  or maybe it’s a Plan B that you decide ahead of time.  Maybe you  promise yourself that you will at least walk for 20 minutes a day, no matter what, and on days when you don’t feel up to your original plan, that’s what you do instead.

However you choose to handle those lulls, the important point here is that you actually think about them NOW and strategize ahead of time so that when they rear their heads, you know exactly what to do.

With that, get cracking.  I love New Years, too.  And I have set the most aggressive goals of my life for 2008.  I’ll be sharing them over the next week or so, along with more resources. motivation, and inspiration for Sticking With It in 2008.

Happy New Year!!!



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  1. I likes it! I`m switching it up this year for sure!

  2. I never fail at my new year’s resolutions. That’s because I don’t make them!


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