John Addison: Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

UPDATED: December 29, 2019
PUBLISHED: January 4, 2016
johnaddison whyidontmakenewyearsresolutions

New Year’s resolutions. We make them every year, and by the end of the first week of January, 25 percent of us have already broken them. You know why? Because resolutions are vague and they usually don’t include an actionable plan. They also put us in the mindset that we only have one year to complete them. If we don’t, it’s one more thing to make us feel like a failure.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a big fan of resolutions.

This time of year, I encourage people to set goals instead of making resolutions. Yes, I know I’m not one who has ever been into long-term goal-making because there’s too much in life you can’t predict or control. I haven’t changed my mind about that, but I do know there is a benefit to having a goal to work toward. And when you do see a change you need to make in your life, you’re going to have a whole lot more success setting real, attainable goals than you will by making an unstructured resolution. You just need to make sure you’re taking a healthy approach to your goal-setting.

Set SMART goals.

Remember that acronym from school? It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. And it’s probably the smartest way to look at goal-setting. Resolutions are general. Good, healthy goals that you can reach are very specific with an outcome you can actually achieve and a timeframe that can be more—or less—than a year. And you can measure your progress along the way and make adjustments as needed. Any other kind of goal opens the door to frustration and, ultimately, failure.

Don’t take an all or nothing approach.

Don’t consider it a failure if you get to the deadline you set for yourself and have only achieved part of your goal. Anything you’ve accomplished is closer than you were when you started, so it’s not a failure. It’s just not completed, so set another deadline and keep working. Some progress is way better than standing still.

Mix short-term goals with the long-term goals.

Don’t just set long-term goals. Sometimes working toward something that seems monumental makes you lose steam because it starts to feel like you’re never going to accomplish anything. To combat losing momentum, set smaller, attainable goals throughout the year so you can continue to get a sense of accomplishment and stay motivated to work on your bigger goals.

Set goals that focus on your character.

Don’t just set goals that focus on actions you plan to take to improve yourself. Also make some goals that address the kind of person you want to be.

Don’t forget to deal with the issues right in front of you.

It’s super-easy to get so wrapped up in trying to reach a long-term goal that issues right in front of you don’t get handled. That’s a surefire way to create more obstacles that stand in the way of what you’re hoping to achieve. Your life isn’t going to stop just so you can work toward your goal. You’re going to have to learn to manage your time and priorities so you’re still fulfilling your obligations while you work on your goal.

The goal-setting is the easy part, but just writing down what you want to achieve isn’t going to make it happen. That will be about as effective as making a resolution. In order for these goals to mean anything, you have to actually take action. Be in motion. Do something. You can set the smartest goal and map out the best approach to reaching it, but unless you’re putting in the work to make it happen, you won’t get anywhere.

So, this New Year’s, take a different and more effective approach to making changes for the next 12 (or 18 or 24) months. Good luck on accomplishing everything you set out to do and having your best year yet!

Goals set? Check. Now check out 10 steps to help you achieve them.

John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.