My Trick for Keeping My New Year’s Resolutions

I love New Year’s Resolutions, because #GOALS, but why are they so damn hard?

To be fair, I don’t have trouble making them — I just have trouble narrowing them down and choosing practical ones and not trying to improve everything about myself in one go. And I definitely have trouble keeping them. I love new beginnings because I am a perfectionist at heart and by the time I get to December I feel… stale. My goals are stale. I want new ones! I want to be an entirely new person, and way more perfect and less volatile and just better in all ways. I want to start over and forget all the not so great things that happened this year. New year, new me, or something like that.

But, of course, this sort of thinking is crap, because inevitably I get two hours into the new year and mess it all up right away by not being perfect, surprise, surprise. And then I have to wait another 364 days to get that blank slate permission to start over.

Basically, New Year’s Resolutions are hard because they’re kind of a stupid concept. I mean, making a list once a year is just not how real growth and progression works. You can’t will yourself into being a better human being. And the kind of change that I’m usually seeking with my New Year’s Resolutions (stop being hangry at 4pm every damn day, write a book, stretch more) – it’s not the kind of shit that happens overnight or even in one year. It’s a process. And if you treat your goals like some kind of light switches (“Today I am no longer the kind of person who needs to stare at her phone every 10 seconds!”), you’re going to fail.

I’ve been putting “stretch everyday” on my New Year’s resolution list since, I dunno, two-thousand-f*&king-nine. Except back then it was, “do yoga,” HAHA AS IF. But you know what? Now I stretch like 98% of days. That’s partially because I have to, and partially because I’ve had eight years to think up different ways to trick myself into doing it.

And partially because of a trick I figured out in 2015. You ready for this? It’s bleeping huge.

YOU DON’T NEED THE NEW YEAR TO MAKE RESOLUTIONS. YOU CAN DO IT WHENEVER YOU WANT.

In 2015, I started writing monthly goals. I call them goals, but really they are more like resolutions or tasks. They are what my therapist would call “controllables” but I feel like I have to put that word in quotes because Microsoft Word is giving it a squiggle. They are things that I can do everyday or three times a week or whatever, that will put me closer to what I want to achieve. Macky and I both do this, often together, because HEY ACCOUNTABILITY IS A THING. (Are you the kind of person who never tells anyone your resolutions? If so, stop it, this was me for years and you don’t want to be me).

Essentially, I make New Year’s Resolutions every month. They are often the same month to month, but by revising and tweaking and more importantly ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE LIST AT LEAST ONCE every month, I’ve found that stuff actually happens. I still write yearly goals (aka New Year’s Resolutions) but the monthly goals are the soldiers on the ground. They are the ones that get shit done. They are the building blocks that go back to the yearly goals. Without this foundation, New Year’s Resolutions are essentially impossible [at least in my experience].

Another bonus to this system is that there is less pressure when you’re setting monthly goals — you don’t HAVE to do this thing, whatever it may be, for a whole year. Maybe it makes sense to focus on one aspect of your life for a few months, and then move to another, depending on the season, or just because oh btw it’s impossible to focus on everything at once. Or maybe you want to try something really ambitious for a month, just to see what happens, but you don’t want it hanging over your head allllll year as that “new year’s resolutions you didn’t do.” With a monthly reset, you may even find out that some of your resolutions were stupid, or didn’t have the effects you were hoping, and then, you get to pick new, smarter ones and make actual, real tangible progress towards your goals. And you don’t have to wait a year to do so.

Oh, and if you’re like me and you still want that blank slate new year feeling? Well, good news, you get it every month.

Photo: Noah Wetzel

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Do you keep them? If so, what’s your secret?

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Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

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5 thoughts on “My Trick for Keeping My New Year’s Resolutions

  1. I don’t make new year’s resolutions either. Bunch of nonsense. Goals however you can make anytime you have an epiphany and those rarely come to you on Dec 31. Keep it realistic and you’ll get there.
    Just found your site (don’t finish last is not a goal) and I like the inspiration you promote. Keep up the positive energy!

  2. You are absolutely right. Making resolutions doesn’t require a special date. Still new years eve is generally the time to look back on the last year and try to improve the coming one. Doing a retrospective (term from Scrum – an agile project management technique) is basically just that. What did I do? What issues did I have? How can I improve?

    On keeping resolutions: Most people lack the discipline / tenacity to keep the resolutions on their own. So get help. Want to go riding more often? Find a riding buddy. Want to be more creative? Participate in an arts workshop.
    Also be reasonable. Set the bar right. Vowing to run 10k each week from scratch is doomed to fail. Instead say you want to dedicate half an hour per week for running and see how far you come. There will be setbacks, but over time you may surprise yourself. You can always improve and it actually makes you feel better, if you can exceed your resolution.
    When I started meditating, I often found my thoughts wandering off. An instructor told me, this was common even among advanced practitioners. The key is to come back and start again. This also applies to resolutions. Failing on a resolution, doesn’t mean you failed for the remainder of this year. Just continue next week or take the time to follow up what ever you missed or failed to do. This is no contest, where when you fail once or twice you’re out for good. Try again and again until it becomes habit.

    • I agree completely, especially the thoughts on meditation. I’ve found meditation to be helpful largely for that reason — constantly forgiving the “failures” and eventually realizing that the supposed failure is actually just part of the process.

  3. Pingback: I Have One Goal for 2018 | Syd Schulz

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