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Your New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t Helping

Notepad titled "New Year's Resolutions." The only resolution is to "Stop Making New Year's Resolutions."

At the end of every year, so many people talk about how they “don’t want this new year to be a repeat of last year.”

When I ask about New Year’s resolutions, I hear things like:

  • “I will sign up for spinning classes - and actually go to them twice a week.”
  • “I will volunteer at my daughter’s school during every family event, no matter what.”
  • “I will do whatever it takes to lose 10 pounds.”
  • “I want to double my clients for my business, so I’m going to participate in a business referral session every week.”

Some of these resolutions seem like terrific ideas. They have clear, measurable, seemingly attainable goals.

And yet, all of these well-meaning resolutions seem to fail, leaving you frustrated and upset as you slide even further away from your goals.

That’s the problem. Each and every one of these resolutions is requiring you to do more, with no room for failure. Either you drive yourself mad trying to stick with your plan, or you “fall off the bandwagon” and beat yourself up about it.

Even if your goals are specific and realistic, you can only do so much.

And if your goals aren’t specific and realistic, it’s much worse. Sometimes I hear very concerning resolutions like:

  • “I’m going to get in shape so I feel completely confident about my appearance!”
  • “I’m going to stop procrastinating, once and for all!”
  • “I will work harder and finally have a successful business!”

When we fail to reach these non-specific, unrealistic resolutions, we are filled with guilt. We make more resolutions to compensate for the failed resolutions and a vicious cycle starts.

So before you make a lengthy list of resolutions, you need to understand the unfortunate truth: New Year's resolutions won’t help you.

Resolutions vs. Intentions

So if New Year’s resolutions won’t help, should you abandon your goals altogether? No, of course not!

But you do need to understand the difference between resolutions and intentions.

Resolutions are frequently based on other people’s values. For example, you may worry you don’t look like the “ideal woman,” so you resolve to lose 15 pounds without thinking of anything else.

Intentions, on the other hand, begin with you figuring out your own values. Once you know what matters to you, you can start to balance your priorities and make time for what you want to accomplish.

Intentions are always positive, and they never come with punishments. They don’t even need metrics.

While resolutions involve adding more, intentions involve understanding what’s limiting your ability to achieve your goals and making thoughtful changes.

Making a resolution to “stop procrastinating and write my book” isn’t as helpful as asking “What changes can I make in my daily routine to have more time for writing?”. I’m not saying this is easy - it’s going to take a lot of personal work and reflection - but it is the best way to make a lasting change.

Making a Change

Megan* is a client of mine who runs a graphic design business from home. She’s a genuinely nice person and is always volunteering to help out others. Despite doing so many things at once, she still ended each year feeling frustrated with her cluttered office and lack of productivity.

When she started working with me, she was berating herself for her inability to “stop procrastinating and get more work done.” Exasperated, Megan kept making new resolutions to meet a vague, unrealistic resolution of “productivity,” which inevitably didn’t work out.

That’s because Megan’s problem wasn’t procrastination. She was overextended because she wanted to please everyone in her life - a very time-consuming endeavor.

When Megan and I started working together, she took a hard look at what she said “yes” to and began to prioritize. She decided paid work was the most important, then administrative work for her business, family obligations, and finally volunteer tasks.

This made a huge difference for Megan. When she learned what to focus on and how to set boundaries, she was able to concentrate more on what was really important to her: her business and her family. She still volunteers and helps whenever she can, but she isn’t overwhelmed with guilt when she has to say “no.”

Replace Your Resolutions With Intentions

Before you set yourself up for guilt and frustration in the New Year, carefully consider your resolutions and transform them into intentions.

As I mentioned before, this will take some work. I promise it’s worth it.

If you need help, I’m here to guide you through the process. Coaching can be particularly helpful to identify and implement intentions as a way to make worthwhile, lasting changes.

With a little effort, you can develop realistic, sustainable intentions to start the year off right.

Ready to transform your resolutions and start the year off guilt-free? Don’t let 2020 get away from you. Get in touch to talk about your best self in 2020.


* Names have been changed for client confidentiality.

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