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Jason is the founder of Ignite Student Ministries, a dynamic ministry igniting youth, young adults and university students to passionately pursue Christ and transform society in high schools, work places and universities around the world.

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4 Reasons to Ditch Resolutions (And Try These Valuable Habits)

I stopped making new year's resolutions and adopted these habits instead.

Jason VanaJason Vana

New Year’s Resolutions. Chances are, you made a few in the past week or two.

According to Harris Interactive, roughly 45% of Americans make resolutions at the start of every year — everything from losing weight, saving money, and spending more time with family, to living life to it’s fullest and finally stop smoking.

Resolutions are great ideas, but they don’t really work.

About 5 years ago, I stopped coming up with new year’s resolutions — and I’ll never go back.

Ditch Your Resolutions

Here are 4 reasons why I ditched my new year’s resolutions, and why you should as well:

Resolutions Don’t Work

University of Scranton research suggests that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions — meaning the odds of you losing weight, getting organized, saving more, and quitting smoking are marginal at best.

Quite simply: resolutions just don’t work. They sound good, make us feel like we’re improving our lives, and give us something to shoot for, but the resolution success rate is dismal at best.

You’re Caught Up in the New Year’s Glow

The start of a new year is an alluring call to change everything so you can finally have the life you’ve always wanted. It’s often seen as a blank slate, a fresh start, or a do-over. It’s a time when people evaluate their lives and decide to make changes for the better.

Often, though, the commitment to follow through with the necessary actions to change isn’t there. You have the motivation and desire, but the gumption to stick with those resolutions come April isn’t real.

I call this the New Year’s Glow — excitement over the possibility of change, but no real commitment.Click To Tweet

Resolutions are (Often) Spur-of-the-Moment

If you’re like most people, you didn’t spend a lot of time creating your New Year’s resolutions.

You likely threw them together last minute, chose them because a friend or relative mentioned them, picked the same resolutions you chose last year (and didn’t keep), or pulled from your constant wish-list of what you want your life to be like.

Resolutions are rarely based on quantifiable and thought-out goals. They don’t take into account viable action steps you can take to accomplish said goals.

Instead, they are more like wishes — and stay wishes once the new year “glow” is over.

Life Changes (and so do your goals)

Making a resolution in January to carry out for an entire year isn’t all that realistic.

Life happens. You lose your job, get a promotion, move, have a kid, lose a family member, take on more hours at work, get sick, have a financial setback, go through a season of hardship, get married, get divorced, change careers, discover new passions.

Any of those circumstances can radically change your life, your schedule, and what you want out of this year. Resolutions rarely, if ever, accommodate unexpected life changes — and result in being dropped or forgotten altogether.

Try These Habits Instead

Instead of wasting your time on resolutions that don’t work, consider trying one (or all) of these habits that are proven to have a greater rate of success.

Choose a Word of the Year

This is my favorite yearly habit — and one I’ve found to be much more successful than making resolutions.

In essence, I spend time praying about a word I believe embodies what God wants to do in my life that year — and then orient my entire life around that word.

I started this habit after learning about the #OneWord campaign — an experiment designed to move you beyond the cycle of picking new year’s resolutions and forgetting about them by February — and it’s changed my life.

Choosing one word bring clarity to your year by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.

From there, it’s easy to create goals and action steps that fall in line with your vision and focus for the year.

Answer the Question: Who Do I Want to Be?

It’s easy to spend the start of a new year asking yourself what you want to do that year. The goals you want to set, behavioral changes you want to make, the weight you want to lose, language you want to learn, patterns you want to break.

Setting goals is great, but the desire to make behavioral changes won’t be enough to motivate you to follow through when change gets hard.

A better habit to get into is to ask yourself a single question: who do I want to be?

Doing is great, but you aren’t a human doing. You are a human being.

So who do you want to be? Listing out the qualities and characteristics you want displayed in your life not only will help you become a better person, it also gives you better motivation to change.

Focusing on who you want to be helps you stay committed when the necessary changes get hard.Click To Tweet

Set Goals

But wait, aren’t goals just a different way of saying resolutions? Not really.

Resolutions are often spur-of-the-moment decisions based on the desires flying around your head at that moment.

Goals, on the other hand, are much more thought out, taking into account your current circumstances and adjusting for life changes. They also include a vital component that resolutions don’t: action steps.

Every good goal not only states what you hope to achieve, but includes the steps you will take to accomplish said goal. It’s like a two-in-one: you have the goal and how you plan to achieve it.

Goals are also:

Start Small

Big goals are great. I often encourage students in Ignite to dream (and achieve) big.

Starting big, on the other hand, is often a recipe for failure. Upending your life, changing everything overnight, blowing away your current eating habits for something completely new rarely works in the long-run.

So start small.

Make a few small changes each week that are in line with your goals, but don’t require overnight change. Cutting out dessert, making one less Starbucks run, snacking on fruit instead of cookies, turning the TV off one hour earlier every night — they don’t seem like drastic changes, but will have drastic results.

We don’t often do well with big change — but making small changes in our daily routines are more likely to become habits and stick.

Keep Your Goals to Yourself

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

In other words, sharing your goals triggers something in your brain that makes you feel just as satisfied as if your goal was achieved — and kills your drive to follow through with those changes.

Write your goals down. Create your action plan. Make up charts, graphs, or whatever else you want to track your progress.

Just don’t share your goals.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer  recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?” that found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Evaluate the Past

Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and I tend to agree with him.

When we fail to look in the rearview mirror of our lives and evaluate where we’ve been, we are much more likely to repeat the same habits and behavior patterns that resulted in failed resolutions in the first place.

It’s important to regularly evaluate your motives, behaviors, successes, and losses so you know the changes you really need to make to achieve your goals.

Resolutions or Habits? You Be the Judge.

You have the opportunity to make 2016 your best year yet, by ditching your new year’s resolutions and working the above habits into your life.

Not only will these habits help you set goals you can actually keep, they will also supply you with the necessary tools and motivation to keep moving forward even after your first setback or major life change.

(Image via Brett Jordan cc)

Jason is the founder of Ignite Student Ministries, a dynamic ministry igniting youth, young adults and university students to passionately pursue Christ and transform society in high schools, work places and universities around the world.

Comments 2
  • Jon Stolpe
    Posted on

    Jon Stolpe Jon Stolpe

    Reply Author

    I write a lot about disciplines over at my blog. I think your need for resolutions diminishes when you establish and keep disciplines (or habits) that point you in a positive direction.


    • Jason Vana
      Posted on

      Jason Vana Jason Vana

      Reply Author

      I agree – when we stay disciplined in our lives, we don’t need grandiose resolutions to get back on track. Plus, we realize we don’t need a new year to make any necessary changes. Staying disciplined allows us to make changes as we go. Thanks for sharing, Jon!