NEW “LIFE” RESOLUTIONS- Part 1. – Why personal goals and resolutions fail, and what you should do about it.

Every year, gazillions of people scamper to determine their New Year resolutions. They proudly talk about it at the water cooler at work, they tweet about it, and they put it on their refrigerators. Lose weight, have more fun, meet more people, be more spiritual, save more. Cute. Unfortunately, “Cute” doesn’t get things done.  Why is it that people fail so miserably with New Year resolutions?Why is it that people have the same resolutions year after year? Maybe the goals weren’t realistic? or maybe the person didn’t have the capacity to accomplish? Well, maybe.Both of these are right but there is one thought process that people subconsciously ignore and it stabs them in the back. It’s dangerous, its mean and it’s very very sneaky.

What I’m about to tell you will change you. Literally. It’s going to make you take another look at your New Year resolutions and if you haven’t set any goals, after reading this, you’re going set them KNOWING you have a better shot of succeeding this time.

In the second part of this series, I’ll tell you the most important resolutions you must make this year but for now, I’ll tell you why people fail at their resolutions, and what you must do differently when setting goals and resolutions.

Here it is:

Most resolutions are made based on past disappointments and a desire to change past behavior that has resulted in an undesirable state today. Most people are reacting to events/time that has passed. I hear things like “I’ve been gaining weight for the past three years so I need to lose weight”; “I’ve been so terrible about my finances over the last two years and now I really need to start saving”; “My relationship hasn’t been the best for a while now so I need to show more affection and be more patient”; “I’ve been a workaholic for years now and it’s time for me to start having some fun”….

I can hear it before you even say it. You’re thinking…soooo what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing. Absolutely nothing, if you are going to attempt the change for only 3 months or so. The reason it will fail…the reason people fail is that when the going gets tough…when the elements at play that make “change” difficult begin to do their dance, when the pain and struggle that often comes with changing ourselves start to rise, it is easy for your mind and body to attempt to negotiate with you and tell you that even though you’re right that you haven’t done a good job in an area of your life, you HAVE survived it and you ARE coping. That negotiation sounds like “I’ve been gaining weight irresponsibly over the last three years but I’m still madly in love with my spouse and he/she is still in madly in love with me…my weight gain is not really stopping me from doing any activities in life that I want to do. Yea I’ve been irresponsible about my body but I’m doing ok”; or “I’ve been so terrible about my finances over the last two years but I’m not broke…I still have savings and my job is somewhat stable”. Get it? The fact that your resolution was made on the past that you have survived or are currently surviving, already puts a wrench in your grand plan. Yea…your subconscious is that smart. The worst part is that you won’t even know this is happening… Oh no youll just realize that your motivation is dwindling. I told you it’s dangerous… its mean, and it’s very very sneaky.

Now I’m going to hit you in the head. You’ll thank me later.

The right state of mind… the sustainable state of mind in which to accomplish any worthy goal or make a decision to do anything that takes major effort, is NOT only a clear picture (GOOD OR BAD) of the past but a clear picture (GOOD OR BAD) of the future. In other words, if you say “I need to get better with my finances because I have been terrible at it and wasted a lot of money”, you may start and be somewhat successful but it won’t be sustainable. The better approach is to look to the future and properly paint the picture of life without the change and the effect of not changing, multiplied over time; and the picture of life with the effect of successfully changing…over time. It sounds like “A time WILL come when I WILL need money for a rainy day, retirement, kid’s college fund, unforeseen circumstances or emergencies. It will be extremely frustrating for me not to have the finances then as I will be older and not be able to come back in time to change my habits. The frustration of not having it in the future is much greater than the frustration of giving up my bad spending now. If I don’t change and it does happen, not only would I have let myself down, I would have let those that depend on me down as well. On the flip side…if I do successfully change myself now, the multiplied effect will be…” OR “I have been gaining weight over the last three years and it’s kind of irresponsible because I know I can/should be better. I have no kids now but I know that a time WILL come when I will carry a baby for 9 months, possibly gain a lot of weight, take my body through changes it may never fully recover from and be in a position where it is 10 times as hard to lose weight than it is right now. However, If I successfully change and get in really good shape now, even if I go through those changes in the future, I can minimize them because of the shape I’m in before I get there”. See the difference?

Or you…yes YOU. You hate your job. You complain about it and whine about being unfulfilled, not getting paid enough, or the fact that you hate what your company does to unknowing customers. Yes. YOU. If you make a decision to start looking for a new job based on the past negative experiences, you may start right but it’s not sustainable because when the going gets tough, you will be able to negotiate yourself out of the effort it takes to change. You’ll subconsciously remind yourself that you are CURRENTLY coping quite well despite the past experiences. You’re unfulfilled but hey…better to have an unfulfilling job than no job right? You’re not getting paid what you’re worth but that’s fine…you’ll just save more and cut cable and eating out Right? WRONG! You’ll wriggle yourself out of the effort to find a new job in 3 months but you’ll come back to the same state of misery sooner than later.

If however, you make the decision to look for a new job based on a clear picture of the multiplied benefit over time of changing and the multiplied negative effect over time of not changing, you’ll be better equipped. It sounds like: “A time will come where my lack of interest /passion will be so much that my performance will drop. When that happens, it will show and I will be in real risk losing my job. A time will come…and it’s probably already here where I’m bitter at work and miserable because I feel like I’m wasting 9 hrs of my life …everyday. When that time comes, I’ll probably bring that bitterness home and take it out on my loved ones. A time will come where my responsibilities will increase so much more than what they are now, and then I’ll REALLY be trapped in my job…locked into the need to make the money to keep my “lifestyle/responsibilities” going. A time will come when I would have spent so much time at my current hated job, that the only job that will be easy for me to find will be the very one that I hate , because of my extensive experience in it. However, If I do successfully change now, I will have a more fulfilled life, I’ll be happier and feel more accomplished…perhaps even have more time to spend with family, pursue hobbies and travel.”

Why is this better approach? Well, because your mind will find it a bit harder to negotiate with you because the future isn’t here yet. It’s harder for your mind to tell you that you’ll be ok for sure because you haven’t experienced that place in the future yet when your kids are ready to go to college or when you’ve carried a baby for nine months or spent 7 years in a job you hate or…fill in the blank. You don’t have the “crutch” of “experience” to make you think you’ll be ok in the future without changing who you are now.

When you make decision based on the future, you are able to see a more robust version of the multiplied negative effect of your habit, AND, a more robust version of the multiplied positive effect of your improvement/ change of habit.

Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple understood this. Take the ipad for example. They didn’t get together and say…we ought to make a tablet because our other products are not good enough and we are not managing our products well enough. Nope. The brand was doing relatively well before the ipad came along. However, they made a decision to invest in, and stick to the design of the ipad (even though they were seen as crazy) based on the future. I believe that they looked into the future and said “A time WILL come when pushing keys on a computer will become almost obsolete. XYZ are the multiplied benefits over time, of getting there first and XYZ are the multiplied disastrous effects of not getting there first.”

I strongly believe that if Apple had made a decision…a resolution if you will, about designing a product like the ipad based on the need to change their past performance, it would have tanked. Why, because their past performance before the ipad wasn’t that bad, they were coping and coping really well as a brand compared to their counterparts. However, the ability to say “what good will happen in the future if we change and what bad will happen in the future if we don’t change now?” saw the ipad through and I think it’ll work for you too.

So sit down and paint that picture. Set yourself up to succeed.
Comment on past experiences on New Year resolutions and how you succeeded or …if you are bold enough, how you failed in the past.

That said….get ready….the next post will tell you perhaps the most important resolutions you must make not just for this year, but for life.

  • Prince

    This is a mighty Paradigm Shift…as always very insightful and mind provoking…keep on Bro!

  • CheeringUon

    Goooooooood stuff!!!! anticipating the part 2 of this series. I hope your new “life” resolution is to post the part 2 ASAP and not keep us in a long suspense. #youalreadyknowmybadmouth!LOL.

  • Sherine

    Quite profound! Taking notes 🙂

  • Poca

    Great article!!! You should truly write a book..I’ll be your first customer 🙂

    I stopped making resolutions because by June, they are non existent. You’re so right about how we make those resolutions based on past failures, it’s true..but we never realize that. We are just so caught up in the cycle and in the attitude of “it’s a new year and a new me…”
    Keep up the awesome work!


    I always look forward to reading your articles. As always, you never disappoint. I must say that this is a very interesting perspective u point out on how to set goals…hmmm. This “better way” would help folks take their minds off the prior failures of the same resolution and focus more on the joy of accomplishing the new resolution. Thanks for sharing, Tobi. I love it.

  • Ty

    That’s good. I was once told that change generally comes from Desperation or Inspiration. 4 years ago my change started from desperation and I continue to change out of Inspiration. I am so far outside my comfort zone that I forgot what a comfort zone was. I have continued to challenge my self growth and learn on an almost daily basis. I don’t make new years resolutions. I identify a change I want to make and set it into action right away. I have lived more in the past 3 years than I have in the majority of my life. I have the best friends around the world. Some that inspire me, some I help inspire but all a part of who I am. But I warn you,WHEN YOU OPEN YOUR MIND IT WONT FIT BACK INSIDE THAT BOX .

    • RITA

      I love this site because i get inspired, motivated and also get to connect with such great minds. Ty, i commend you for all your accomplishments, that’s awesome. Thank you all so much because this is the year that i am finally going to do something about it.

  • Maribel

    What an amazing article! I am looking forward to part 2. Tobi, you have a gift and God will continue to bless you. Keep up the good work and continue to inspire others. All of your hard work will pay off. This article has reminded me of why things occur. I will definitely apply it to my current situation and ensure to have time for my family and travel! Thank you, Maribel

    • RITA

      Well said sister. And i say amen to the prayers. Tobi, you are amazing and may the wisdom of God never depart from you (amen again).

  • RITA

    Tobi all i want to know is, when are you taking your one man show on the road because you are such an awesome motivator. Am already thinking ahead to attending your many future book signing events. I will honestly apply what i have learned from this great article.

  • ijustmetme

    Thanks everyone….what refreshes me is when you grow and create better versions of yourselves because of what you read here. Many times what’s even more refreshing is what I see going on here…where the readers are inspiring one another and sharing their experiences. You guys are awesome!!!

  • Brian

    Re: A better version of oneself. I was instantly reminded of my favorite quote by T.S. Elliot:
    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ” I love what you’ve started here :o)

  • Dee

    I agree… mostly with what you have said here.. I would like to add an addendum that resolutions also require discipline. The same mindset that makes you settle for what you’re ‘coping with’ can make you decide that fighting for the future is too much. ‘Afterall you were doing alright so far and you can always pick-up some other time later’.

    You need passion for your resolution and the determination that you are truly fed up with where you are, such that no excuse will be enough for you to keep coping with the past. Otherwise, you’ll end up with another broken resolution.

    Tobi has gracefully shared secret 1a.. this is just part b and I can’t wait to see the secret of part 2

  • Mayowa

    Great stuff…one of my favorite posts on the blog so far and full of deep, practical thoughts. Well done, sir!

  • Taiwo

    Wow, like I always say, there’s a way you connect things, it can only be a gift. I have a bunch of things I want to achieve this year, but when I thought about them I realized that they require discipline even when the future is in view. For example, taking care of your body now so that when you have children, your body can bounce back with grace, requires discipline. Managing money well now so that when you have responsibilities you don’t go broke, requires discipline. Even when you have that future picture in mind, discipline is what makes you deny yourself instant gratification and wait patiently or save wisely. I find that by the middle of the year, I’m bugged down by “more important things” and what I considered vital at the beginning of the year no longer matter. That’s when articles like these are essential to motivate you to be everything you imagined yourself to be right from the start.

  • ijustmetme

    I’m really glad that a couple of people have brought up the issue of “discipline”. Very true…it’s crucial. Here is the thing though. You see, no one is genetically wired to be better than anyone else at discipline. That person you know who is super health conscious, disciplined and looks great, or that person who is disciplined with their finances, or that person who engages their career, education, personal project with discipline does so FIRST because the right thinking and the right thought process was in place. That “right” thought process was conducive for discipline to build over time. That health conscious person for example sees the “meaning, power, potential, purpose, intricacies of his/her body differently than others around him/her. It was the right perspective that came first. That “right” thinking was conducive for the SUSTAINABLE effort that we call discipline, to develop. So much learning is taking place here for all of us…really glad we can learn from each other.

  • Lovethispiece!

    hmmm, an interesting article…. so we are to paint the picture of our future and let that be a guide on how we should shape our new year resolutions/goals for the year. its kinda like, envisioning the future, then doing what it takes to get there. you ever thought of having a vision board? literally…a board were you have your vision for your life in pictures/words/scriptures on your bedroom wall, staring you in the face. I do have one and It’s a great motivation tool!
    i think i like this new outlook.
    okay,now i want to see part 2….hurry!!

  • mary

    great article!

  • ayonimi

    I normally don’t leave comments but wow this article spoke to my inner mind and i just had to say, Thank you so much Tobi for this wonderful insight, may the good Lord continue to increase and grant you all your heart desires in this year 2012. As you have made yourself available to be used by God, i pray God will make you a wonder to behold. Thanks once more

    • ijustmetme

      Amen! Thanks!!

  • Jersey Girl

    This year I literally made myself a schedule. A weekly schedule that planned my activities based on the goals that I set including physical, spiritual, financial, relationships, works, recreation. Just so that I know that though they are challenging, working towards them is actually REALISTIC- the things i need to do fit into the approximately 14 hours or so of the day that I am actually doing stuff. So far its going great :). The most important thing Ive gained so far out of it is that I’m no longer doing things unthinkingly, and I’m no longer doing “busywork” but being fruitful.

    • ijustmetme

      I love it!!! Keep it going!!!

  • Venisa

    Wow Tobi………just WOOOOOOOWWWWWW! Amazing

  • This article is so motivating and encouraging. Frankly speaking, it has brought a change in my life. I advice U to keep it up. Am looking forward to reading more of ur article, U re gifted. Keep it up and remain blesses.

  • chiny

    wonderfully said….relationships shud b nutured with patience ….not jst only abt love but tolerating d oda partner.

  • Ola

    I just discovered your blog today and I am so happy I did. This article like all the other i have read on this blog today is just amazing. I can totally relate to this article because I am that type of person that will go back to that comfort zone because it was not so bad when the going gets though and your perspective of making a change based on the future and not the past is just awesome. I am definitely going to adapt that.

    • ijustmetme

      Wow Ola, That’s great. thanks for stopping by. Glad it helped!

  • Beatrice Maviti

    this piece is amaaazing and inspiring. I will never look at the word “resolutions’ the same way again. thanks