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.