New Year, Same Me

Making change is hard. But it doesn't have to be.

New Year, Same Me
Photo by Ameer Basheer / Unsplash

If there's one thing I've learned over the past year, it's that making change is hard.

"Oh wow, look at that nugget of wisdom", I hear you muttering under your breath. "He takes a break from blogging for a month and THAT'S what he comes back with? Where's that damn unsubscribe button?!"

And yeah, that's not a new or novel concept. I'm not winning any awards or blowing any minds.

But 2023's already 3% over, and we're not getting any younger. The sands of time keep pouring regardless of the calendar date, and at some point you're going to run out. So what does it take to actually make change?

New Year's Resolutions Suck

I can't remember the last time I have really stuck with a new year's resolution. I see three problems with them.

First is the reason for making the change. Often, the reason people decide to make some big resolution or change in the new year is...well...because it's a new year.

And that's a terrible reason to be doing something. If your motivation for taking action is an arbitrary number incrementing by one, then your resolution lacks purpose. You're better off anchoring your goal to, say, a yearly progress bar. Or a month. Or a day.

How does this progress bar move so damn fast?!

Second is the goal being set. Often, I see resolutions that are externally driven: while our inputs may influence the outcome, the result may not be specifically achievable.

Take, for example, the resolutions of losing 20 pounds and getting your first 100 Twitter/Mastodon followers. These are both goals whose success or failure is tied to someone other than yourself. You can diet and exercise all you want, but your genetics or other conditions may make losing 20 pounds almost impossible (or even potentially unhealthy). You could try to create engaging, interesting Tweets every single day, but ultimately someone else decides to follow you.

Finally, we have the delay of doing. "I'll start on this in the next year" is pointless delay. Why are you waiting? Why not start as soon as you have a plan?

Fortunately, these are all easily addressable issues.

A Recipe For Better Resolutions

Everything above is a problem. It doesn't have to be. And it's not even hard to address them.

Let's fix the reason first. Ask yourself "why?". Why did you pick this resolution? Is it a good reason? If not, then pick another resolution; this one is a waste of time. If it is a good reason – or if you're not sure – ask "why?" again. Keep asking why. If you're responding with "so that...", you're on the right track.

Get to the root reason you want to work on this. Losing 20 pounds on its own lacks an anchor. Losing that weight so you can get to a healthy weight, so that you can play with your kids more, so that you can be a better parent, so that you can leave this world a better place: now that's an anchor.

Next, let's address the goal itself. Your goal needs a plan, and your goal needs to be something that you are in full control of. If external forces cause you to fail your resolution, then look to reframe your goal.

Let's look at weight loss again. A number on the scale is not always something we can influence. What we can do is influence our actions.

The key here is to frame your goal based on inputs, not outputs. I can't directly control the number on my scale going lower. I can however control me exercising, eating healthy, and practicing portion control.

It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness, that is life.

– Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek

Finally, let's talk about the delay.

Delaying your resolution so that you have a plan is a good thing. Delaying your resolution so that it aligns with the start of the year doesn't provide much value.

You know what a resolution is that starts at an arbitrary time? A goal. And one that, with the prep work you've done above, is more likely to succeed.

Or You Could Just Use Themes

One of the main challenges with firm goals is that if you slip on them, it's easy to fall back into old habits. If you're unlikely to course-correct after slipping from a plan, consider themes instead.

Myself, I'm going with "The Season of Prioritization". Am I working on what matters most to me? Am I properly balancing work, health, and personal growth?

If you slip from your plan, don't worry. Just start again. Perseverance and discipline is what gets it done.

You got this.