Almost eleven years ago my divorce went through the courts right after the New Year. I was alone, depressed and wondering how I was going to cope with the stigma and heartache of divorce. The one thing I did right was not make any New Year’s resolutions. I already felt like a failure and did not want to add to my misery by committing to any farfetched resolutions, no matter how well intended they might be. I felt I did the responsible thing by just accepting that my marriage was over. It was hard, but I realize now it was the right thing to do. The only real plans I made for the New Year was making it to the next one.
The very term: “New Year’s resolution” is a disaster waiting to happen. Yet millions of people each year fall into the trap of making commitments they either cannot or will not complete. Why do people do this? Call it human nature or delusions of grandeur or just plain ignorance. The simple fact of the matter is: New Year’s resolutions do not work! It is estimated that 70% of Americans will make some kind a New Year’s resolution this year, that’s the good news. The bad news is that almost all of these people won’t even remember any of the resolutions they make, just six weeks into the New Year! When will we ever learn?
The reason so many people fail in their quest to improve their lives through resolutions is they have absolutely no plans how to implement their goals. A lot of people do not even take the time to write their goals down. A three-month, six-month and one-year goal plan is a good idea. Billionaire tycoon and oilman J. Paul Getty once said: “Not making a list of your goals is just an excuse not to do them.” I’m glad I heard that quote when I was young. I am constantly evaluating and structuring my daily life to reach my goals. It is paramount that you write your goals down! Try using a pen or pencil with a notepad or elegant stationary paper in your own writing. Be realistic about what you can achieve during the next few months or years. The first man to break the 4-minute mile, Sir Roger Bannister, had already planned his next attempt in case he failed at his first. And he did fail, many times before he was successful. More importantly than that he was realistic in his quest to reach his goal. In my distance running career I had trouble getting under the 5-minute barrier. I soon realized the 4-minute mile was not in the cards for me. I reevaluated my goals and made adjustments accordingly. I achieved the goal I was capable of but not the one I wanted. Distance running taught me that if I worked hard and persevered I would be successful in that sport and more importantly, life.
So how do you avoid becoming a victim of the New Year’s resolution trap? Try this: make your resolutions during the summer. By doing this you will have plenty of time to adjust and rethink your strategy in case you fail. The summer is also a great time to be outside and exercise. Swimming, hiking, running or even walking will lift your spirits and make you want to do more. Set a schedule and stick to it! Don’t make excuses! It only takes three weeks to establish a good habit. It takes a lot longer to break one. I’d tried this summer resolution schedule about ten years ago and it has worked very well for me. I found what worked for me and what didn’t work for me long before that dreaded January 1st deadline.
Finally, the holidays were meant to be a happy time visiting family and friends. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, it can be the most depressing time of year. A lot of this is exasperated by partying and drinking, not to mention all the fatalities caused by drunk drivers. If you are struggling emotionally this New Year’s Eve, try staying home and not overindulging. You will feel so much better the first day of the New Year. Above all, try to be happy in this moment, after all it’s you have. Happy New Year!