The Only Resolutions that Succeed

By Dr. Ben Lerner

In the story of bacon and eggs, the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.

If you study the word resolution, it’s kind of funny. The word actually means, “fixed purpose.” This is humorous because, for most people, nothing could be further from reality. When I think of someone making a resolution, I immediately consider a list of commitments people make on December 31, and abandon by January 2.

The most unfortunate collateral damage in the resolution debacle is that I’ve noticed that people have stopped making them. Over the last 15 years I’ve done a lot of speaking around the world, and where 80 percent of the crowd used to raise their hands when asked if they had set a goal for the new year, now just a handful do. Forgotten resolutions can quickly become dreams left behind. As one great writer said, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘What might have been’.”

The problem with resolutions is more of a system failure than a failure to commit. If you want to see lasting change in your life this year, consider these when setting your goals:

Don’t over commit, because there is nothing magical about December 31st. This date doesn’t make it easier or harder to hit a goal than it was on June 4th or October 8th. Therefore…

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound resolutions have the greatest chance of making it.

Set goals in the affirmative present vs. the negative future. Saying that, “you’ll never eat pizza again, you’ll stop procrastinating, or that you’re going to stop staying up late and sleeping in,” only affirm the negative and states it might eventually happen again. Rather, tell yourself that, “you enjoy fruits and vegetables, you love the feeling of completing a workout, that you are a reader of books that add value to your life, that you ARE making positive investments in your finances, and that you love spending time with your family.”

Remember that resolutions fail; goals do not. If you set a resolution to “never” or “always” do something, then when you screw it up on January 2, you’ll likely feel relief and abandonment. You’ll think, “Thank God that resolution is over.” Or, “Well, there’s always 2017!”

Plan to fail. Just fail forward. Again, just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean you are suddenly like the pig — totally and eternally committed. There will be missteps, setbacks, and discouragements. I like the Proverb, “For though the righteous fall seven times, they will rise again.”

Here’s a great line for when you get off track. Do not think, “It’s over, I blew it again – goodbye dreams!” Instead, kindly say to yourself, “That’s not like me.” Let yourself know it’s okay to be as imperfect as everyone else on the planet. Then cancel the pity party, get back to your S.M.A.R.T. goals, move forward, and rise again.

Resolutions were made to be broken; Goals can be kept, re-set, and resurrected.

Resolutions take only interest on December 31st to make; Goals are well thought out, well planned, and take integrity, courage, character and persistence into account.

Resolutions end during tough or inconvenient times; Goals mean enduring hardship, self-forgiveness, self-responsibility, and committing to results even if the timetable moves.

Resolutions are like tip toeing into a cold pool; Goals mean diving right in, taking the leap and going for it.

Resolutions change with changing emotions; Goals are stronger than a particular feeling at a particular moment.

Resolutions are easy to make, easy to break; Goals, like anything worthwhile in life, are never easy. They are a faith in a dream.