Let me get right to it. Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. You are doomed to self-loathing and more depression if you do. And almost all of us fail at them anyway. You don’t need more of that in your life.
Don’t sign up for a gym membership or detox cleanses or whatever new fad pops up just because January is almost here. Don’t vow to lose a bunch of weight or be nicer to every person and animal you meet each day. Don’t decide you are going to completely declutter your house, get in shape, eat better, or generally get your crap together. It’ll be a miracle if any of that happens by the time your next year is said and done.
But please know one thing. I’m not a pessimist. I believe in you and me and our power to make great things happen.
It’s that I have a pretty good sense of how goals work in the midst of chaotic lives like we have, and resolutions ain’t it. It will take very little to derail any of your ambitious goals, and as sure as the sun rises, a whole lot more than a little is going to happen to you next year. This is exactly why you need different plans.
All that said, the fact remains that you and I both have significant parts of our lives that we know we need to change. We know they aren’t sustainable. We know we are crumbling, and we need to do something.
So do something small. Really small. Start smaller than even what you think sounds ridiculous. That’s your new plan.
Several weeks ago, in my “One Minute a Day to a Saner Life” newsletter, I talked quite a bit about the approach of tiny habits. The idea is to decide on a new habit or goal, and then start really, really small and simple. When I say ‘small’ I mean literally one minute or one time a day to begin with.
Meditate, pray, clean something, write a friendly text, say something nice, whatever — once a day or one minute to start. Floss one tooth, pick up one item off the floor, dance in your living room for one minute, etc.
If you feel like doing a little more, fine, but you are only committed to one. Don’t push it at all. Repeat. At some point, increase (slowly!) to two per day, then to three, and so on.
Keep going. If you can do the habit every day for about a month, this is the magic number for a lot of people in getting a habit to stick permanently. Even if you keep the first month really easy, it’ll still stick.
You can’t lose 30 pounds, revolutionize your spiritual life, or declutter your entire house by just setting the goal and then plowing ahead expecting it to happen. This is why resolutions fail and tiny habits succeed. Losing 30 pounds takes months; starting by eating one bite of vegetables today takes a minute. The former is the way you set yourself up to feel like a loser. The latter creates steady momentum and a strategy for you to win.
Just having serious issues in our lives that we desperately need to fix isn’t enough fuel 99% of the time to actually succeed in doing something about them. And what we’ve tried in the past — resolutions and various other similar commitments — haven’t worked, because life happens.
Our lives are chaotic, and we have a bad track record for change. We shouldn’t judge ourselves about that. We should just be honest about it so we can move forward.
We think we should be able to change habits like flipping a switch, but we can’t. Our brains and emotions are more complex than that. Look around you. Seriously, how many people succeed at sticking to and sustaining their resolutions? Very few. Doing what doesn’t work over and over again isn’t the answer.
Keep it easy to start so your whole body, mind, and emotions will feel at ease with coming along for the ride you want to bring them on. Keep a log so you can check things off and see your progress. Claim your minutes to create your tiny habits until down the road they become the life-changing ones you seek.
You don’t even have to believe in this yet to try it out. It’ll cost you a minute a day to start at worse. It’ll seem kinda silly for a while, but like a train starting out very slowly, you’ll build more and more momentum until you are charging ahead toward realizing your goals.
Best wishes, and Happy New Year!