New Year Resolutions or setting yourself up for failure

2015 New Year view
New Year location in 2015

It’s been slightly more than one month now and you did it once again. You told yourself this year was going to be different. You would stick to your New Year resolutions.


It was this time of year already: the oh so popular New Year resolutions. And now you’ve reached the moment when you scrap them and tell yourself that New Year’s resolutions are stupid anyway.

If you are anything like I used to be, the following should sound very familiar.

End of December

You’ve said it last year, and the year before, but this time it will be different. You will stick to your New Year resolutions. You truly believe it. You know you can.

Whether it is to stop eating junk food, exercise more, spend less time watching tv or learn a new language. This time it will work. You are motivated. You fully adhere to the New-Year-New-Me philosophy.

You simply need a new outfit, cooking supplies, or a book to learn Spanish.

So you go to the store to make sure you have everything you need to follow your New Year resolution.

Between all the parties and the family stuff you have to attend, there’s not much time to get started, but it’s not even January yet, so there’s still time.

You go through the holidays, over-indulging because it’s the holidays and that’s what you should be doing. It’s too hard to say no to that piece of cake, and anyway, you only do this once a year.

Waiting for the right moment

You’ve known this all along, but I’ll remind you once more. There’s no such thing as the right moment. Ever. Have you ever asked your friends with kids if they had become pregnant at the right time? Chances are they didn’t.

What about your travelling friends? Ever asked them if this was a good moment to sell everything and pack their bags? It probably wasn’t.

It will never be the right time. You’ll never be fully ready for the next step.

So why do we always wait for the right moment to start something? The only reason I can see is that it’s an easy excuse to use. I’ll wait to start on Monday. Or next month. Or next year.

January rolls around

It’s colder but slowly the days are finally starting to get a bit longer. You have yet to start your New Year resolution but you’ve been so busy recovering from all the holiday celebrations, Netflix was a much more tempting option for your days off.

Then you start working again and get back to your old routine. You knew this was going to happen, after all, it’s the same every year. You always have the best intentions but as soon as January rolls around, you are busy. And you forget.

Next year though you will follow through. You will not fail yourself once again.

Any of this sound familiar?

How to actually achieve your New Year goals?

First off, let’s stop calling them New Year resolutions and let’s call them habits. And pick something you actually want to do and are ready to commit.

Do you have something you’ve always been wanting to do, always pushing it a bit further away because of time constraint? Or lack of motivation?

One thing you have to make sure, though while picking your new thing, is to pick something you truly want. If you are okay with your current weight and body shape, don’t go picking exercising just because everyone else is doing it. Same for languages. Maybe that’s not something you are truly interested in. Maybe you want to learn to improve your writing, stop smoking, become a better dancer, master coding or learn how to fix your car. Be honest with yourself. Because whether you succeed or not, you are doing this for yourself.

One thing I’ve learned from the last few years of finally succeeding in creating new habits and sticking to them is to never wait for tomorrow to start.

Take the first step now. If you want to start exercising, leave your computer, put on your PJ bottoms, yoga leggings, shorts whatever you’ve got, and get stretching. Do some light running in your living room. Do a short abs routine. Whatever it is you can think of, get up and do it. Now!

Put your phone or laptop aside and get to it.

If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, head over to Duolingo. It might not be the best tool to get you fluent in your new language, but it’s a start. Aim to do at least 2 lessons. They are quite short lessons, so it shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes.

It’s a lot easier to make up excuses, or delay the start because you clearly need to wait until you have the proper equipment, right?

You want to improve your writing or drawing skills? Get a piece of paper and start writing or drawing. It’s okay to write ”I don’t know what to write”, or to draw a flower, a box or anything else you can think of now.

Want to learn about mechanic or coding? There are tons of website that can teach you just that.

You don’t have to be good. Hell, you shouldn’t be. You should suck. You won’t be writing your first novel today, or be able to do chin-ups now. You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of the first step. You wouldn’t expect your little nephew to start running as soon as he starts crawling now, would you? Same applies to you. Baby step, falling down and getting back up.

Once you have done it for the first time, repeat the same thing tomorrow. Don’t worry about doing it right. It’s still not the time for that step. If you want to get back in shape, take 5 minutes to do stretches. You can go for a run if you really want to, but your goal today should be to get it started. Stop waiting for tomorrow, Monday, or next year.

One of my very high-tech calendar, including all my codes and notes
One of my very high-tech calendar, including all my codes and notes to keep track of my progress

Keeping track of your progress

I use my little calendar so I can keep track of my progress, not to beat myself up, but because I like to be able to write that I’ve done it, it is sometimes enough to get me started.

Last year, on January 1st, 2016, I wrote in my journal the following: ”I wish for myself for 2016, travel, love and money. I will travel more, help more and keep being my (most of the time) positive self to keep making people feel better and see that love and kindness is so much better than being violent and being scared of what’s different. I also wish for myself to be able to truly embrace who I am, being truthful to myself and honest with everybody. While of course being respectful.” Glad to be able to say mission accomplished, I succeeded and lived exactly the life I wanted. Some days I did not manage to fit in my workout, and some days I didn’t do my languages lessons. But you know what, when I noticed I had missed a day, instead of beating myself up, I got to work. I did my abs routine, I went on Duolingo for a short lesson. And it got me started again.

Setting goals for yourself

When setting goals, always make sure they are reachable. Aiming to be making 100 000 $ online if you’ve never made any money that way is not realistic. Not impossible, but a bit far fetched.

Don’t make the very common mistake of trying to start everything all at once. Pick one goal, get it started. And when it’s part of your new routine and you do it without having to think about it, then you can get another one.

My goals lately, which are very much a part of my morning routine now have been to:

  • write at least one page in my journal every day,
  • exercise at least 5 days a week,
  • do my German and Russian lessons 5 times a week (I’m at very different levels in all languages and have started learning over time, not all at once!)
  • and do one thing that scares me, 3 times a week.

Now, this is the new one I’ve added for the last couple of weeks only as that the rest of my routine is mostly set. Doing something I find scary three times per week minimum serves to push me a bit further out of my comfort zone and allows me to reach new levels. It doesn’t have to be something obviously terrifying like skydiving. It tends to be small seemingly insignificant things, but that for some reason scare me.

A few examples from a few weeks ago:

  1. Starting a conversation with the cute guy that walks his dog in the park.
  2. Sending a message to a successful blogger who will be in the same country as me to see if we could meet up.
  3. Going to a protest on my own, knowing that there was a good chance I would meet friends over there, but deciding to be okay going on my own no matter what.

My goal of doing at least three things that frighten me per week means that I have to identify them first, write them down, and then do them. Once I get started and manage to actually accomplish that goal, I am much more confident in my abilities and tend to add more things.

Why are you still reading? Get started now! No more excuses of waiting to get started.

What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish now so you can look back a few months or a year from now and think: ”good on me for doing this!”

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