Why you shouldn’t do New Year’s resolutions

James Mallinson — №2 with Guy Kawasaki

It’s something of a tradition at this time of year that everyone writes advice about new year’s resolutions. Whether it be on TV, in magazines or on blogs (ahem…), they all seem happy to dish out ill thought advice left, right and center. However I am going to buck this trend and provide a damning indictment of the new year’s resolution.

Much of the tips offered are generalized and recycled junk that end up offering nothing practical for the readers. Instead they build up the clean sheet nature of a new year and leave people with a naive optimism about what they can achieve. The result? Badly thought out and totally unrealistic resolutions that are destined to fail. Remember the rule of starting small.

Another major problem I have with new year’s resolutions is that too many people seem to have this view that a new year is the only time to think about ways of improving their lives. Because they also tend to have minimal knowledge about the process of habit breaking and building, it’s not unusual for all their efforts to fall apart within the first month. That leaves another eleven months before they decide to start the process all over again. It’s hardly constructive, especially if you have quite a large selection of resolutions, which is often another element of the typical new year’s list. How do you focus your time on a handful (or more) of habits? I can guarantee you that as soon as you slip up on one of them, it will be like a domino effect and bring down the progress on every other habit. You need to keep the list small and keep it compact.

However, perhaps the biggest problem with new year’s resolutions is that they are such a big deal, partly because of the way they are built up in the press, partly because they cover an entire year and partly because the new year is regarded as a fresh start for everyone. This is actually all really bad as it hypes the process up in your head to the point where one slip-up typically brings the whole process down. “It’s such a big deal, what will I do if I fall off the wagon one day? That’s my progress for the rest of the year ruined!” It breaks one of the other basic rules of working on your habits. You should use a suitably short timescale, such as a week or even a day and certainly not think about your progress yearly.

So you decide not to do new year’s resolutions for 2008, but what do you do instead? A new year is definitely a great chance to review your progress and determine what sort of direction you want to go in over the next twelve months, but using it as the moment to start attempting radical habit building with the wishy washy new year’s resolution approach is not wise.

Photo: Flickr / SJ photography CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

James mallinson

James Mallinson

James Mallinson comes from the UK and is an aspiring author. He started Organize IT nearly two years ago after he began dabbling in productivity, and wanted to share his tips and experience.

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