I don’t like new year’s resolutions. Here’s why

January 1, 2023

I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions.

Over a dozen friends have already shared their 2023 resolutions with me. Based on what they (and others) have said in previous years, I don’t think their resolutions will stick. I really hope they do, but the odds are against them.

The problem starts with the word resolutions. Resolving that you’ll make a change is not sufficient. You can loudly declare that you will stop drinking, that you’ll go to the gym three times a week, or that you’ll finally get that side hustle off the ground, but declaring doesn’t make anything happen. Change comes from action.

There are reasons why you didn’t make the change before. Or why you tried making the change, but it didn’t stick. Those reasons don’t include a lack of willpower on your part. I am incredibly suspicious of people who tell you that your problems come down to a lack of willpower. Of people who tell you that you’re lazy, that you’re weak, that you’re not good enough.

Your problem isn’t a lack of willpower. It’s that your environment prevents you from making the right choices to achieve your goals.

That doesn’t mean you should just give up because your environment isn’t ideal right now. On the contrary. You should act to change it!

Why didn’t you go to the gym three times a week last year? Likely because there were a bunch of obstacles. Gaming seemed more fun. The gym is far away, so it takes you a lot of time to go there and back. You don’t see any progress when you do make it to the gym now and then.

So address those obstacles.

Or, put differently: act!

Don’t resolve. Act.

Act to remove obstacles. Make it easier and more fun to go to the gym (or to change whatever you want to change). In this example, you might join a gym that’s closer to home. You might agree to meet a friend there regularly. You might choose a weightlifting routine consisting only of exercises you like. Such a routine might not be optimal in a theoretical sense, but if it gets you to the gym regularly, it’ll be a heck of a lot better than never showing up for your supposed “optimal” routine that targets all muscles groups equally and efficiently, but that you really hate doing.

Rather than thinking of your new year’s resolutions, I want you to do two things:

  1. Write down your goals as clearly and precisely as you can
  2. For each goal, identify the key actions you need to take

99% of people who set new year’s resolutions get stuck at step #1. But that’s like preparing for a football game by declaring loudly to your teammates that you will score several touchdowns, without studying the opponent and how to beat them. Maybe that works for weak opponents (easy goals), but it certainly won’t win you the Super Bowl (your biggest dreams).

If you have a bit more time, after you write down your goals and identify the key action steps, also reflect on and write down the why behind each goal.

See, another reason I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions is that to achieve your big goals, you need to be intentional year-round. You can’t achieve all of your goals in January. You’ll be working on them in May too. And in August, and in December. I don’t mean that you should grind without taking breaks; I mean that what you spend your time on day-to-day should connect to your goals and your values. Don’t waste your time on things that are not meaningful to you, neither in January nor in December.

So don’t be like everyone else. Don’t “resolve” that you’ll finally do this or that in 2023. Instead, make a real plan. A plan of action. Then act.

And with that, I wish you a very happy and a very successful new year.

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