As the New Year approaches, you will undoubted see and read many articles on why New Year’s resolutions never work and are best avoided.
It’s a trope that media outlets love to roll out at the end of December.
New Year’s resolutions (and goal setting in general) work for those who are actually motivated to achieve the desired results and work hard to meet their goals..
Since 2010, I have been posting my New Years resolutions on my blog and charting my progress month by month. While my New Year’s resolution success rate over the past five years stands at just over 60 percent, my life has changed immensely thanks to my yearly goal setting and the pursuit of these goals.
Here are a few examples:
In 2010 I resolved to floss every day. I have not missed a day of flossing since. It’s simply become something I do.
Incidentally, if you would like to start flossing, I suggest that you place the floss in the shower. Doing this creates an incentive:
Who would pass up an extra 30 seconds in the shower in order to be productive and extend your life (people who floss live longer)?
I gave this advice at a book talk once (in response to a question about how routines make me more productive), and about six months later, a woman wrote to me to say that while she appreciated everything about my talk, the advice on flossing had changed her life. She’s flossed every day since my talk, and her gums have never been so healthy and pain free.
It’s not hard. You, too, can be a dental nerd like me.
I established the goal of losing 10 pounds in 2010, and I have since lost 45 pounds and entirely changed the way that I live.
- I exercise almost every day.
- I know the calorie count of almost every food item that I eat.
- I’ve permanently reduced meal portions.
- I look better, feel better, and have more energy than ever before.
That single goal in 2010 has changed the way I eat, exercise and live ever since, and it will likely provide me with a longer, healthier life.
In an effort to reduce my cholesterol, I resolved to eat three servings of oatmeal a week in 2011. Since then I continue to eat at least that much oatmeal each week as part of my work day lunch. It’s a perfect midday meal: Easy to make, filling, low in calories, and delicious. My colleagues think I’ve crazy for eating the same thing almost every day, but as a result, my cholesterol has remained within the guidelines that my doctor set for me, and while so many of my friends are on medication to control their cholesterol, I am not.
In 2011, after two years of saying that I would do it, I resolved to participate in a Moth event as a storyteller, either at a live show or on their radio broadcast. Since my performance in my first Moth StorySLAM in July of 2011, storytelling has become an enormous part of my life. I’ve competed in 28 Moth StorySLAMs, winning 15 of them, and have performed for Moth Mainstage audiences as large as 1,500 people. I’ve been featured three times on The Moth Radio Hour, a nationally syndicated radio show, as well as their weekly podcast.
All of this began with a single performance on a single Moth stage, and it happened because I wrote that goal down in January of that year.
Since then, I’ve also performed at a number of other storytelling shows in New York, Boston and Hartford, and I’ve spoken at three TED conferences. I’ll be speaking at another TEDx conference in April at Boston University.
In 2013, my wife and I co-founded Speak Up, our own storytelling organization. We produced three shows in 2013 and eight in 2014. We’ve established partnerships with additional venues and local schools, and we conduct ongoing workshops for prospective storytellers.
That simple 2011 goal of telling one story at one Moth event has blossomed into one of the most important parts of my creative life.
This year, I included “Write a screenplay” on my list of resolutions. It’s something I have wanted to do since 1993, but it wasn’t until I actually added this goal to my list of resolution that it got done. Sometimes just the act of writing something down is enough to make you do it.
And I spoke to my film agent last week and she believes that the screenplay has great promise. Best of all, it turns out that I can write movies and love doing so. Even if I never sell a screenplay, I’ve uncovered a new outlet for my creativity that I may have never tried had I not resolved to do so this year.
This year, I also included, “Find a way to keep Elysha home for one more year with the kids” on my list of resolutions. Honestly, I didn’t know how we would ever be able to manage living on one income for another year after surviving on one income for almost five years now. I didn’t think it possible. But as soon as I wrote the goal down, my mindset instantly shifted from “Can I make this happen?” to “How am I going to make happen?” Writing down the goal and acknowledging its importance made the decision automatic for me.
Figuring out the “How?” hasn’t always been easy, but the kids would never know it, and that’s what matters most.
Don’t let anyone fool you. New Year’s resolutions (and goal setting in general) can change your life, for the upcoming year and sometimes forever, if you actually apply yourself and monitor your progress carefully.
- Establish measurable goals.
- Create a specific plan to accomplishment them.
- Check on progress regularly, and a create a schedule for this.
- Remind yourself repeatedly about what your life would look like if you achieved your goals. Envision this new life.
- Remind yourself that most people fail to accomplish their New Year’s resolutions, and that you are better than most people.