As New Year’s Eve approaches, we all begin to make our list of resolutions hoping this time it will be different. Every year we resolve to save more, work out, quit smoking, get more organized… and every year… well you know the story.
The fact is, New Year’s Eve resolutions don’t help us reach the goal of becoming our best selves. Research shows we don’t have much luck sticking with our resolutions: 4 out of 5 of us will eventually break our resolutions and another study reports a bit better compliance, but both agree that about a third of those making resolutions don’t make it past the first month.
Why Resolutions Don’t Work
There are a couple of reasons resolutions aren’t effective. First, we underestimate the amount of time it takes to develop a good habit or lose a bad one. Popular consensus is that it takes 21 days, however, studies have shown that it’s actually around 66 days before a habit becomes automatic.
Second, we tend to make long lists of big habits we want to change. For example, losing weight, saving more, doubling revenue, or quitting smoking. Any one of these is difficult, choosing more than one is why we fail! We overwhelm ourselves by focusing on big changes in the future, rather than on small changes here and now.
Forget Resolutions, Start With Intention!
Make it a habit to make regular daily weekly and monthly intentions. Much like practicing gratitude should be a year-round practice, setting realistic intentions rather than resolving to make drastic changes is more effective.
Intentions are more forgiving because they don’t have a resolution’s succeed-or-fail dynamic. Intentions honor effort and process, not just results. For example, reducing stress is a great goal. Setting the daily intention to meditate is a realistic way to reach that goal.
Goals are about the future, while intention is rooted in the present. The future is full of unknowns that can produce anxiety. Focusing on the present grounds us. Try setting an intention with the PBC method:
- Pause – take a minute to focus
- Breathe – take a deep conscious breathe to become grounded
- Choose – Make a mindful choice and set an intention
The key to attaining a goal is taking small, steady, daily steps. Set and honor daily intentions and before you know it, resolutions will be a thing of the past, as you makes steps towards your goal!