Every year millions of people set New Year’s resolutions. Most fail.
They don't set the right goals. They aren't realistic. They don't have the systems in place to succeed.
Here are three ways you can ensure you avoid these outcomes.
Choose Important Goals
First, you want to set the right goal. There are thousands of potential goals you could choose. From exercise to learning a new language from reading more to using social media less. Choosing what to do is no trivial matter. Some goals are much better than others. So where do you start?
Consider Epictetus question:
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Instead of starting from an activity, ask yourself who you want to be. Not who you want to be seen as, but what character do you want to have? What virtues do you want to cultivate? These are non-trivial questions. Set time aside to answer them.
Once you have a better sense of who you want to be, then move to constructing your goals.
Set Goals Well
Epictetus reminds us:
If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend to its increase. At first, keep quiet and count the days when you were not angry: 'I used to be angry every day, then every other day: next every two, next every three days!' and if you succeed in passing thirty days, sacrifice to the Gods in thanksgiving.
The idea here is to be realistic. You want your goal to me something that is actually achievable. You are human, don't make plans that deny this. Instead of setting a goal to exercise every day, start small. Go to the gym once a week. Then build up.
It's important to stay motivated. An important part of how motivated you are is determined by your expectations of success. If you don't think you'll succeed, you'll be less motivated. Don't let this happen and set yourself up for success by being thoughtful about constructing your goals.
There's a reasonable argument against New Year's resolutions. It goes like this:
Don't make New Years resolutions. If you want to change something, then you should do it. Regardless of whether it's a New Year, new month, or new week.
The argument has a point. Many people put off their forming bad habits with the thought that they'll change in the New Year. Unsurprisingly, these people are least likely to succeed in changing. There's a risk that, if you set New Year's resolutions, you may be using it to procrastinate instead of actually change. However, this isn't necessarily the case.
To ensure that you aren't procrastinating, start as soon as possible. If you want to exercise book your exercise classes now. Get the gym clothes. Set yourself up for success.
Marcus Aurelius once told himself:
You could be good today. But instead you chose tomorrow.
Avoid this as much as possible. Chose today.