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New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions: In One Year then Out The Other

When it’s after Christmas and your pants don’t fit it feels good to promise yourself that you’ll radically change your body when the New Year comes around with a New Year’s Resolutions.  This is a recipe for failure and here’s why:

1. Waiting for the New Year: politicians love making sweeping legislation now with deadlines in 5, 10 or 15 years later.  Why? Because they get to claim “I get things done” while simultaneously ensuring they have zero responsibility for any of the “done.”  This is elegantly disguised procrastination, and this is precisely what waiting until the New Year truly means.   Future selves and administrations are the best people to make promises on behalf of because they don’t yet exist, so they can’t protest or call BS. 

What to do instead? Negotiate to what you are willing to do today, and start today.  Your future will be just as hard (if not harder) than today, especially if you continue to strengthen your habit of procrastination today.  Bite the bullet and weaken that habit now because it can only be weakened now.

2. Outcome focused: Everybody wants to lose 10 pounds, but nobody wants to be sweaty and hungry.  The 10 pounds is the outcome, and the sweatiness and hunger represent the process of working really hard and saying “no” to yourself.  To lose weight, get in shape, etc. require the things that we all dislike – hard work, consistency, sacrifice, delayed or denied gratification, discomfort, etc.

What to do instead? Start by working out consistently, then not drinking your calories, then by having an actual meal structure (eat 3 times a day vs 3 times and then a random number of nibbles and snacks on top of that), etc.  Start with a focus on the doing vs getting.  We get what we earn, not what we wish* for.  Yes, tracking your outcome is also important, but it’s mostly there to tell you if you are off track with your doing (or with your time frame) it is not telling you to seek someone/something to blame.

*Spoiler alert: I am intentionally and unequivocally saying that The Secret is bullshit.

3. Overconfidence: You’ve probably heard that US test scores lag the rest of the world despite spending more per student and having smaller class sizes.  However, this is not the whole story.  We’ve actually risen to #1 in a very important area: confidence.  That’s right, our math confidence scores are the highest of any other affluent country. Oh, sure, our actual math scores are below average, or about bottom compared to other affluent nations. What’s the point?  Self-esteem is supposed to drive performance, but 50 years is long enough to realize this doesn’t work.

Research on smokers shows the most confident in their ability to quit are least successful in quitting.  When you are confident you don’t worry or have anxiety about missing obstacles or failure.  However unpleasant being anxious is, there is nothing like it for drive, endurance, and the ability to look for potential problems.

What to do instead? Use your positive thinking books for toilet paper*, and get back to common sense.  What are the biggest problems you have faced in the past? What can you do differently? How likely is that to work? 

*The plunger in my bathroom compels me to say that I am not literally encouraging you to flush book pages down the toilet…

Bottom Line
Have you heard some or most of this before?  Probably, but hearing and doing are two very different things.  Don’t wait until January 1st, that’s the same old song and dance of procrastination.  Instead keep a commitment to yourself today.

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