Forget about setting resolutions
I’m writing this fresh for a new years day this morning – which is unusual for me. Wish I could say it was healthy living, but it was actually the opposite – a flu that kept me from the party! Being new years day it prompted me to sketch out my thoughts on resolutions and goal setting.
Resolutions are pants. The post-Christmas binge and hangover prompts a rushed review of goals and as a result resolutions are made. And yet they are rarely kept. The spike in gym attendance in January and the sharp drop off in February is a testament to the ineffectiveness of resolutions. Here’s some stats on resolutions:
- 45% of people make resolutions1.
- 8-12% of those are unsuccessful in achieving their resolution1,2.
So why do people keep making them? In the post I detail why I quit making resolutions and the alternative (Life Management Systems) I use instead.
Why I quit making resolutions
I used to make resolutions, but now no longer do. There are several reasons for why they failed and resulted in me stopping making them:
- They were overwhelming. I used to make resolutions under the influence of the post-Christmas binge. This was a time when fitness levels, finances and productivity took a hit. The influence of this meant the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other. The resolutions were stretching and I made too many of them. I wanted them all to happen at the same time.
- They weren’t value driven or set with a big enough ‘why’. Around New Years, there’s a gold rush of resolution making. A lot of this is driven by culture, media and advertising. It’s easy to get caught up in the gold rush – and I often did. It led to goals that weren’t entirely aligned to my values and this set them up to fail.
- The accountability was flimsy. Resolutions come with the lowest level of accountability. I would’ve told others about them but no accountability was set up. And since the general expectation is that resolutions fail, no one feels obliged to check in on how the resolutions are going.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that people make resolutions, that they’re motivated to improve. But there is a better way.
I use Life Management Systems instead
We all live by systems – whether conscious of them or not. Some of them natural: the circadian rhythm that tells us when to go to bed for example. Then there’s the cultural systems that modern society lives by: – the 9 to 5 work day or the traffic system for example. There’s the systems we have for ourselves and live by. How we eat, how we schedule recreation, how we sleep, how we manage health, finances and on and on.
A Life Management System (LMS) is a way of routinely doing something with the purpose of improving or maintaining a certain state on an ongoing basis. You might want to improve your health. The first step would be to understand what your existing LMS is for managing health. How could it be improved? What metric(s) will you measure?
LMSs beat resolutions for several reasons:
- They remove fear of failure: I view LMSs as experiments. With goals, there’s an outcome dependence. Outcome dependence creates background anxiety that reduces performance. With LMSs, you’re going to run an experiment for say 3 months and see what happens. Have you moved closer to where you want to be? If not, no sweat. What input variable in the experiment can you change to get you there faster? What can make it easier? How could you 10x output? Then re-run the LMS for another set period.
- They’re fun: experimenting with new tweaks or hacks to the LMS to see what the hell happens is exciting.
- They run on autopilot: systems start out as routine and become habitual and second nature.
- They need less discipline: once run on auto-pilot, they reduce the burden on willpower.
- They’re adaptable: Life gets in the way and derails goals. With LMSs you can pause or downgrade if you need to divert focus and energy to the obstacle life has thrown at you. Resume service as normal afterwards.
- They’re dynamic: you don’t have to wait to new year to upgrade your LMS, or any set period for that matter.
- They’re longterm: maintain them even after you’ve achieved what you want. With goals, you succeed or fail, then what?
Read part 2 where we delve into how to set LMSs and I’ll share some of mine. Thanks for reading and have a great week.
What’s your experience with new years resolutions? Please leave me a comment below.