Here’s What’s Wrong With Every Resolution You’ve Ever Made and How to Fix Them

As they stand, resolutions stink. The hot time of year to make resolutions, the precipice of a new year is not the only guilty party in this statement. People make resolutions in the wake of tragedies too.

The problem with those resolutions is that most of them will never happen. For the lot who say they don’t believe in resolutions, I call bull.

Everyone resolves to course correct at the very least, even though not everyone needs the rest of the world to know. Some folks keep those decisions inside their heads.

That way there’s no chance of failure, like cheating at Solitaire. Who could know the goals you set and failed to actualize because you made nobody else aware of them.

Problem solved, right? Wrong. Perhaps daily, people set resolutions.

If you’ve been through any sort of corporate system in the last two decades, you’ve heard the goal setting acronym SMART. You may even have a poster of your company’s version of SMART hanging on the wall.

Try this. Stand up. Walk over to that poster on your wall, and rip it to shreds. Dispose at your discretion. This is a much more simple conversation with fewer acronyms.

Goals, whether resolutions for a new year or simple strategic goals fail for a few simple reasons. They are either unrealistic, too complicated or they have no way to measure success.

Solve for those three mistakes and you’re golden.

Unrealistic to Realistic

When the fool who first sold the idea of “dreaming big” peddled that concept, it was to folks who were so wanton, they’d accept any possibility. What is there to lose?

Big dreams are just that, big. They’re not necessarily better. In fact, the bigger your goals, the more out of reach they are—become a millionaire this year—the less likely you will try to reach for them.

Even less aspiring goals like “get that promotion” can be too big when in reality you’re nowhere near ready for a that promotion.

To set a realistic goal you have to know your place. The reason many people struggle with this is that they lack the self-awareness to make this assessment.

A way around this limitation is to talk about what’s possible. If it’s work where you wish to get ahead, start by talking to your supervisor. Talk to peers, even subordinates.

Then set a realistic goal and resolve to make it so.

Complicated to Simple

If you cannot express your resolution in a few words, at most a sentence, it’s too complicated. The one good thing about “get that promotion” is its simplicity.

For some, it will be the perfect resolution. Others will bog down their resolve with several resolutions.

I’m gonna lose twenty pounds, get ahead in my career, finally learn to pole dance, eat better, and travel Africa.

That isn’t a resolution. That’s a laundry list, and a crummy one at that; too complicated and too general except for the pole dancing bit.

Better to hone in on what matters most. Search for balance in your current life. Does your home life deserve more from you? Do you suffer ennui at work?

Definitively, one cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. Focus, by nature, centers on a single point so set your resolution by picking one thing.

You can always pick something else once you’ve achieved your resolution. In fact, let’s talk about how your one good resolution doesn’t become a endless chase.

Measureless to Measurable

For a resolution to not drag on indefinitely, it needs shape. It needs concreteness. Resolutions with anomalous phrases like “get better,” or “improve” without metrics attached to those improvements, have no point b.

There is no destination. It’s like a marathon with no finish line. How would one know it was over?

To that point, part of that concrete nature needs a deadline, not necessarily for completion but review. A good benchmark is three to six months out. Set a reminder on your calendar. When that day comes, either change the resolution or figure out why it’s not happening.

If you’re off track or still in the gates, it’s likely because your resolution was unrealistic or too complicated. Time to rework your desired outcomes.

If this is really your year to quit smoking–good idea–make sure it’s because you want it and believe you have the resources to make it happen.

Pick one thing and run after it like your life depends on it. If it’s quitting smoking, it may.