In my last post, I talked about establishing new year resolutions and the process of framing them as a question of who you want to become, then establishing what habits you need to put in place to make that happen. Even with this planning, though, there are three things that can cause you to fail in your resolutions or in meeting your goals.
In my experience, the number one reason that people fail in following through on their commitments to change is that they really fail to understand how they’re going to become the person that they want to become. It’s so much more than just setting your goal. It’s about the strategy; specifically, how are you going to get there? Let’s take the example of a financial goal of wanting to have a certain amount in savings by the end of the year. It’s nice to have that goal, but it’s more important to clarify the strategy, or the discipline, or the habit that I’m going to put in place. That might be something like, “I’m going to take X amount of dollars out of each paycheck and I’m going to invest it in these various investments that will produce this rate of return.” If I measure against that, by the end of the year I should have accomplished the financial goal that I wanted to accomplish.
The second reason that people can fail at their resolutions is that they get discouraged if they don’t think they’re seeing progress fast enough. Boiling water takes a long time to go from room temperature to 212 degrees; it’s a gradual build-up, and then it’s there all of a sudden. The same is true with your personal life: our lives are a sum total of all the small decisions that we make.
The third reason that resolutions are abandoned is that people let their former identities sabotage your success. These identities are things that you have internalized because people have told them to you or because you’ve allowed certain experiences to dominate how you think of yourself. For example: “I’ve got a short fuse,” or, “I don’t have a lot discipline,” or, “I do things at the last minute.” No matter how strongly you are tied to these former identities, you do have free will. You have choices, and you can choose to not let an unhealthy identity reinforce your bad habits. Most importantly, you can make the choice to have a healthy identity, which in turn reinforces positive habits. I frequently use the example of smoking: if you are a smoker who wants to quit, rather than saying, “I’m trying to quit smoking,” adopt the mindset of a non-smoker and start saying, “I don’t smoke.” That sets a different identity for you are: you are a non-smoker. I think that makes all the difference in the world.