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Saying No to New Year’s Resolutions (and Yes to Something Better)


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It’s that time of year.  You know, the time when you choose a New Year’s resolution, set it with the best of intentions, do it for a week or two, and then give up.  Or worse yet: get depressed and down on yourself because you’ve failed YET AGAIN. How about saying no to New Year’s resolutions instead – and yes to something better.

I have a secret:  I don’t do a New Year’s resolution (and haven’t for years). I do something better – something that sets me up for success for the entire year ahead.  And I’ve got a resource below that you can use that will help set you up for success too.

But before we move on, let’s talk about why you don’t want to set resolutions any longer.

4 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Reason #1: Your resolution is contrived and/or half-hearted.

Let me ask you a question: why do you set a New Year’s resolution?  If your answer is “it’s the thing to do”, then you’re not alone.  Most of us do that.

A new year means you’re supposed to set a resolution, right?  Never mind whether it’s something you truly want or feel strongly about.  And that’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions.  When you set a resolution “just because”, you’re not all that into it and are setting yourself up for failure from the get-go.

Reason #2: Your resolution is something you “should” be doing.

There’s something about a new year that convinces most people to adopt resolutions they believe they’re supposed to be setting.  Your kids have been bugging you about your smoking habit or your spouse noticed that you’re not working out as often.  And you know you should change.

So, what better way to effect change then through a New Year’s resolution?

But the problem is that, although these are things you should do, you’re not yet ready for them.  If you weren’t ready for it before the new year came around, what makes the new year so special?

Reason #3: The new year has given you a “fresh-start” mentality (that’s fleeting).

Another big reason that New Year’s resolutions fail:  the “fresh start” mindset that permeates many resolutions.  The turn of the calendar means a fresh start to many of us. And I’m not knocking that (I believe it’s a great time for a fresh start too).

But here’s the thing: if you’re setting a resolution for that reason, it’s not enough.  Getting a fresh start involves work.  It includes dealing with whatever has been holding you back from making this “fresh start” before now.  And if you’re not ready to do that, then you’ll fail at your resolution.

Reason Number 4: You’re goal-setting without giving enough thought to your goal or proper planning.

Most resolutions involve big changes to your life.  Changes that require planning, support, and accountability to help you break through the mental barriers bound to come up along the way.

For example, if your resolution is to “get into better shape”, then to be successful you’ll need:

  • to clearly define what that means to you (does it mean losing a certain amount of weight, having clothes that fit you or putting together and implementing an exercise plan?);
  • to put together a plan to achieve your resolution;
  • accountability to keep you going.

Although these changes are possible, it isn’t something you can push through with sheer force and new-found New Year’s energy.  It requires careful thought and planning (which is often lacking when it comes to resolution-setting).

[Recommended ReadingHow to Set Personal Goals for Work and Life (To Achieve Them)].

Let go of Resolution-Making and Set a Theme For the Year Instead

At the end of the day, resolutions are really goals.  Yet few people treat them as such (which is why they so often fail).  That’s why I recommend you drop resolution-making forever and do something else instead.  Something that’s designed to assist you:

  • grow throughout the year; and
  • better plan out and achieve your goals.

What is that?  Set a theme for the year.

What a Theme Is

A theme is a word or phrase that’s intentionally set to guide you throughout the year ahead.  They’re set by you in an area where you would like to grow and develop.  I usually design my themes in areas that I find myself lacking or wanting some desired growth.

When setting your theme, it’s also important to take into account the goals you’d like to achieve during the year so that your theme can help you achieve your goals.  The reason for a them?  If set properly, it will serve as a guide for big decisions and when you need a re-set.  And it will help you track and measure your progress against a bigger vision.

A Few Theme Examples

Here are a few examples of themes that I’ve used in the past:

  • Daily fulfillment.  I set this theme back in my legal days.  I wanted to feel more fulfilled by the work I did on a daily basis.  My theme helped spur me to (1) become friends with many of my clients, and (2) stop working with clients that I didn’t like and replace them with clients I enjoyed working hard for.  It just so happens that I had tremendous growth in my business that year.
  • Balance.  I focused on making intentional choices that made sense for me to feel fulfilled both in my law practice and at home and also that allowed me some more time with my boys/husband/friends.  And it didn’t hurt my business at all either.
  • Connection.  During this year, I wanted to feel more connected to myself, my boys, my husband, my friends, and my business.  I kept this in mind (and focused on it) with each goal I set and when big decisions needed to be made.

The Benefits of a Theme

There are several big benefits to having a theme:

#1: A theme is flexible and more forgiving than a resolution.

You can set numerous goals within that theme that get fleshed out and met throughout the year.  And if, along the way, you change your perspective on a goal – it’s easy to change course. All you have to do is re-think how you want it to work within the broader theme and move forward.

#2: A theme will help keep you on the right track when things don’t go as planned.

Your theme will serve as a bigger vision and help you to be more willing to pause, re-think your goals, and decide to go in a new direction when things don’t go as planned.  This is HUGE for me. So long as I continue to work within my theme, I never feel like I’m failing at anything but instead feel like I’m still on course (even after re-setting goals).

#3: A theme will help you set bigger goals and actually achieve them.

Because your theme serves as a bigger vision, it will help inspire you set bigger goals.  Plus, because you’ll always have it in  mind when making decisions and working to achieve your goals, it will make you less likely to give up when things get hard.

Furthermore, a theme will keep you more accountable to yourself as you work through your goals and make decisions for yourself during the year.  Which will make it more likely that you’ll achieve your goals.

[Recommended ReadingHow to Reach Your Goals: 5-Step Goal Review Blueprint].

Let Go Of Setting New Year’s Resolutions, Pick Your Theme for the New Year

Are you ready to ditch the New Year’s resolution and adopt a them for the year ahead?  I encourage you to try it out.

Get started by picking a theme that will challenge and excite you at the same time (if you’re a little scared by it, you’re doing it right).  The point is to pick something that will help bring you closer to your overriding vision for who you want to be and what you want to be doing – both personally and professionally.

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Hey there, I’m Heather

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I’m here to help purpose-driven lawyers and other professionals (like you) build your ideal career to support the life you actually want. Because you shouldn’t have to choose between professional success & personal happiness.

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