10 Reasons NOT to Make a New Year’s Resolution This Year
Every year the anticipation builds before January 1st to set a new habit or a new goal. And for 2020, it feels even more important. 2020 is such a nice, round number, right? We don’t want to miss out on ‘2020 Life Vision’ (get the pun?).
I’m giving you permission NOT to set any goals or resolutions or habits this January. You can relax. Your anxiety levels are probably rising at the thought, but here are 10 reasons why it may well be better to give New Year’s resolutions a miss:
#1 – It Doesn’t Work
How many times have you set a New Year’s resolution (NYR) to exercise more, or tidy up your home, or save more money – only to give up, even without realizing – a few months or even weeks into the habit?
Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
So, this year, instead of reinforcing a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure (studies show that 92% of people fail to keep their resolutions), let’s do something different.
#2 – Resolutions are Typically Not Actionable
More often than not, resolutions are just vague intentions: ‘I will lose weight’, ‘I will make more money’, ‘I will eat more vegetables.’
David Allen in his hugely successful ‘Getting Things Done’ gives the simple example of clearing up your garage. If you give yourself the ‘task’ of ‘clear up the garage’, you’re highly likely to put it off until kingdom comes!
Instead, one should break down the task (which in this case is really a project) into much smaller actions and focus simply on the ‘Next Action.’ For example, ‘Get three boxes ready for garage clear out’.
#3 – Unrealistic Expectations
NYRs tend to be lists of hopes, wishes and vague goals. So in addition to not being actionable, there are simply too many goals to realistically achieve.
People who have achieved extraordinary results, and changed their lives around, almost always focussed on ONE habit or goal at a time. This allows you to harness all your energy on one habit and achieve success.
With multiple habits, you spread yourself thin and risk failing in all of them. Less is more with habit forming.
#4 – Weak External Motivation
Even if you made an elaborate SMART plan for your NYR, you are still likely to fail as your motivation may well be wrong.
We tend to make resolutions because we think we should rather than because we want to. Perhaps it’s because it’s what we’ve always done, it’s tradition, or since everyone else does it, or countless articles/posts fill you with false hopes.
None of these are good reasons. These reasons rely on weak exernal motivation whereas you need strong, internal reasons for change.
No wonder that we lose steam after a few weeks when all the excitement dies and you realize, too late, that your why wasn’t strong enough.
#5 – Reverse Accountability
Habit forming experts are unanimous that accountability to a group is one of the strongest means for making your resolutions stick. There is a caveat. The group should be filled with inspiring people on a similar journey with plenty of role models.
With NYRs, you have the reverse of this: failing to meet resolutions is so common in society, you may subconsciously expect to fail before you begin!
#6(a) – Problematic Timing (1): Holidays Just Over
Ironically, the new year is actually a BAD time of year to form a goal or habit. This point is so fundamental, it expands to two reasons!
Firstly, you’ll be just finishing the holidays. Psychologically, it can be hard enough motivating yourself to return to work, let alone adding the pressure to meet a challenging NYR.
#6(b) – Problematic Timing (2): Winter
Secondly, January is in the heart of winter for most of us. Have you ever tried forming a walking habit in winter only to put it off for spring?
It’s not just with exercise. Since January is one of the most depressing months of the year, it will be an uphill emotional battle to make any major life change.
Dark, cold, wet. Sound motivating to you?
#7 – Long Year Ahead
If you start a habit in January, you can see the whole year stretching ahead of you with sunny days many months away. This makes it so easy to procrastinate as it’s hard to focus on one goal for so long.
We want lasting change, not just a short-term fix. New Year’s resolutions can often be like crash diets which rebound as soon as we hit our target weight.
If we want true lifestyle change that lasts a lifetime, then we need to be more systematic and intentional with our goals.
#8 – Unnecessary Stress
Setting an arbitrary date to set resolutions forces you to panic and think up of goals when you may not be ready – especially when there are 364 other perfectly good days to decide to change.
Furthermore, the mindset encouraged is a state of entering the new year wanting more in your life than you have right now. Wouldn’t it be great, instead, to be more grateful and present with what you have?
#9 – Tradition Divorced From its Origins
The practice of NYRs go back to the Babylonians and Romans who ‘celebrated’ the new year by offering sacrifices and pledges to their gods.
Interestingly, this is more in line with the Muslim philosophy of celebration. Eid, Jum’a, Dhul Hijjah and other holy times in the Muslim calendar are not marked with fireworks or secular goal setting. Rather, they are times for repentance (tauba), thanksgiving (shukr) and ibaadah (worship).
#10 – Distraction From the Most Effective Means of Change
Some people do nothing all year except the same lame, half-hearted resolutions every January 1st – which they inevitably break. It’s probably a deliberate ploy by our inner chimps (nafs) to avoid doing the real work of forming challenging habits.
New Year’s Resolutions can be trendy, convenient band-aids to real change. Sure, it’s possible to set realistic, time-specific, mission-driven and achievable goals in time for the new year. But for all the reasons above, you’re more likely to succeed in simply starting another time. When you’re truly ready and self-motivated.
What to Do Instead?
Having said all that, I appreciate that New Year’s Day is still a symbolic, memorable time and therefore there is emotion attached to the occasion. It’s a great excuse to do something important.
So, yes, we should leverage the beginning of 2020. But how?
That is the perfect topic for a special New Year’s Eve article to be sent only to my mailing list this coming Tuesday. If you’re not on my mailing list, sign up via the link below. You’ll get the article and access to much more.
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Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.
A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.
Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.