Don't Fail at Your New Year's Resolutions

Chuck 'em out the window instead

A big question: 

How do you stick with a resolution?

A little idea:

We’re entering the period where they say most of us will have “failed” the resolutions we set a month ago.

There are things you can do to boost your motivation and habits over time. There’s an idea that has helped me often, which is that motivation actually comes from action, not the other way around. The hardest thing to do is to get started, so rather than waiting around for motivation to strike, if I just get going—write for five minutes, go for a ten-minute walk, meditate for a few minutes—I often find I then feel like continuing. 

But what I actually wanted to talk about this week is how this is difficult at the best of times. Here in the UK, we’re in lockdown number three. We’re approaching all the one year anniversaries of the start of the pandemic. And whilst I consider myself to have a reasonably high threshold for keeping on keeping on, I. Am. Tired. There’s a good chance you might be, too.

So today instead of talking about the research on habits and resolutions, I want to talk about a simple way to keep focused on what you want: choose just one thing you value.

A friend of mine sent me an amazingly useful workbook to ‘unravel your 2020’ by Susannah Conway. The whole book is worth a look (feel free to make today the start of a new time of reflection rather than feel you’ve missed the boat on an arbitrary setting of the new year). One thing I love about this pack is the idea of setting a single word* as a guiding concept for your year. It simplifies things. It’s like a north star to come back to, to put things in perspective, to help you keep going on what matters to you.

Part of the reason I like this approach is that it gets to the heart of what’s often wrong with our resolutions: they fail because we actually value something else more. Take, for example, that I might say I value my health and want to cut down on my cookie intake, but my actions might suggest that I value entertainment and an afternoon binging Netflix more. Now, the questions is, does that value serve me well?

There are many reasons why we might apparently value something that isn’t good for us in the long run. If change were as easy as understanding the negative consequences we could easily kick our various addictions, whether they be sugar, drugs, productivity, self-help, social media scrolling, whatever your poison of choice, and replace them with all the virtuous things we know are good for us, like vegetables and eight glasses of water a day and running and quality time with friends and family.

This letter can’t unpack all the reasons we do what we do in one go. The idea here is to break down big questions into smaller ideas over time so that you can actually consider them, digest them, and apply them to your life.

So this one is about asking yourself to really think about what you say you value and what your actions show you value more. Are there any mismatches? Are there any instances where you’re prioritising something at the cost of a deeper value? If yes, how could you elevate the value that is being overshadowed? How can you find ways to meet it and enjoy it such that it is easier to make it a priority?

A Quote To Put it Well…

"If you want to see what has brought you to this point, look at your past thoughts and actions. To see your future, look at your present thoughts and actions.” — Pema Chodron

Until next week, take care of yourself,


*The word I’ve selected myself this year is ‘connection.’ I don’t know what that might look like over the course of 2021, but this letter is an experiment that’s part of it. I’d love to know what you want to dedicate this next wild and uncertain year to, so let me know!