2 simple and powerful New Year’s resolutions

Funny but unfortunately, true.

Funny but unfortunately, true.

How many of you amazing people out there set New Year’s resolutions?

Follow-up question one week into the year: How many of you have already fallen off, let go or given up on at least one of them?

Before you start beating yourself up, you are not alone! As little as 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. These are good, honest, decent folk who I’m sure have other goals in life that they smash regularly. The difference? Those other goals were well-thought out and very specific.

When resolutions start to break, for many of us, our minds wander to thoughts that we don’t have enough willpower or self-discipline, and we foster general self-doubt. There is definitely willpower at play in achieving your resolutions, but that is only part of the puzzle. Sometimes the issue is with the way that the goal was set in the first place. Many well-intentioned and enthusiastic keeners give in to the power and pressure of the New Year’s Resolution Propaganda Machine and quickly set goals which are destined to be an uphill battle.

There isn't actually a New Year's Resolution Propaganda Machine, but if there was, I think it would look like this.

Artist’s rendition of the New Year’s Resolution Propaganda Machine.

Here are some proven ideas on setting better goals and what you can do to stick to them:

  • Frame your goal in the positive. At the risk of offending English teachers across the world with a blatant double-negative: You can’t “not” do something, you can only do something.
  • Stop trying and just do. The word “try” is toxic for goals. You have already allowed the idea of not achieving your goal to creep into your mind.
  • Be specific. If you’re vague, you’ll have no way of knowing that you’ve succeeded.
  • Don’t take on the world on the first day. A series of small changes towards a larger goal trumps an attempt to make one massive change all at once.
  • Put your goals out to the world. People who explicitly state their resolutions are up to 10 times likelier to achieve them than those who don’t. Express them to yourself and to others around you to hold you accountable.
  • Automate and create habits. The less you have to fight the mental battle to stick to your resolutions, the better. Do anything you can to create built-in, regular, non-negotiable routines in your day or week, and then it’s harder to talk your way out of doing what you need to do. Also, after a few weeks, doing anything regularly helps in forming a habit, and you are on your way to more long-term change!

  • So a goal like “I will try to stop avoiding going to the gym more often” goes through the super goal turbocharger process and ends up as a much mighter “I will work out at the gym or run for 30 minutes, 3 times a week in 2013.” Ideally, you’ve also told your family, friends, co-workers, Twitter, Pinterest and the neighbour’s German Shepherd, Brutus, to help you stay in line.

    Here are just 2 simple goals that I feel are realistic for all of us. To avoid that pesky goal ambiguity that kills goals before they start, I have offered a very specific and measurable challenge for you.

    Smile more

  • Smiling biologically makes you feel better – the facial feedback hypothesis says smiling isn’t just the byproduct of feeling good, but by smiling, you will feel good. It’s part of the wiring of our brains.
  • Smile even when you’re on the phone – the person on the other end will feel it.
  • It’s contagious. You can trigger happiness in people up to 3 degrees of separation away.
  • You can live longer. Baseball players smiling in their baseball cards in 1952 lived 7 years longer than those who weren’t smiling!
  • 2013 Smile Challenge: Consciously trigger a smile 5 times a day.

    Show more gratitude

  • You could build a stronger network. People who are more grateful have been found to have more social capital.
  • Gratitude can improve your general wellbeing, from getting better sleep to reducing feelings of anxiety.
  • A little bit can go a long way. Jotting down what you are grateful for every day for 3 weeks can have a lasting and positive effect months later.
  • Even the army is using gratitude to help give mental toughness to their new recruits
  • 2013 Gratitude Challenge: Track your gratitude – 3 times a week, log 3 things you are grateful for, why you deserve them and your role in making them happen.

    Constant Questions: Will you take the challenge to smile more and show more gratitude? What resolutions did you set this year? A few days into the new year, how are you doing with them? What advice do you have for others to help them set and achieve goals and resolutions? Did you know that when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you? Didn’t the Beatles write a song about a resolution? Well, you know…

    I will leave you with this amazing TED Talk to inspire you about the power of Resolution # 1 – smiling!

    Thanks for reading!


    2 thoughts on “2 simple and powerful New Year’s resolutions

    1. Great post! I’m up for the gratitude challenge. I am happy to report I make an effort to smile at strangers whenever I can. The world is filled with negativity and you never know when a random smile might cheer someone up. 🙂

      • Thanks for the comment, Liz. I’m even more excited to meet IRL and experience the smile firsthand! It’s much harder to frown when someone in front of you is smiling. I try to do other things to get others to smile. Great service at a restaurant, customer service on the phone, someone did something wonderful – why not let them know? So much complaining about the not so good, not enough praising the good. Happy smiling!

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