Why I’m Done Making New Year’s Resolutions (And What I’m Doing Instead)
New Year’s resolutions are fun. The new year is one of the only times of the year that people come up with massive goals – and who doesn’t like dreaming big?
That’s part of the problem.
A new year’s resolution is a great way to set yourself up for failure, I’ve found. It’s not to say that people can’t live up to the lofty resolution that they’ve set, but let’s face it:
Most people don’t.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Set You Up for Failure
Look, I have nothing wrong with setting goals. In fact, I believe goals are absolutely necessary. So what’s wrong with setting some big goals at the beginning of the year?
Unfortunately, they are often forced, too general, and not well-thought out.
Do any of these goals sound familiar?
1) I’d like to lose 20 pounds.
2) I want to get in really good shape.
3) I want to quit my day job.
4) I want to earn over $100,000 per year.
They’re common goals, and honestly, I’ve set each of them as a personal new year’s resolution at one time or another. Two of them are very specific (losing 20 lbs. or earning over $100,000) and the other two are ridiculously vague.
What they all have in common is that they are fairly lofty goals that require a lot of planning and execution in order to be accomplished. On the surface (and this is what’s misleading), they are all very realistic and achievable.
That’s the big reason why new year’s resolutions are the perfect setup for failure: They are seemingly easy and achievable, yet they are so often established with very little thought about execution.
A Look Back at My Failures
As much as I hate to reflect on my (failed) new year’s resolutions, I think it’s helpful to look back at them. Below are some that I’ve selected to reflect on. (There were others in addition to those listed below – some that I achieved and others that I failed.)
In 2011, these were a few of my goals:
- “Dominate” and enjoy my new “9 to 5” job – I had recently quit my job of nearly three years in public accounting, and took a very odd turn in my career: I became an executive recruiter. Although this job used a lot of the knowledge I had built up in the accounting industry (I was recruiting accounting and finance professionals for various companies), it wasn’t like anything I had done before.
Although I succeeded in this job (it was commission-based, and I made more than I had previously made as an accountant), I ultimately quit the job after a year because I missed accounting and would prefer to do that while I continued my entrepreneurial quest. Flash forward to today: I actually like my current job a lot, so perhaps I did achieve this goal in a roundabout way.
- Earn $2,000+/month from an authority site – This obviously never happened, and the site I was referring to at that time is now somewhat dormant (though still appears in my income reports). Even though this particular site failed, I think this goal is appropriate for the site I will be launching in the next couple weeks (which I will discuss in full detail here).
- Blog at My 4-Hour Workweek 1-2 times per week – While I’d love to do this, it never happened consistently (I did succeed with this goal for 2011 – just not beyond). Now, I blog here 2-3 times per month. It’s not that I can’t write more often, but I prefer to blog when I actually have something to write about, instead of blogging for the sake of sticking to some predetermined schedule.
In 2012, it didn’t get much better:
- Create 250 niche sites by the end of 2012 – Looking back, this was a pretty funny goal. Today, I’m a bit smarter in that I know you can’t just slap together a bunch of thin content sites and hope to rank them. I’m much more focused on depth, and quality…and that definitely doesn’t translate into 250 niche sites.
- Create a Facebook page for My 4-Hour Workweek – It’s actually quite strange that I didn’t attempt to achieve this goal (given how easy it is), but I realized that I prefer to focus my social media efforts on Twitter (follow me and let’s chat). For my new site, Facebook WILL be a large part of the social media strategy, but I never felt too compelled to do it for My 4-Hour Workweek.
Spoiler alert: 2013 still brought failure:
- Create at least 2,000 Squidoo lenses – When will I learn that creating lots of cheap content isn’t the path to success? Hopefully I’ve learned that by now. The little Squidoo experiment was starting to go well, until they decided to go through and lock most people’s lenses, essentially making them worthless. Moving on…
- Get my authority site (Slow Carb Diet Experiments) to 10,000 unique visitors per month – As mentioned above, this authority site is now dormant, even though it still receives a lot of (non-converting) traffic from Pinterest. I know I could turn this site into so much more, but I’m just not into it. Considering I don’t really stick to the slow carb diet anymore and it’s a lot of work to consistently create new recipes, the site will be difficult to revive. With that said, I know it has potential, and I could revisit it at some point in the future.
Moving On: What Now?
I still think goal-setting is extremely important. It may be difficult to hit the bulls eye on any given target, but if you don’t have a target at all, you definitely won’t hit it.
More than just having targets, you need to be constantly going after them. Or, as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Putting up a target on January 1st and never coming back to it just doesn’t work. And while massive goals are inspiring, they need to be divided into bite size chunks so that they are safe for consumption.
All cheesy metaphors aside, goal setting needs to be a continuous process that happens throughout the year. That’s why the concept of the “new year’s resolution” is so flawed. I’m certainly not the first person to come up with this idea, but this is the first time that it’s really hitting me hard.
Personally, I need goals I can stay close to: mini-achievements, part of an overall goal that evolves as I learn new things and adapt to whatever obstacles I come across.
And for that reason, I can’t tell you what my 2014 goal is beyond this:
I’m planning to launch a new site the week of January 13th, and I’ve already taken the steps necessary to make sure the launch will happen. Stay tuned, as I’ll be writing more about this project next week.
Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts on goals and new year’s resolutions. What’s in store for you in 2014?