Why New Years Resolutions Are Bound To Fail

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I remember watching an episode of The Simpsons when I was younger where they were going on a road trip. Bart was in the back seat of the car, and he asked the question “Are we there yet?” what felt like 100 times throughout the episode. Homer kept replying “No!” Bart was so fixated on the destination that he was missing the joy of the journey.

Year after year, in pursuit of my goals, I found myself living like Bart. While I never verbalized the question, it rang loudly in my mind on a daily basis. After every milestone I achieved, “Am I there yet?” haunted me. I was so eager to get There as fast as possible, that I graduated from college a year early and came out of the womb a month premature. I was racing nowhere extremely fast. When we’re always chasing dreams, in pursuit of happiness, trying to get rich, we miss the dream, happiness, and richness that is already here right now.

Results, Reason, & Ride

Every year, when I give away The New Year Guide for free, I warn people not to use it just to set goals. The reason new years resolutions fail is because the goal isn’t the only thing that needs to be thought through. There is a critical distinction between goals, intentions, and experiences, that I think will help you think about what you declare this year differently. Goals are about the result. Intentions are about the reason. And experiences are about the ride.

Goals account for the first type of success that is based on the destination. Goals are all about what, where and when. That’s how we’ve traditionally been taught to set goals. Write down where you want to be or what you want to have and when. This is incomplete. That’s why so many people set new years resolutions and fail. They were never specific about why losing 20 pounds was important to them. It just seemed like it was something nice to do.

Goal Example

To run a marathon by the end of the year in under 4 hours.

Last year we explored intentions. Intentions capture why you’re pursuing a goal. When the intention is clear, you are able to draw from an intrinsic source of motivation and a deep sense of purpose. The other beautiful thing about intention is that it allows for the goal to manifest in a variety of ways. For example, if your intention is to be healthier, there are many goals that you could create that align with that intention.

Intention Example

To be healthier because diabetes runs in my family, my mom died in her 60s, and I want to see my grandson grow up.

Experiences combine goals and intentions. In addition to knowing what, where, when, and why experiences make you declare who and how you want to be along the way. Some people like to workout on their own. Others like groups. Some people are fine with a treadmill. Others need CrossFit. Some people want to go solo. Others want a trainer.

Experience Example

To be self-motivated but also challenged and supported by a group of other women and still enjoy what I eat.

You can see from the text in bold that when we combine the goal, intention, and experience, we get a more comprehensive picture of how this person sees the achievement of this goal playing out and from there we can start designing a plan of action or program to make sure she succeeds.

Instead, Create Experiences

Based on this shift in thinking on how I perceive goals, the way I prepare to achieve them has also shifted. For me, there are 3 stages to goal achievement—intention, conditions, and preparation.

1. Intentions: We’ve already addressed intention.

2. Conditions: Conditions speak to the gaps you see and the support you need in advance of trying to achieve the goal. Examples of gaps include not enough time, no accountability, the wrong diet, not knowing how to train. Support would include any solution that helps close those gaps such as a running buddy who picks you up at 6am and has completed several marathons before.

3. Preparation: Preparation has to do with the effort that you are 100% responsible for, how you will initiate your goal, and what you will measure to make sure that you’re on track. For instance, you are 100% responsible for waking up at 5:45am. Nobody else can do that for you. You can initiate your goal by registering for the upcoming marathon and raising money from friends who you also invite to cheer you on at the finish line. And you will measure your progress by your running times and stamina.

If your intention is authentic, the conditions for success are in place, and you do what you have to do to prepare, the likelihood of you achieving what you want increases. The ultimate outcome is rarely in our control, but the ultimate experience can be. Sometimes we do everything we thought was right and still don’t get the outcome we desire but we still get to have the experience.