The Thing We Get Wrong about Resolutions (and How to Fix It)

The Thing We Get Wrong about Resolutions (and How to Fix It)

If you’re over 25 and you’ve never failed on a New Year’s resolution then you can probably disregard this post and revel in your mastery of life. If, however, you’ve gotten to that cynical point so many people do, and begun to suspect *gasp* that New Year’s resolutions are all a sham, please allow me to offer a thought:

Resolutions aren’t stupid. They fail because they are so rarely accompanied by a concrete plan.

The classic example is the gym that’s full on January 1st and empty by the 31st. What happens to all of those people dropping off the treadmills one-by-one? They realize, consciously or otherwise, one cold, hard fact about life: Intention alone is not enough to accomplish your goals.

Or, on the flipside: Grand visions are only realized by a long series of small, specific steps.

With all that in mind, this year I decided to approach my New Year’s resolution a little differently than in the past. I’m actually putting off making a resolution until I complete a preliminary resolution I call “Sweeping out the temple.”

On paper, the plan looks dull as dust, but it has a distinct advantage over the large, singular NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: there’s no one, clear failing point. I don’t have to do all of these every day, just a bit here and there as is convenient. My hope is that these small gains will add up to one big one – greater mental clarity – and that this will lead to a more concrete picture of other big things I’d like to accomplish this year.

If you’re curious, the preliminary resolution looks like this:

  • No video games for 3 weeks (because they offer too tidy of a reward system while producing no tangible outcomes)
  • No reading Reddit (because even though it’s fun, it’s ultimately only disjointed information)
  • Only use Twitter and Facebook if I have a clear goal (for the same reason as above)
  • Organize the front closet, book shelves, living room toys, and bedroom closet (to reduce visual clutter everywhere)
  • Start reading again for 1 hour a day, minimum (not because I feel I have the time, but because that’s something I do when I feel balanced)
  • Read up on sleep and babies, and correct issues there (because my 1-year-old has reverted to a newborn sleep cycle after some illness, and it’s shattered my concentration)
  • Do yoga lots (because I find it the perfect blend of meditation and grounding exercise)
  • Play with the kids when they ask (because even if I’m doing something pressing, happy kids mean a balanced household and ultimately more time/happiness for everyone)
  • Make the bed and journal for 10-20 minutes each day (each of these is quick and easy, and has benefits that last for hours)
  • Pay a cleaner to do the bathroom, floors, fridge, and microwave (this one’s a reward for getting the rest of the house in order)

Once Phase I is complete, my hope is that I will be in a much better frame of mind to come up with a concrete plan for Phase II, whose working title is “Get my shit together.”

Want to get your shit together this year? Get at me through Twitter @lintropy or Facebook and I’d be happy to help you think it through! Also, for a hacky solution to changing behaviour, you can check out this post I did a while back.


Ryan Melsom has a PhD in literary studies and has spent over twenty years working in communications, design, and writing. His second book Spendshift: 100 Lazy Hacks to Rock Your Finances is now on Amazon. For more by Ryan, follow him on Twitter @lintropy, or visit his Facebook page.

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