Cracking the Resolution Code

For years it has been my tradition to make grandiose plans, for the upcoming year, during the period between Christmas and the New Year. It’s not something I discuss with anyone or even talk about with those I love. It’s a quiet resolution in my mind that I can do better. If you’re spending time on or browsing the web and reading about goals – like me – chances are you were successful this past year (at least to some degree). The question is, “could you do better this year?”

What challenges me is an honest reflection on where my life has been the past 12 months. Most years, I have made some degree of progress. The problem is always the constant realization I could perform better. I always start out with a great plan and in no time at all – BAM – life happens. My goals are blown to pieces.   This typically happens sometime in January (seriously).   The rest of the year, if I’m honest, seems like pure randomness through which only desire and determination have lead me somewhere closer to the person I believe God desires me to be. My great internal conflict is I understand the productivity that can be achieved by developing a plan, setting goals and progressing through them. The most perplexing part of all is that goal setting is easy. So why can I not stick to my plan? Forbes, contributor Dan Diamond, cites a 2013 study by the University of Scranton which found that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions[1]. I am not alone.

I shamefully admit to never having spent enough time taking an honest inventory of who I am or who I want to be. I am always quick to my office to draft up a new list of unrealistic and unattainable achievements that I shall conquer this coming year. The chance for a fresh start invigorates me and for a small slice of time I feel so hopeful my stamina of youth magically returns. Remarkably, this transpires in spite of the two solid months of holiday season eating I’ve just endured. One would think that nothing could invigorate someone who has just consumed that many sweets and taken that many naps – but it happens.

This year will be different. It will be different because I’ve realized something about myself. I’ve realized something known all along but have never allowed myself to acknowledge as truth – I’m over-reaching.   My ability to grow this year depends on modest goals, easily accomplished and attacked with relentless consistency. This consistency is key to being satisfied with my results when it comes time to look back on this year’s results. My credit for this revelation goes to none other than Mr. John C. Maxwell. I was reading in my office, spending time on self-reflection and reading some more when I uncovered a quote I’ve read a hundred times before. Only this time, during a great mental battle I was waging against myself, clarity arose.

“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

This year I purposefully restrained myself from getting on the computer and drafting up resolutions. Instead, I spent time in prayer. I invested quiet time thinking about the past year, specifically, the amount of unproductive time and on which activities it was wasted. Then, I consciously spent time on others as opposed to myself. Mentally committing myself to investing in the lives of my children and teaching them something new.   After all, they are the only legacy I shall leave behind and family is the most honorable calling on my life.

This year I chose consistency over all else. Small disciplines! Not extremely large disciplines. The problem with super large goals is the instant you fall behind, the moment you miss a workout or fail to meet a deadline, you are likely to abandon them because the feeling of being unable to catch up is overwhelming. Statistics show that most people scrap their New Year’s Resolutions by March. This leaves 9 months of the year essentially unaccounted for. The reality is most people’s resolutions are dreams, not goals and there’s a big difference.

However, if you have a smaller, easier to accomplish goals, you will hit them each time. Everything I have considered since this revelation, when setting a modest, realistic, easy to repeat – goal, will leave me much closer to the person I want to be when December cycles around.   Below is one example of the difference in approach I am describing:

Old: Save $20,000 by the end of the year.

Twenty-thousand dollars is a considerable amount of money. However, it seems attainable based on my situation and I should really expect nothing less of myself. An inability to save this amount of money each year is personally viewed as a failure. That said, as life occurs each year, it rarely happens.

New: Deposit $200 a week in my savings account.

Two-hundred dollars a week, for fifty-two weeks, does not equal $20,000. However, I have already disclosed I rarely hit the $20,000 goal in all the years committed. Contrary, I’m confident in my ability, without question, to place $200 in my saving account each week.

You can run your own experiment on your own. I am confident in my prediction this new approach of pursuing small disciplines, consistently, will leave me in a better place.


Call to Action:

  1. What commitments are you making for the New Year?
  2. How is your approach different than last year?
  3. How often do these goals for the year work out and how long do they last?


[1] (Diamond, 2013)

Comments are closed.