Acorn to Oaks #10: New Year’s Resolutions (why they suck & what to do instead)

In 4 days time millions and millions of people around our world are going to be making New Year’s Resolutions. In 35 days time, research says that more than 80% of the resolutions will be broken, many before week 3. 

In November 2015, after my doctor told me I wouldn’t see the end of the next 10 years if I didn’t make some changes, I had a choice; I could choose to carry on as I was, or I could choose to save my life. I chose to change. Four years on I still wonder why I waited a further 6 weeks to start the journey, and the only answer I can come up with is that it’s what we humans do…..we like to live it up at Christmas and then change in January! 

Personally, I think we can change at any time of the year and, in fact, when we do that, we actually have a higher chance of success. Why? Because New Year’s Resolutions suck! And they suck because they are are often ineffective in their very nature, for reasons we will explore in a minute. However, despite that, we all (or most of us) make them anyway.

I’d done this time and time again over the previous 100 years (!) and, whilst I absolutely meant each and every word of my resolutions each and every time, I failed each and every time too. I didn’t mean to fail, I just gave up, or forgot, or, let’s be honest, it was too hard and I wasn’t invested enough.

So what made 2016 and the ensuing 4 years different? Why didn’t I give up? Why did I succeed in changing and better still, maintaining those changes? 

Having thought about this a lot over the last few years, and especially leading up to the end of December, I’ve realised that when we make resolutions, we tend to go all in, making grandiose announcements about our big intentions. We put little thought in to it beyond WHAT the resolution is. We forget about the WHO, HOW, WHEN and WHERES that are intrinsically involved in change.

There is an old adage that says, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Preparation and planning are a huge part of making changes. And I believe they are the key differences between a resolution and a goal. 

Whereas before I just made a statement (I am going to lose weight. I am going to work less. I am going to do x, y and z) this time, in addition to pinpointing the WHAT, I also planned HOW I was going to lose weight, work less stressfully, take care of myself and get healthier. I looked at WHEN I could go to a class, exercise, plan meals, shop and take me time away from work. I looked at WHO I wanted and needed support from, and I asked them for it. And I decided WHERE I needed to go and be to look after myself. 

Planning and preparation turn a resolution, which is essentially just a statement of intent, in to a goal. Yes, we still have to action the goals but with a HOW, WHEN, WHO and WHERE attached to the WHAT, the likelihood for action, motivation and investment in the change is significantly increased. And this was certainly the case for me, and continues to be so. 

This is something I call the ‘Life Windmill’

One way of working out what our WHAT is, is to look at each fan on the windmill and score it out of 10 for satisfaction (10 being highly satisfied, 0 being considerably unsatisfied). When you’ve finished, choose one of the low scoring fans and think of ways you can increase your score in that area. That is your WHAT. 

Most of us I imagine have heard of SMART goals and here’s a reminder (thank you Google images). 

SMART is a great way to make sure we also address the HOW, WHO, WHERE and WHENs in our goals. If we do this, we have a better chance of achieving the results we want, the changes we resolve to make.   

Have a go at doing both of these exercises over the next couple of days. See what happens and make a conscious effort to prepare and plan. And if you need any help or guidance whilst you do this, give me a call on 07523830377 or drop me an email at

Take care one and all, and here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous and fun in 2020.

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