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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail – And What to Do Instead

I love the sense of new beginning that a new calendar year gives. I deep clean my flat, declutter my shelves, and purge the wardrobe. I reflect on the year that’s passed and start planning the year ahead. But I never set new year’s resolutions. Why? Because they are designed to fail.

I am all up for setting goals, planning for the year and visualising what I want my year to be like. But I’m not up for making vague statements about some radical change I’m supposed to make overnight. This is the problem with new year’s resolutions as we know them. They often lack detail or an action plan, and they often are about meeting external pressures rather than what you truly want. They are even more dangerous if they are driven by fear or by the feeling of not being good enough. All of these things prevent you from succeeding with them and from feeling good. And they definitely don’t make you feel motivated to work towards them, but instead encourage you to beat yourself up the minute things don’t go to plan.

That’s why I’m not a huge fan. Now I do realise different things work for different people. So if you’re in the tiny group that does new year’s resolutions, succeeds with them, and finds joy in them, please do keep doing them! But if you’re up for trying something different, carry on reading.

For the last few years, at the start of every year I have set three to five ambitious goals to get on with. They have been in different spheres of my life, from my work to my health to my riding. They have been specific and measurable. Every month I journaled on why each goal is important to me, what dream does it get me closer to, how have I progressed towards it this month, and what I will do next month to progress further. But this year, for some reason, I felt I needed some help on setting the right goals that got me excited.

So I asked myself these three things – and I encourage you to do the same:

What do I want to do more of in 2017? Why?

What makes me feel joy? What makes me feel alive? What is important to me? What do I want to spend time on that feels meaningful to me?

To me, the answers were crystal clear. I want to do more writing, riding and relaxing.

This year I will write my second book – and I’d like to write an online course as well. I also want to play more with my writing on my social media channels and possibly even try out poetry (brace yourself!). Why? I’m my most vulnerable, authentic and creative when I write so I love spreading my message through my writing. And I really miss the fun, creative process I had on my first book Screw Finding Your Passion and I want to start the same process on my second one.

Riding is an obvious one. It’s my love, my oxygen, my lifeline. It keeps me happy, healthy and fit. It connects me with nature. It gets me closer to my dream of riding at international Grand Prix level one day. And I love love love the never ending learning that comes with the sport of dressage.

Relaxing is one that I’ve put on the map many times before – and I tend to spiral intensely in and out of it depending on my workload, mood, and what’s going on in my life. This year I’m going to continue to focus on it to improve my health, to find more calm, and to enjoy life more.

What do I want to do less of in 2017? Why?

What drains you? What holds you back? What brings you more frustration than joy? What can you eliminate? What feels like a waste of time to you?

I want to rush less and stress less. These two things literally jumped out at me the minute I asked myself the question. I spent too much of 2016 rushing around breathlessly from one place to the other rather than enjoying life moment by moment. I had weeks my agenda was so packed I wanted to crawl under my bed and hide. No more of that this year – life is too short for that. The rushing is tied to the stress I felt, as was making some work decisions which weren’t aligned with my heart. I started a few business relationships that felt off from the beginning and only caused me stress. Despite my best efforts to work through them, they continued to cause me stress and doubt. Hence, this week, I decided to terminate them. Immediately I felt like I could breathe again.

So what next? Ask yourself this:

How will I make the above happen?

Without the how they are just dreams. You need to think about the how and create an action plan to turn these into a reality.

For me, it’s straightforward. I will have written a draft of my book by end of June 2017. How? I will set aside at least four full days every month to write.

I will qualify for the British Dressage summer regionals with my horse Mickey this year. How? By training at least 2 days a week and competing at least once a month on average.

I will feel calmer, more at peace, and more focused by June 2017. How? I will start every working day with 10 minutes of yoga or guided meditation. I will say no to business relationships that I’m not 110% confident about. I will have at least 1.5 days a week I do not do any work. I will work beyond 7 PM at most once a week when working from home. After a busy week, I will allow a slower paced week.

See what I’ve done here? I’ve turned empty resolutions and promises into actual goals. I then thought about what actions will get me to my goal and then I scheduled the actions into my calendar. Simple!

But my advice doesn’t step there. I can’t talk about setting goals without saying this: do what you can to get closer to those goals and schedule those actions into your life. But don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go 100% according to plan because life rarely does. Be prepared to keep your eye on the goal but also on the opportunities and the signs the universe sends you. Remain flexible and adaptable, and enjoy the journey towards your goals with joy. Do it from a place of loving yourself, not from a place of thinking that you are not enough. See it as a fun adventure to grow and enjoy.

Now go write your answers to these questions and turn them into goals and action plans.

What do you want to do more of? Why?

What do you want to do less of? Why?

How will you make it happen?

If you want to really back yourself up and be prepared for all kinds of procrastination, use “If Planning” on your actions to make sure you make them happen.

If you enjoyed this different take on new year’s resolutions, please like it, tweet it, share it – I would really appreciate it as I’m trying to grow my following so I can help even more people to be happier :)

With that, I wish you good luck in your adventure & until next time!

With love, light & joy,

Susanna x

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