New Years Resolutions on Sticky Notes

5 Steps To Finding Your Real New Year's Resolution

If there’s anything that we all know about New Year’s Resolutions, it’s that they rarely survive all the way into February. So, this year, maybe you should try giving up on resolutions, and try for something both simpler and more substantial.

Step 1: Decide What You Really Need

Most resolutions fail because they’re half-baked. We want to lose weight, we want to be more successful—but we don’t really think through the desire all the way. Why do you want to lose weight? Because you want to look more attractive? Because you want to be around to see your grandkids? For that matter, what does “being more successful” mean in strictly quantifiable terms? A specific promotion? Better relationships?

Behind most of these surface desires is a deeper need that we haven’t fully articulated. But if you can peel back the knee-jerk resolutions, you’ll be a huge step closer to real change. So, ask yourself: What is the fundamental need behind my resolution? Try to think backwards from the surface:

I want to lose weight, because I want to fit into better clothes, because I want to feel more attractive, because I’d really like to find a life partner, because I’m lonely.

The further that the surface resolution is removed from the true underlying need, the more likely you are to give up on it, because the less you’re really satisfying the need that drove the resolution in the first place. But if you can express that need in no more than three or four words, you’ve probably articulated the core of it: I am angry. I am depressed. I don’t feel loveable.

Of course, these statements aren’t all of who you are, or even the most important part of who you are, but those of us who haven’t yet achieved Enlightenment are still generally motivated (consciously or unconsciously) by a few of these underlying needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Step 2: Address Your Need Directly

If you are lonely, are there multiple ways of addressing this need? Could you volunteer to be a Big Brother, to visit a nursing home, to pitch in at a local animal shelter, or to invest in other people who would love to be loved?

man's best friend - owner and dog

Building positive relationships of any kind makes us healthier and happier. And realistically—the more comfortable and confident that you are with your own heart and mind, the more attractive you will be, regardless of your physical weight or appearance.

Not to say that you can’t work out—it’s a great idea—but working out every day with the vague goal of looking better may be far less motivating than working out so that you can set a good example for someone that you’re mentoring, or so that you can physically keep up with someone that you’d really like to date. If your goal is bigger than yourself, you’re far more likely to stick to an action plan.

people creating positive relationships

Step 3: Plan an Action

The other reason that resolutions fail is that we make them with our neo cortex, the upper layer of the brain that’s responsible for language, logic, and rationalization. But that doesn’t mean that the emotional centers in your limbic (middle) brain or the instinctive centers in your cerebellum (hind) brain are equally on board. To accomplish something with your whole mind, then your rational brain, your emotions, and your physical body all have to build new habits.

And habits start with actions, not resolutions.

So, instead of making a resolution, take a specific action. As soon as possible. Maybe even right now. Pick up the phone, sign up on the website, or physically go to the facility. Once your body is invested in an action, you’re more likely to follow through on it. And if you know why you’re following through on the action, if your emotions are invested, you’re exponentially likely to succeed.

jamie fox and friend volunteering for a cause

Step 4: Make Your Action a Habit

Today, most of us live by our electronic calendars. So, think about what’s in your calendar for the coming months. If you schedule time for your actions now, then 30 or 60 or 90 days from now, that action will have solidified into a habit. And habits are much easier to maintain because your body and your brain accept them as “normal.”

Bonus—you’re much more likely to build worthwhile relationships with strong and interesting people while you’re volunteering for the local search and rescue crew than you will binge watching the latest reality show on your own couch.

people connecting and creating relationships outdoors

Step 5: Make Your Habit an Identity

Once you’ve made a habit out of addressing your core need, then think about who you’ve become. Can you replace that core statement of identity?

I am lonely.

I am valued. I am needed. I change lives. I am loved. I love others.

What man do you want to be in 2019?

a silhouette of a man

We look forward to finding out.

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