New Year's resolutions are well-intended, but rarely accomplished. Every year we go through the process of picking a goal that we want to accomplish and tell ourselves that starting January 1st, we will become a new person. I wish life worked like that, but studies tell us that 80% of resolutions fail, and most by the middle of February. So this year, try something different and choose a theme, rather than a goal.
Goals require a strict start date, end date, and a specific outcome. It requires a psychological mindset that generates many stress inducing emotions based on the binary outcome of succeeding or failing. This outcome often brings closure to the progress made and defeats the purpose of trying in the first place. It is more important to focus on the meaning and learnings during the journey rather than the reward at the end of it because the reward has short term gratification, while the journey brings long term growth.
Having a theme for the year improves the likelihood of continuation beyond intended completion date and puts you in a learners mindset. Rather than facing the anxiety that comes with goals, themes provide you with time to attempt, reflect, and evaluate your journey. All of these steps without feelings of neglect or falling short. With each attempt it will be easier to conquer the variables preventing you from change in your life and new habits are more likely to develop by the end of the year.
We all want to change, but we need an environment free of binary outcomes to do so. Themes provide this environment better than goals do and the low success rate associated with goal-oriented resolutions proves that other strategies are better. I’m guilty of setting goals and failing year after year, but two years ago I broke the routine and I have enjoyed positive habit building and a mindset that should keep my progress going for years to come.