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7 ways to fail at your resolutions

POSTED: December 29, 2016 5:40 a.m.
Tiffany Gee Lewis/

It’s the week after Christmas — is your pen poised over paper, like mine, itching to write down those New Year’s resolutions? Before you do, let’s make absolute certain those goals are as unachievable as possible. Don’t worry.

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It’s the week after Christmas — is your pen poised over paper, like mine, itching to write down those New Year’s resolutions? Before you do, let’s make absolute certain those goals are as unachievable as possible. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. I have over 35 years of experience when it comes to unachievable goals. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. Goals like elephants

First off, you should make huge goals. If you haven’t run in a few years, you should definitely sign up for a marathon. And if you wrote a nice poem for your boyfriend back in high school, this is the year to finish your YA novel, preferably by March.

Reality check: The key word here is attainable. If you haven’t run in years, a marathon is not only unrealistic but will likely also lead to misery and injury. Pick goals that you know you can achieve in a year’s time so you don’t get easily discouraged and give up.

2. Vague is vogue

The best goals aren’t too specific. Details will just weigh you down. So choose resolutions like: Be kind. Call mom more often. Be more spiritual. Lose weight. Eat fewer M&Ms.

Reality check: The most achievable goals are highly specific. Attach a number (lose 5 pounds), a day (go on a date with my spouse every Friday night), or a date (sign up for that business retreat by May 3).

3. Fits and starts

No one likes to do the same thing every day. It’s incredibly boring and shows a real lack of creativity. So as you make your goals, make sure they only apply once or twice a week. Or even once a month.

Reality check: The most successful people build daily habits and routines, like my friend who has run every day for almost three years. Daily habits can also help break large goals (like novel writing) into bite-sized portions. Create a daily word-count goal. Walk a certain number of steps each week, etc.

4. List a mile long

Your resolutions should fill an entire page. I mean, there are so many things to work on, where do you start? The answer is: everywhere. This is the year to play golf, get up early, finish painting the kitchen and the bathroom, complete the college degree, save enough for that trip to Hawaii, read scripture every day and learn to cook eggs Benedict.

Reality check: In my most successful years of goal-making, my list was five items long. Period. Why five? I could hold them all in my head. I could tick them off on one hand. Last year, I had a single goal, almost a daily mantra that I carried with me. And it worked.

5. Ax the accountability

Whatever you do, make sure there is no accountability for what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t exercise with friends. Don’t tell anyone you want to learn the guitar. Keep your goals buttoned up from your family. That way you won’t be embarrassed when you fall short of your dreams.

Reality check: Community can be a powerful tool for achieving your goals. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who hold you accountable. There is a host of online communities and apps to get you started. Positive peer pressure may be exactly what you need to kickstart your ambitions.

6. Deep in a drawer

Once you’ve recorded your resolutions, make sure to hide them in a drawer where you will never see them again. Then you can pull them out Jan. 1 of the next year and be utterly surprised at what you were hoping to accomplish. Just think, it’s like a time capsule of failure.

Reality check: Post your goals in a highly visible place, like the fridge or bathroom mirror. Schedule a weekly time to review the goals, specifically the measurable portions, to see how you’re doing. Re-evaluate your resolutions every quarter and check your progress.

7. Misery is king

Whatever you do, don’t make your goals fun at all. Make sure you find one of those diets that requires you to eat lettuce and grapefruit for two weeks. If you're trying to stick to a budget, don't reward yourself at all. Life is hard, folks, so your goals should be painful as well.

Reality check: The human race is a fun-loving bunch. And Mary Poppins had it right: "Find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game!" Find ways to give yourself small rewards for your achievements. Turn your goals into a game. Devices like the Fitbit have tapped into the human need for competition and measurable success. As you make your resolutions, find the motivation that works for you.

Years ago, I wanted a cherry-red teapot. I also needed to finish a manuscript. So I made a goal. If I finished the writing project, I got the teapot.

That teapot still sits on my stove top, a reminder that the smallest of goals can bring about sweet rewards.

Happy New Year!
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