Why New Years Resolutions Are Useless

Christmas and New Year’s Eve largely comprise the holiday season around the world.  Well, Christmas has come and gone, and hopefully you had a wonderful time with family and friends, as well as getting a few gifts that you’d been wanting.  Next up, however, is New Year’s, and one of the major traditions there aside from celebrating is making New Years resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are essentially promises you make to yourself about something that you really want to accomplish.  The most common resolution is “I want to lose weight!” or “I want to make a million dollars!” or something equally cliche.  Interestingly, what most people don’t realize is that New Year’s resolutions are almost completely useless.

Especially for creative professionals like designers, artists and developers, New Year’s resolutions are a bad way to try to accomplish something, and in this post, we’ll look at why New Years resolutions don’t work, and how you can make quality goals and resolutions and give yourself a much better chance of succeeding.

1.  New Year’s is only once per year.

Okay, so, let’s say you want to learn 3D modeling, texturing and render techniques, and you’re making it your New Year’s resolution.  Well, good for you about wanting to expand your tool set, but the problem with making it a New Year’s resolution is that New Year’s only occurs once per year.  If you want to do something or learn something, just do it, because your motivation will be highest at that point.  If you put it off until New Year’s to make it a resolution, odds are that your enthusiasm will have died down, making it harder for you to achieve your goal.

Additionally, you’ll often forget to set certain goals on New Year’s, so why wait another year before making your resolutions?

2.  People set easily achievable or unachievable goals.

Even for people who use goal setting techniques throughout their daily lives, setting a realistic goal that is both achievable yet challenging can be a tough accomplishment all by itself.  Many people tend to overestimate themselves (human arrogance undoubtedly), and thus they set goals that no one could possibly achieve.  On the flip side of that coin, in the effort to set achievable goals, many people set easy goals that do not challenge them and force them to grow.  This applies to New Year’s resolutions especially, where people set goals for the next year that are usually wildly out of proportion to their capabilities.

3.  People set inappropriate goals.

There are several key components of a good goal or resolution.  The first, is that it must be specific, secondly, it must be measurable, and third, it must be time targeted.  Basically, just saying “I want to lose weight!” is a bad goal.  It’s not very specific, a better goal would be to say “I want to lose fat!”.  Therefore, you’re now being specific about what kind of weight you want to lose.  Next, it must be measurable, which is accomplished by throwing in an amount, such as “I want to lose 10lbs of fat!”.   Third, there needs to be a time table for accomplishing this, otherwise, what, do you want to lose 10lbs over the course of your lifetime?  In one day?  Understanding time as one of the most important factors in whether or not a goal is achieved is one of the key parts to making appropriate goals that challenge you and yet are achievable and give you a feeling of satisfaction.

This particular set of components is often referred to as SMART, which is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.  If you set SMART goals, you will not only find that your goals are more refined, they are also more likely to be achieved regardless of the difficulty of the goal.

4.  New Year’s resolutions are trendy.

In the popular culture phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions, people inevitably choose goals that are trendy for that past year.  Most of us, coming off the holidays, have eaten far too much unhealthy food, which is why weight loss tends to be one of the most common resolutions made by people.  Depending on the financial climate, other people make saving or investing as their primary goal, and if a new technology has come out, many of us will say that we need to learn how to use it, for example, I’m sure many of us have a goal this year to learn HTML5.

5.  New Year’s resolutions don’t last.

Going along with point #3, goals need to be measurable and time-bound, which means that in order to know if you’ve achieved a goal, you need to regularly measure and assess your progress.  If you’re looking to learn general jQuery coding techniques within 3 months, you need to be able to tell when you’ve learned something.  Thus, issuing mini-coding tasks for yourself can allow you to see if you’re on track.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions (or with most resolutions in general) is that people tend to work hard on them for a short time, sticking to their regimen, before losing interest and letting it get away from them.  To avoid this, it’s rather simple, just follow the advice from points #1-3, by setting SMART goals and working on them from the time that you want to achieve your goal, instead of waiting till a given trendy day like New Year’s to set your goals.

Hopefully, with the advice from this article, you’ll find yourself setting quality goals for yourself, challenging yourself and pushing yourself to new heights.  Goal setting is one of the most powerful achievement techniques, but it’s most effective when governed by your own interests and desires, as opposed to the holiday season or other factors.

Do you have any great goal setting techniques or stories you’d like to share?  Or do you think that I’m missing something in my points here?  Let me know in the comments!  Have a great New Year!

Comments 3 Responses

  1. João Pedro Pereira December 27, 2010
    • Eric Shafer December 27, 2010
  2. jaq b. January 5, 2011

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