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Why I do not make New Year’s resolutions

Year 2016 is here. We leave 2015’s successes and disappointments behind and look forward to what is laying ahead of us. It is now we give our New Year’s resolutions and promise ourself what we shall change in our lives. Some people do it with public proclamations and others quietly to themselves.

I have never liked New Year’s resolution and I stopped making such promises many years ago. It is not because I think we shall not make promises to ourselves or because I am afraid of failing. On the contrary, I strongly believe in settings goals and I am not afraid of trying new things. No, the reason is that I think the concept of New Year’s resolutions are badly designed.

Firstly, making New Year’s resolutions is almost like having a lessons learned at the end of a project. The purpose of the lessons learned is to reflect on what we need to do better for the next project. I know this is common in many companies but I do not think it works particularly well. Why should we wait until the end of the project before we evaluate how things are going? In the same way, I think once a year is too long between time to reflect, evaluate and set goals for our lives.

Personally, I prefer to evaluate often and make smaller adjustments rather than big changes once a year. I have vacation spread out over the year; I normally have a few days at Easter, during the summer and around Christmas/New Year. During these times I take time to reflect on how things are going, if there are changes I need to do and if there is something good that I can do more of. But also think and reflect on things on the train to work or sometimes in the evening after the kids have gone to bed.

Secondly, New Year’s resolution are often the wrong types of goals, at least if we are looking for real change. I am not saying that the intention with the goals are wrong just the way we measure it. So often, New Year’s resolutions are what we call lagging goals. Lagging goals are goals that we can only evaluate once the time for the goal has passed. “By the end of the year we shall make a profit” or “this year I shall lose 10 kg”. We can only evaluate if we have achieved with our goal once the year is over.

For persistent change in our lives, I think it is much better to have leading goals. Leading goals are something we can measure that will lead towards the lagging goals. It shall answer (and measure) the question: “what can I do today to achieve my lagging goal?”. A good leading goal could be “I shall make 10 sales calls today” or “I shall exercise 15 minutes a day”.

So while my friends and family give their New Year’s resolutions to each other, I simply say that I do not make New Year’s resolutions and move on with my life, quietly reflecting and evaluating at all times of the year.