How To Make Your New Year’s Resolution Actually Happen

“To be governed by appetite alone is slavery, while obedience to a law one prescribes oneself is freedom.”

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty stupid when I was younger. I really believed that I should only do what I feel like at the moment, not what I really cared about in general. I wasted several years of my life as a result of it– sucks right?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said the above quote in The Social Contract in 1762. It’s still true now. The rules that are assigned to us from the outside make us slaves; the ones we assign to ourselves make us free.

Have you ever had trouble getting a habit to stick? Teaching yourself to cook, going to the gym, or whatever else. I’ve found an amazing trick that will help you achieve success more often. Here it is: Restrict yourself more.

I wanted to go to the gym 3x/week, but I didn’t. So that recently became: Go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5pm.

I wanted to write for my blog more often, but I didn’t. So I changed it to: Write a blog post every day, right after breakfast.

I wanted to get my task list done, but I was avoiding some of it. So that turned into: Do the first task on your list, no matter how you feel about it at the moment.

You see how each time, the freedom I was allowing myself was preventing what I actually wanted from getting done? By making it stricter, I actually do it more often.

Try this with everything you’d like to get better at. If you’re not getting the results you want, restrict yourself one level down. In other words, be more specific about when and where it will happen.

Eventually, a habit becomes so ingrained (like my reading) that it doesn’t need to be restricted anymore. Now, I really believe that I’ll never fall behind on reading because it’s so ingrained in me that it’s almost inevitable that I’ll do fine. But everything else needs to be restrictive to get done.

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I promise you’ll like the result. ๐Ÿ™‚





16 responses to “How To Make Your New Year’s Resolution Actually Happen”

  1. Jessica Randazza Avatar

    Great post. I often feel discouraged by not sticking to my gym/blog/cooking at home routine, and then I beat myself up for it. And once I start feeling discouraged, I’m less likely to restrict myself (or give myself any goals), because I convince myself that I’m not disciplined enough.

    It’s silly and something that could easily be solved by locking my schedule down by writing in my planner.

    1. Julien Avatar

      You’re totally right about getting disappointed, too. Controlling your emotional state (ie, preventing yourself from beating yourself up over it) is super important, it should totally be a post.

      Go as restrictive as you can with this, I promise it will help you. For my gym schedule, I actually write “NON-NEGOTIABLE” next to each one so that looking at it will tell me I’m not allowed to say no.

      1. DoomRater Avatar

        Holy crap put this concept down in words plz. I know someone who never learned emotional stability and desperately needs it. I have not done the research on how to do this mostly because I never needed to for myself in most things, but I want more control out of my emotional states too without coming off as robotic.

  2. Tamsen Avatar

    I ran across some research a while back that explains why this works, why habits always beat out goals–and how we can make that fact work for us.

    Enjoy: They have a book coming out later this year, I think. That one’s definitely going on my reading list.

  3. anji bee Avatar

    oh i like that idea about writing after breakfast. normally i hit the first thing on my list after breakfast, but i think i’ll try switching that up to writing a quick journal entry first.

    ever since i got heavy into social media i let my journal slide, which makes me sad. i learn so much about my personal evolution through looking back through my journal, but now i have whole months missing.

    as for reading, i always do that in the tub, so the two things are linked pleasantly in my mind.

    and the gym i do every friday, with random days for tennis and beach walks. i should probably add another gym day.

    anyway, thanks, jules!

  4. Mudd a.k.a. Oza Meilleur Avatar

    Bonjour Julien!

    I’ve already established a *plan* for reaching my goals in 2010. Actually, I’m going with monthly goals and breaking them down into weekly baby steps. I call the whole thing “The 12 Notch Plan,” as in going up a notch each month.

    And YES, it’s all intended for me to create new habits, but I hadn’t realized this till I read your post… I hadn’t “registered” it as such in my brain.

    So thanks for directing my mind towards the right focus — I need to actually know what I’m doing if I want to make it happen, right?

    Wishing you a truly *magical* 2010… and abundance galore.

    Peace & Love & Hocus Pocus,
    Mudd a.k.a. AbracadOza ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Nadia Avatar

    I really like that approach which equals in my mind to giving yourself the oportunity to get what you so you won’t be disapointed all the time. A friend at work in Ottawa gave me a somehow similar advice a few years ago. She would set up a list of things she wanted to achieve, and then write a list actions in her agenda. I was at first a bit skeptical, but once I followed a few of her tips I ended up doing a lot more than I expected.

    Sorry for the mistakes I am a bit better in French ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Amber Whitener Avatar

    You are so right! I always get these “grand ideas” to do something and keep it up to date. This year I started with “consolidating” my personal content (blogs, randomness)into my personal blog.

    I really need to set aside time for this every day for the next three months to get it all done, done right, and stay on my game with my business! After all, what good are good intentions without results? Knowing myself, I won’t get results unless I am more specific about what’s necessary to get it all done. Great post, Julien.

  7. Denis Avatar

    It’s true… Allowing ourselves to structure our activities helps a lot… however…if we don’t nurture that desire or come from a place where we really want to enjoy the results… it s going to be that much harder…. Having a burning desire is the start of a…as Humphrey Bogart would say”Beautiful friendship kid”

  8. Lisa Yallamas Avatar
    Lisa Yallamas

    Aren’t you talking about setting yourself a deadline? I make lists all the time and tick them off as I go through. It’s the only way I get through everything. But I find that you need to bend the rules sometimes when things go awry – like losing four hours in the shopping centre car park when you lock your keys in the car – no gym, no blog (but I did take quick shots for a video blip). So sometimes I get things done by changing the list and sometimes I get things done by changing the deadline – or removing it… because the creative mind doesn’t work by deadlines. It all depends on the priority setting.

  9. Crystal Guthrie Avatar

    I have always found that the more specific I make my goals the more likely I am to achieve them. Also reading my goals every day helps me to internalize them into habits.

  10. Dave Doolin Avatar

    This is right. Make certain things non-negotiable. 6 days per week I write for an hour before doing anything more than making a cup of coffee. That may be all I get done for the day. But it beats many days before when I got nothing done at all.

  11. Larry Avatar

    Being specific is key, probably for the simple reason that if you’re not specific you can always put it off until tomorrow. And since you’re “going to do it tomorrow”, you’ve still kinda sorta stuck to your game plan.

  12. Eric Jean Avatar

    Reason this works is because a goal is nothing without an implementation intention: “in situation X I will do Y in order to achieve Z.” I make it a mantra. This formula guarantees that if you do X in situation Y you almost invariably get Z. Without one of these variables, however, the system just don’t work.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Totally right Jean. A resolution without a system behind it is like saying “I hope.” It’s pointless.

  13. Kyla Avatar

    When you set your goal try to do what is in your plans and the things you need to change for yourself. And if you a achieve it you are satisfied and happy.

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