Shift the Focus of Your Resolutions For 2014

new years resolutions

It’s that time of year.  You can’t escape all the talk about resolutions. In between all the commercials for diet plans and gym memberships, I’m sure you’ve been reading articles and blog posts about how to make those New Year’s resolutions stick.  Or maybe you’ve been reading about how diets don’t work and we’re better off skipping New Year’s Resolutions — since most people can’t keep them any way.  

So should you skip your resolutions this year?  I don’t think so.  But maybe you should take a different approach.  Instead of declaring a goal, put the emphasis on how you’re going to get there.  That’s the premise of this fantastic article by James Clear:  Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead

James makes the case for focusing on your system instead of a goal.  So what’s the difference between goals and systems?  

If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon.  Your system is your training schedule for the month.
If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book.  Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week. 

So instead of putting all your emphasis on a specific goal, such as losing 10 pounds, we’re better off examining how we’re going to get there. James writes about three reasons why we should focus on systeams instead of goals.

1. Goals reduce your current happiness.

If all you can think about is the end-result, then you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until this milestone is achieved, he writes.  You’re essentially saying to yourself:  “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”  Instead, James says we should commit to a process, not a goal.  When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress.

Sometimes goals can work against you.  James uses the example of someone training for a half-marathon. 

Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish the race, they stop training.  Their goal was to finish the half-marathon and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them.  When all of your your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push  you forward after you achieve it?

Instead, James said we should shift to systems-based thinking — it’s never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process.  It’s a long-term approach.  He recommends releasing the need for immediate results.

3. Goals suggest that you can control things you have no control over.

Every time we set a goal, James writes, we try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. Since we can’t predict the future, James suggests we build feedback loops.  It’s a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments.

So what does that mean if your resolution is to lose weight in 2014?  Consistently, losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s Resolution.  James concludes his article by saying goals are good for planning your progress, but system are good for actually making progress.

What’s going to be your system?  What are the steps you’re going to take to eat healthier in 2014?  

So as the clock strikes midnight tonight, I hope you’ll think twice about how you’re going to approach your resolutions. I encourage you to shift your focus.  Instead of a number on the scale, focus on the specific ways you’re going to change your habits.   It’s a process, and it can be an enjoyable one!  That’s the approach I truly believe in, and the one that’s reinforced in my book The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook.

That’s my wish for you in 2014.  Goals may help push you forward in the short-term, but a well-designed system is what will make the difference.   So rather than abandoning your resolutions this year, just shift your focus and commit to the process.




Image: bcbusinesshub on flickr

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