New Year’s Resolutions Are So Last Year
The idea of starting over is comforting. Who doesn’t want to leave behind a version of themselves that isn’t who they want to be. Unfortunately, starting again is only symbolic. We can’t just ditch our history and start again. Who we are is made up of our habits, lived experiences, values and so much more.
Growth is something so many of us value and crave. The beginning of the year inspires a reset for many. As the days of the new year start passing us by, the infamous “New Years Resolution” starts to loom over our heads. But studies show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. But why?
80% of New Year’s Resolutions Fail, But Why?
As diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants, we see a parallel in conversation happening about DEI goals. Intentions are set and goals are made but following through is hard. Let’s unpack that. Why are resolutions causing us so much grief and why does DEI sometimes feel so hard? We have a few ideas listed below:
- Behavior change takes time.
In a culture that prioritizes a sense of urgency we can be disappointed when we don’t find immediate success. We constantly hear that time is a resource that feels scarce. This is especially true in a capitalistic society where success is tied to financial outcomes. The phrase, “time is money,” is used casually yet people understand the weight of it. But resolutions and change take time and without the patience to see the outcomes of change it can be a struggle to keep moving forward. Patience is a practice, especially with systems change even if it feels like there is no time to wait.
2. Change requires a plan for accountability.
Accountability is more than a buzzword. So what does it mean? It looks different for every person and organization. Thinking of it at a high level, it is a collection of checks and balances that allow you to reach your goals. Without an active plan for internal and external accountability there is room for losing the momentum and focus for change. We have seen DEI goals made by teams with no plan to measure data of change. Inclusion can be measured through employee surveys, hiring/retention data, demographics data and other data points. DEI is not an abstract part of a company, it exists in conjunction with all other functions of a company.
3. Change is unpredictable.
Perfectionism is harmful for everyone. We put so much pressure on ourselves to get it all right but where does that leave us when we don’t? If something is not predictable it doesn’t feel safe. It is disheartening to work towards something if the feeling of failure is persistent. When we move away from the norm, we confront many fears and insecurities of our imperfections and we find moments of “failure.” It can be easier to stick to what we know. If what we know isn’t working, is staying the same worse?
4. Our cognitive reaction to words and phrases may be blocking our mental capacity.
New Year’s Resolutions get a bad wrap. We know them to be difficult. This can also be true for DEI. Perhaps we have received messaging for so long that resolutions or DEI plans are too difficult. Our mind finds ways to confirm what we think. Our brains need to experience moments of success to create the pathways for learning new skills. That can be tough if we have already made up our minds about something.
So we know a few reasons why resolutions don’t work. So what do we do? Perhaps, instead of framing our new year with resolutions we can recommit to a practice. What is a practice?
We define practice as present, active engagement.
Here are a few ways to practice.
- Be honest without being brutal.
You can be honest with yourself without being brutal. If goals are ambitious we have to be realistic about what action you need to take to get there. Maybe it will take a long time so what can we do during that time? Outlining a roadmap or plan is important. The more detailed you can be with the steps you need to take, the more wins you experience as you take each step. You know your own capacity better than anyone, take time to reflect on how you can build momentum and avoid burnout.
- Set up an accountability process.
What support will you need for your process? Creating a plan for accountability is key to your success. Create a check in system with yourself to signal when it’s time to ask for help. Schedule check ins on your roadmap with someone who can support you. Join a cohort or working group who can keep you focused. Create multiple points of checking in with yourself and your support team. Accountability can happen gently. It can be a guide back to what is important versus a punitive system to tell you you’ve failed.
- Set themes for change rather than tasks.
It can be difficult to stick to a rigid resolution especially if it’s something you’ve never done before. Instead, set yourself up for success by setting up a theme for your year. Set small tasks throughout the year to reach that goal. For example, instead of saying, “I want to draw more in 2023,” say, “I want to spend time nurturing my creativity in 2023.” In the context of DEI, instead of saying, “We want to hire diverse staff,” instead say, “In 2023, we are going to commit to creating a culture of inclusion on our existing team.” Create a plan that is diverse in action. This way there are many ways to engage with your goals based on your capacity, interest, and mental health.
- Ditch the resolution and commit to a practice instead.
Our relationships to resolutions are tough to let go of. Instead of committing to goals and tasks, commit to a practice. If you are always practicing you can’t fail. Practice does not make perfect, but practice does allow for grace in your moments of growth. As we work towards something through consistent practice we get to enjoy the experience versus focusing on just the outcome.
Making change is all about building on your existing success. As humans, we need wins or positive experiences to stay motivated. We are never starting anything from nothing. Every experience and skill you have can lend itself to a change you want to make. Take inventory on ways you’ve been successful in the past. What went well and where did you need more support? Use what you already know to move your practice forward. Resolutions may have been hard in the past so try something different. Your growth is a lifelong commitment so a timeline of 12 months might not be the best measure of your success.