Do you know anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution that lasted much past February? Why do we keep making them?

It’s not a bad thing to use the New Year to give ourselves a clean slate; an opportunity to start fresh, and live the way we want to live. In truth, we have that opportunity in literally every moment. But the New Year resolution is a tradition that we all share and understand. Also, it gives the fitness and health food industries an opportunity to start their fiscal year on a high point.

All cynicism aside, how can we make New Year’s resolutions we can actually keep throughout the year?

Here's a suggestion: Make your New Year’s resolution as if you knew this year would be your last.

I know it sounds morbid — but bear with me.

Why Most Resolutions Fail

There have been copious amounts of research and a plethora of theories about why resolutions don’t stick.

They’re not specific enough. They’re not framed in positive, empowering language.

You didn’t plan for failure and became discouraged at your first setback. You did plan for failure, so you created a self-fulfilling setback. 

You didn’t reward yourself enough. You rewarded yourself too easily. 

You didn’t create a concrete plan. You created a plan that was too rigid.

All the theories a common theme: your resolution failed because you did something wrong.

But here’s the thing. Maybe you didn’t do anything wrong. 

Throughout all the different theories and lists of contradictory reasons that resolutions fail, one stands out with crystal clarity: the resolution you feel like you should make isn’t what you really want.

Maybe your resolution failed because it simply wasn’t important enough to do your whole life differently. Maybe your resolution failed because it wasn’t right for your life.

Often, our resolutions are what other people want from us that we’re not ready or willing to do, like quitting smoking or some other unhealthy habit.

Maybe the resolution is about what society tells you you should want: eat healthy, exercise, lose weight.

But if, all things being equal, you’d rather eat a pint of Haagen-Daaz while sitting on the sofa and watching old movies all day, that’s probably what you’ll end up doing.

The fact of the matter is, if you really want to change, you will. And if you don’t, you won’t.

How to Determine What You Really Want

To set a resolution that has a better than a snowball’s chance in Laguna, make it in the right mindset.

Imagine knowing that your next year would be your last 12 months of life. We’re not saying it will be. Just pretend it is — no sickness or suffering, but maybe a magic spell whereby your life will simply end painlessly and quietly at midnight next December 31.

How would you want to spend your remaining time?

What would you want to do more of?

What things would simply stop mattering at all?

Maybe it will occur to you how much time smoking keeps you away from those you love. Or how you used to love to go for long walks, dance with your spouse, or play with your children or grandchildren, but you’re no longer in good enough shape. Those are excellent reasons to decide it’s time to quit smoking, lose weight, or get healthy.

But maybe what you’d want to do is simply spend more time doing the things you love with the people you love. If your overall health isn’t what’s keeping you from doing that now, then maybe that’s not the resolution you really want to make.

If spending more time at the gym, or hours on food preparation takes you away from what’s really important to you, those are resolutions that deserve to fail.

But if the resolution is to dance more with your spouse, play more with the kids, or have more meals with good friends, those are resolutions that you can keep, and  ones that will keep you well.

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