Tired of failing your own resolutions? Try this simple formula instead.

Well, here we are again.

It’s 7:10 pm here in Shanghai, and after working for the past 9 hours I am now sitting in my apartment, rushing myself to push this article out and to prepare myself for one of the few New Year parties I plan to attend tonight. And despite my trying to think of a beautiful and well thought-out introduction, it really doesn’t need one.

It’s flat-out simple.

We set ourselves for failure when we think of new year resolutions we don’t keep track of. What does it mean to “eat healthier”? How will you know by the end of 2018 whether you’ve really eaten a lot healthier than in 2017? How much more? If you can remember two full years of eating habits, congratulations. I definitely can’t.

For those of you out there who feel the same frustration, fear not, as there is a fix: set short-term goals that are easy to track. Here’s how.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

It comes down to 3 variables.

If you haven’t already, I suggest adding The 4 Disciplines of Execution to your book list for this year. Although the book itself is mostly geared towards organizations and teams within a corporation, some of their insights can be applied to your own personal life rather effectively.

To achieve excellence — the authors argue — you need to focus on a very small number of goals (2 to 3 should be enough). The bigger the number of goals you have set to achieve, the less likely you are to achieve them since the priority for each of those goals will dilute over time.

So what’s this formula?

To make it easier for you to measure and ultimately hit your goals, it’s important that you set a finish line from X to Y by when. To put this into practice, here’s my favorite example used in the book about John F. Kennedy’s high ambitions:

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy shook NASA to its foundations when he made the pronouncement “land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth before this decade is out.” Suddenly, NASA had a formidable new challenge, the war it would fight for the next ten years, and it was stated in exactly the way WIGs [Wildly Important Goals] should be stated: “X” is earthbound, “Y” is to the moon and back, and “when” is by December 31, 1969.

How does this relate to your New Year resolutions?

Instead of dishing out vague statements like “I’ll read more”, “I’ll write more” and “I’ll get fitter”, I’ve decided to hold myself accountable for everything I have planned for 2018 — and you should too.

  1. Instead of “reading more”, I plan on reading 2 books every month by the end of April. It might not seem like many, but it is to me. If by the end of April I have in fact read 2 books every month, I can revisit my goal and increase to 3 books a month. I’m always looking to improve.
  2. Instead of “writing more”, I want to go from 20 stories in 2017 to 50 stories published on my website Creative Humans by the end of 2018. That’s another 30+ stories I have to write, an average of about 2 stories a month. Fairly doable.
  3. Instead of “eating healthier”, I will enroll in and complete 2 courses on nutrition by the end of January. Not having a good understanding of what types of foods are right for me based on my own body structure has been a solid frustration for me over the past few weeks. I’d like to do something about that.

Those are my top 3 goals. More than that and I would most likely lose focus and see my chances of success decrease. Adding some of those goals to my social media profiles also adds accountability. Sure, I could always delete them from my profiles, but then I know that there would be a sense of regret I would find remarkably hard to shake off.

I want to prove everyone — myself included — that this time, I can make it work. I can have full control over everything I do, see my progress, and consequently feel happier about all my achievements.

This year will be our year.

Game on, 2018.

Constantly experimenting with life.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store