Why New Year’s resolutions don’t work… and why you should make one anyway.
I love New Year’s. I love New Beginnings. I love New Ideas. Don’t you? They are all shiny and bright and festive. But what about New Year’s resolutions? How many of you have made one this year? Or maybe several? And how many of last year’s resolutions did you actually achieve? Or, like someone I know rather well but won’t name *ahem*, do you just recycle last year’s resolutions? You know, just in case, maybe, this year they stick? You know, things like:
- I will write a book.
- I will find an agent.
- I will lose X kilos.
- I will be a nicer person.
- I will do more marketing.
- I will organize my office.
- I will spend less (or more) time on social media.
- I will do more sport.
- I will become a better writer.
Do any of these sound familiar? They do to me… and they are all good ideas. Who doesn’t want to finish their current project? Or start (and finish) a new one? Or be nicer, or be more organized, or in better shape?
We all do.
But how often have any of us achieved those resolutions? If you’re like me… not often. So why don’t resolutions work?
The problem with resolutions isn’t that they aren’t good ideas. Usually they are. It’s also not that (most of the time) they aren’t attainable. Usually they are.
So what’s wrong with us?
What’s wrong is how we formulate our resolutions. Or at least that has been my problem. Let’s take the first resolution, ‘I will write a book’. On the surface, it’s great. I have a year to do it and I probably have an idea (since I wrote I wanted to write a book). But how does it translate into an action? It doesn’t. And that’s the real problem with many New Year’s resolutions. Too often they are formulated as a goal, a wanted outcome, an ideal event. But not as a concrete, step-by-step, task or series of tasks that I can stick to and achieve.
But before we dig deeper into that first resolution, let’s look at another one.
‘I will get an agent’.
Yup. That one. Already it’s harder. We aren’t the only ones in this resolution anymore. Does that mean it shouldn’t be a resolution? No. All it means is that it needs to be formulated differently.
So what about ‘I will try to get an agent’?
Well, even that doesn’t work. Like with ‘I will write a book’ it’s too vague. However, if I decide: ‘I will search for 1 agent I would like to work with and send that person a query’, it is a resolution I can keep. I have a deadline and a specific, task-oriented goal. I can even make a chart and post it next to my computer to help keep me accountable—if I want.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get an agent, but it does mean you are figuring out which agents you would want to work with. And by figuring that out, and targeting specific people, you are more likely to find the right fit than if you send off a hundred queries to agents just because they had ‘YA’ in their listing. Each agent you research, whether you decide to submit to them or not, will help you get closer to your goal. And a relationship you will want to keep.
And all New Year’s resolutions are things we want, and want to keep—or we wouldn’t make them. But they aren’t always the right way of approaching the issue.
For example, if we go back to the resolution ‘I will write a book this year’ it is huge. And vague. And where do we start with that anyhow? And how can we know what is going to happen, in our lives or in the manuscript, for a whole year to come? We can’t. And deciding ‘I will write a chapter a week’ doesn’t necessarily work either. Not all weeks are the same and inspiration can’t be forced to buckle down and cooperate.
So maybe what would actually be more helpful is to make the resolution: ‘I will write at least 100 words every day, no matter what’. And then let those hundred words be about a character, about the plot arc, about a scene, a bit of dialog—or even an entire chapter for those days you are on a roll and can write 3,000 words or more.
But does that help write a book?
For me it does because it forces me to keep in touch with my manuscript every single day. And by keeping in touch with my characters and my world, they continue to be alive for me and my creativity is stimulated. When I have to leave my world for even a few days, it always takes me a while to get back into it. But if I touch base, even just to jot down a few ideas before going to bed, my characters, and their story arc, continue to grow.
So what are your resolutions? Are they attainable, task-oriented goals? And if not, can they be?
Good luck—and let’s touch base in a year!