New Year’s Resolution
It’s a new year! Now is the time to make a new life resolution. Not just any kind, but one that will last for the rest of the year. The most effective way to create New Year’s resolution is by being minimalist. Whether you want to transition to a new career, save more money, lose more weight, or make new friends, effective New Year’s resolutions should be easy to follow, easy to track, and easy to remember. How do you make this possible? By keeping it minimal—few items that only requires a few steps to get done.
Oh, and by the way, I believe you should start something new anytime you want. Just like what Penelope Cruz said in Vanilla Sky: “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” Each passing minute—truly—is a chance to start over again, NOT just on every 1st of January. But since it is the beginning of the year, why not take advantage of the momentum? Let’s go and let nothing stop us. Not even the fact that most New Year’s resolutions fail.
80% of New Year’s Resolutions Fail
The truth is that 80% of resolutions fail by February (U.S. News and World Report). It certainly has been true with me in the past. I make New Year’s resolutions only to forget about them by February. There are many reasons for this. The popular business magazine and website Inc. said the problem lies in the psychology behind the word resolution. While U.S. News health section identified holiday remorse as the culprit. But it’s more than that. It’s the length of time (365 days), the way you structure your goals, the lack of accountability, etc. check out Lifehack.org published article on 10 reasons why New Year’s resolution fail.
Strategies on how to keep your New Year’s resolutions are just as abundant. From exercising to treating yourself to some delicious food, hundreds of websites give hundreds of advice. The most research-backed article is probably the one by the American Psychological Association. I encourage you to read the article and adapt the ones that would really work for you.
A Filipino has many obstacle to overcome. In her desire to succeed in life, she will try to tackle all of them at once. A Filipino also has many dreams and desires. In his pursuit of those dreams, he will try to pursue them all at once. That is where the challenge lies with setting goals and making New Year’s resolutions. We attack on all fronts. We go in many directions. But today, I’m going to show you how to keep it simple. Read on…
The Minimalist Approach
The minimalist approach to New Year’s Resolutions is to focus on the most essential tasks and remove everything else that only serves to distract you. It’s a goal setting formula to help you focus your time, energy, and attention to the essential things. To get started, follow this:
Your list of New Year’s resolution should only be three items or less. Commit to three goals to which you can maximally give your time, energy, and attention.
Below is my three-step process to creating effective New Year’s resolutions.
How to Creating Effective New Year’s Resolutions
- Reflect on the previous year.
- Rank the most important lessons (or biggest mistakes) you learned.
- Commit to excelling in the top three most important lessons.
Step 1: Reflect on the previous year
Freewrite. Think about important events last year that generated strong emotions. Write and don’t stop to edit or change, just keep writing. Write a whole page or two.
Step 2: Rank the most important lessons learned
Here is an example of the list I made of my most important lessons last year:
- My habits determine life trajectory
- Stress is a result of overcommitting
- Financial security affects my happiness
- So many interest and I want to pursue them all.
- Spending time with my son is priceless.
- There will always be good people and not so good people everywhere I go
- I lose my motivation easily when I didn’t get enough rest (8 hours of sleep)
- There are so many Netflix shows I want to watch, but not enough time.
Here are my top three lessons with some explanation for processing:
- Habits determine life trajectory. I wake up, I drink coffee, I watch funny YouTube videos. Then I take care of my 21-month old son until my wife gets home. I did this over and over again in the early months of 2019 until one day I noticed myself getting cranky and emotional for no reason. I realized that I felt unsatisfied and trapped with my situation, yet have become too comfortable to change anything. If it wasn’t for my family, I would not have done anything. But I want to be better for my wife and son. I, especially, want to be a good role model for my son. So I evaluated my situation and realized that I have unknowingly created habits that moved me away from my goals and desires in life. It needs to change.
- Stress is a result of over-committing. In spite of switching to part-time employment in order to be a full-time dad, I still experienced a lot of stress. I am happy with my new responsibilities as a parent, but I continued to take on extra responsibilities. In addition to making sure my baby is safe and growing, I wanted to read more books, run more half-marathon races, host more gatherings, and… develop an online financial literacy workshop for the program that I was a part of. I wasn’t hired to be the online content developer, but I signed up for this extra responsibility for free.
- Financial security affects happiness. Financial security was never at the forefront of my goals in the past. I was more concerned about raising my self-esteem, dealing with past trauma, and getting over my insecurities. I was more interested about my experiences with racism and understanding the history of discrimination in America while I was buried in credit card debt and a student loan that grows every year (because I was paying minimum). I realized after getting married and starting a family how important saving money for the future really is. I realized that feeling happy and peaceful is correlated to my ability to support my family. If I have an extra $500 after paying all our bills and setting aside investment funds each month, I feel happy, grateful, and more confident to deal with the world. Why? Because I feel secure to provide for my family.
Step 3: My Minimalist New Year’s Resolutions
Based on the top three lessons I learned in the previous year, these are my New Year’s resolutions:
- I will proactively design a routine to be more productive. In the past, I let my circumstances shape my behaviors and created an non-proactive routine at home. I let circumstances and environment dictate my actions. I would wake up, drink coffee, watch funny YouTube videos, take care of my baby, etc. What I would like to do is to wake up, brew coffee, do sit-ups or meditate, write a draft of a blog post, setup my son’s play area and lay out the five books to read with him before he wakes up. Later during the day, when my wife arrives, I want to have more meaningful conversations with her.
- I will combat over-commitment and overwhelm by becoming a minimalist. This includes limiting my to-do list for the day, saying “no” to voluntary tasks at work, and commit to doing one thing until completion before starting a new one. I will ask the powerful focusing question, formulated by Gary Keller (The ONE Thing), as often as I can: what’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? In regards to my job, I will ask: What’s the ONE thing I can master at my job such that everything else will be easier or unnecessary? And, what’s the ONE work task I can dedicate my time, energy, and effort so that by doing such everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
- I will continue to pursue financial independence. One of the best things that happened to me in the previous year was becoming hyper conscious about my financial situation. I started implementing some of Kristy and Bryce’s (from Millennial Revolution) investment advice; such as, changing my retirement plan to 100% S&P 500 and increasing my monthly contributions. My retirement funds increased last year and I feel much more secure with my financial situation now. I’ve discovered the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement. And although I don’t ever plan to retire, I will emulate many of the people who achieved financial independence and retired early. So far, I met my end-of-year projections. It’s been a success! Thank you FI folks.
I’m confident about following through with my New Year’s resolutions. It’s easier to keep if there’s only three or less on the list.
Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You are human and will stumble along the way. If you stop in February, just continue in June or September. And if you have really lost interest with your original list, then create a new one. Remember, “every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” (Vanilla Sky).
Always make improvements in your life. Start a new goal/resolution in the middle of the year, or in November 2020 if you have to. The important thing is you don’t give up. If you are not making improvements, you are not growing. And if you’re not growing, then you’ll never find happiness and fulfillment. Stagnation is the enemy. Always make constant improvements.
I now leave you with a short TED Talk by Stephen Duneier, one of the most productive people that I know about. The title of Stephen’s talk is How to Achieve Your Most Most Ambitious Goal. What is his secret? Make marginal adjustments, break down big goals into smaller manageable ones. Complete one small task each day that will move you closer to your goals. You will be pleasantly surprised how marginal adjustments can make you accomplish big things like year long commitments.
What are your New Year’s resolution? How realistic is it that you’ll follow through?
You might also want to check my very first blog post: 5 Ways to Become a More Productive Filipino in 2020