Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Stop Setting Goals and Start Making Habits

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Most of us this time of year are resolving and planning for a better year than the last.

If you have already made your list, there is a 91.3% chance it is nearly identical to last year. Why? Because making that list did nothing to change you.

For most of us, resolutions don’t work. So I want to ask you to consider something different this year.

Stop resolving. Stop setting goals. And start developing habits.

Why Resolutions Don’t Work

Resolutions are typically a list of the things that we all know we should be but aren’t. They are a list of all the things we know we should do but don’t.

Your list of resolutions is a way to define your dream. To remind yourself what you are not.

And your dream is powerless to change you for one simple reason.

You are what you do.

Resolves are an idea. A belief. The admission of not doing enough. They are not something we do.

The only way to become someone better, is to do something different. To do something better.

Why Habits Change our Lives

Why do leaky faucets run up the water bill? Why is credit card debt such a problem? Why is the national debt so high? Why are most of us overweight?

Because of habits.

It is the small things occuring on a regular basis, adding up over time, that define who we are. (Tweet that.)

photo by Maegan Tintari (creative commons)

Habits are something we actually do. And they are something we do repeatedly.

Which do you think is worse for you? Eating a 20 oz. ribeye once every two months, or eating half a bag of potato chips every day?

The power of habits lies in the repetition.

The act that you do repeatedly over time, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal really are. The little things that happen daily in your life define who you are more than the big things. The little choices you make over and over determine the direction your life heads more than the monumental decisions.

Over time our habits add up. For good or bad.

Live a Better Story by Changing the Little Things

When we think of habits, we typically think of bad ones. Smoking. Drinking too much. Biting fingernails. Playing Angry Birds.

But habits aren’t necessarily bad. Habits can be good.

The more good habits we have, the more likely we are to be the person we want to be for the same simple truth.

You are what you do.

The better your habits are, the better your story will be.

Have resolutions ever worked for you? Have you ever focused on developing better habits?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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18 Replies

  1. Resolutions have worked for me in the past, because they’ve been about developing better habits. I haven’t set any “resolutions” this year. But I want to maintain the habits that have been formed over the past few years. Sometimes MAINTAIN is just as important as ESTABLISH.

  2. Maintaining is an important part of our habits. Sounds like a great plan, Jon.

  3. Amen, and well said! After years of quickly forgotten resolutions, I’m starting this year with One Word. I think it’s flexible enough and simple enough to remember for twelve months, and I think I’ll find it stretching itself into many areas of my life unexpectedly. :)

  4. Can you share your word? Or at least a link that tells us about your One Word?

  5. Katina Vaselopulos

    Jeremy, I love your post!
    It resonates with my own view of both the usefulness of resolutions and the wisdom of practicing new habits. Looking to correct the negative, if we give or fail for some reason, we lose confidence and return to a worst place. One good new habit, practiced in small ways, however, before long settles in and becomes part of our phyche, mind, and behavior, staying there for life.
    Blessings for a wonderful new year!

  6. I started trying to do resolutions, but I usually forgot about them. I tried goals, but usually forgot about them too, even when written down. Last year, I tried habits related to eating (in the 3rd quarter of 2012). I finally found something that started to work! Once I was successful in making a lifestyle change a habit, I could add to it. Now I’ve got a list of habits I want, based upon goals. It’s been a game-changer (so far!) for me.

  7. Great take on the resolution thing Jeremy. While I struggle with resolutions, goals, and habits I can see how the shift in wording can make a difference. Building it into a habit works much better than just making a resolution.

  8. Sylvia R @

    Yes! This is what I have found: working to develop one small routine through one month, or two (if I fall down often the first month), then keeping on with it for another month, making the routine a habit… all this makes it stick! And that changes bigger things than just that one little area of my life.

  9. Thanks for the post Jeremy. In my opinion, the problem really isn’t resolutions or goals (I think you’d agree). In fact, goals are the necessary motivators for forming habits. Goals are vision. And resolutions are simply “willing” or “resolving” to set yourself toward the achievement of your goals. It seems to me that the problem is with making goals/resolutions without considering what habits must be formed to achieve those goals. And I think this is what you are saying and why this post is important. I would just want to affirm that goals and resolutions are both good and necessary.

  10. Goals can certainly be good, especially if you are in the habit of working towards them. But, yes, my point is that most of us don’t. We typically dream, but never work.

  11. I agree. 1 thing per month can be a great way to get started.

  12. Often the resolution is an idea and not something actionable.

  13. I changed my eating habits too. I pretty much eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch and its given me the ability to control what I eat better.

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