What to do About That New Year's Resolution that You're About to Give Up On

By Dennis LaMantia
Freelance Writer

New Year's resolutions are your annual performance review for yourself. It's a great time to set goals for the year. And there are plenty of books to help you with the process. That is if you believe that the only goals worth pursuing are:

  • Ten times as big as your original goal
  • Require that you wake up at 4 a.m.
  • Have a side–hustle (or four)
  • Ditch TV, and humblebrag about how you don't have time for it
  • Ruthlessly prioritize the one thing

Great. That's it? No. If you can work in a detox and fully fund your 401k by February, that'd be great too. Oh, and your goals are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely), right? In short, the more misery you put upon yourself, the more you know you're working toward your goal.

That's why I found “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done,” by Jon Acuff, to be extraordinarily practical and refreshing. Instead of extorting readers to grind and to develop grit, Acuff advocates a counterintuitive approach that might just lead to sustained action.

Cut your goals in half
Huge New Year's resolutions are fun to set and they sound impressive. And you're also less likely to achieve them. The problem is we think we're cheating if we set easy goals. Acuff's response: So what? If you want to lose 10 pounds, make it 5. The sense of accomplishment from hitting that goal will help you attain your future goals.

Start a “future goals” list
If you have a stack of partially read books on your nightstand, a half–finished puzzle on your table, and Spanish lessons that haven't been completed in the past three months, this tip is for you. There's a temptation to jump to another goal midway through the pursuit of a different goal. After all, you're just trying to improve yourself. Instead of jumping to that other goal, just put it on your future goals list, which is an actual list of goals to pursue after you finish your current goal.

Recognize all the ugly faces of perfectionism
You'll start that New Year's Resolution of cleaning out your garage–it's going to be great to have both cars in the garage–and you're going to do it by having a big garage sale. But first, you need to research a label maker since you don't just use masking tape for price tags. You'll also check Pinterest to get ideas for signs to advertise the sale. And remember to open a Square account, so you can accept credit card payments. Acuff offers this example of how a one–step goal of cleaning the garage can become a 20–step process. The alternative to perfectionism isn't sloppiness; it's action.

Make it a game
Want to run a marathon but hate running? Good luck. If your goal in running a marathon is to get healthy, consider a different approach that is more consistent with your values. If you enjoy meeting new people, a group workout program might give you a better shot at achieving your goal. There are certain goals, especially work goals, that might not be fun but are necessary. For those, Acuff suggests using fear or reward motivations. Hit your goal, and your reward might be your favorite drink. Fear motivation could be something like donating to a cause you don't support if you miss your goal.

Need some additional ideas on how to stick to your New Year's resolution for retirement savings? Check out Jackson's retirement planning resources .

The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and individuals quoted and should not be construed as a recommendation or as complete. Dennis LaMantia is not affiliated with Jackson National Life Distributors LLC.

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