Why I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions anymore and what to do instead?

January 01, 2022

I believed in new-year resolutions. That was my mistake. I am not laughing at someone who does NYR. It’s just not for me.

My experience from my several attempts at NYR shows it’s not effective. In my case it looked like that:

  1. At the turn of the year, I spent hours planning all the great things I was gonna achieve. I felt great – I lived in the dream world, the sky was the limit and I could have done almost anything.
  2. When it came to execution, I was able to proceed with my top-notch plan, living the dream I mention above for a couple of days or even weeks.
  3. Next, the crisis happened. I failed once on my plan. Then again. And again. After a few de-rails, I felt terrible. What a man I was? I could have accomplished a few simple routines.
  4. That was the moment when the guilt and remorse usually came in.
  5. The feelings made me uncomfortable with myself. So I tried to push those thoughts back, coming to the conclusion my NYR was stupid from the very beginning.



So, what happened next? After several failures, I understood NYRs are not for me. How can I implement meaningful changes in my life?

Here’s what I do know:

  1. Action is the most important thing.
  2. Start with a small, almost invisible, action.
  3. The action creates the identity and the identity keeps me going.
  4. The next action is in my control, the final result not.


What matters, is the action. I can talk about my goals or NYR. I can think about them, I can plan them. I can need them. I can want them. But none of these gets me any closer. The thing that gets me closer is action.


I usually start small. I think of the smallest action I can take. It could be so small, that it’s almost invisible. Then I do it. If I cannot make it, I seek and choose, even smaller action, the one I feel comfortable doing.


The action I take makes me feel like a person who does the action. Then I start acting like the person who does the action. And finally, I become the person who does the action.


The thing I am in control of, is the next action, the process, not the outcome. Let’s say my NYR is to lose 10 kilograms. Am I in any control of this NYR? I guess not. My weight depends on many factors, some of them are loosely in my control, eg. genetic disease, metabolism. What I am in control of is the process, the next action I can take. I can go for a walk/run, eat less of this and more of that, skip the last meal of the day, etc. These are the things under my control.

Here are two examples from my life, learning a new language and meditating

I wanted to learn a new language. Using that language decently would help in my work now and in the future. I had been hesitating for a long time until I found out I was overwhelmed with the whole idea of learning the language. So I decided to focus on the next smallest action I could have taken. Learning the language is a huge thing, spending 3 minutes on it daily is not. I installed again Duolingo on my phone and dedicated myself to spending as little time as possible on learning. The goal was not to learn a language but to create and sustain a process of spending time on learning. Since that twist in my mind, I have been having a strike of over 150 days of daily learning (and still counting).

I wanted to meditate. I thought it was a good exercise for my mind. I bought an online course, took lessons, and tried to spend at least 15 minutes of meditation a day. I failed after a couple of days. Neither did I finish the course, nor did I meditate. I was back into square one. I changed the approach. How about spending 1 minute in silence? It could have done any harm. How about spending this 1 minute in silence observing my breath? How about 2 minutes? I steadily increased the amount of time I spent on meditation. Right now it’s natural and non-problematic to spend 10-15 minutes.


  1. James Clear – Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
  2. Derek Sivers – ‘Hell yeah or No’
  3. Robert Maurer – ‘One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way to Success’

What is your experience?

Best, Olek

Calmly written in Difree

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Written by Aleksander Jaworski who lives and works in Wrocław, Poland, co-creating Difree. You should follow us on Mastodon.

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