A new beginning, a clean slate, and endless possibilities — who doesn’t love the fresh start of a New Year? While not everyone chooses to make New Year’s resolution goals, research shows that in 2021, 74% of Americans intend to do so.
If you’re like many Enneagram Type 3s, you started writing your New Year’s resolution goals a couple of months ago. Don’t worry, this is a judgment-free zone, and you’re in good company. If you didn’t read my blog post on life as an Enneagram Type 3, this personality type is called “the Achiever” or “the Performer.” Now, excelling at to-do lists is stereotypical of 3s, but I’ve personally found it to be quite accurate. As a 3, I can attest to the thrill of New Year’s resolutions, because a to-do list doesn’t get more glorious than that!
But even for high achievers, putting together New Year’s resolutions can be intimidating. And whether you’re specifically an Enneagram 3 or just a go-getter, resolutions can also be toxic. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. And I’ve been a part of that 80% more often than I’d like to admit.
I’ve seen New Year’s resolutions play on one of my greatest weaknesses: my fear of failure. But I’ve also witnessed how resolutions can act as a great reset in my life and serve as an opportunity for growth and change. While I haven’t by any means perfected the art of making and keeping New Year’s resolution goals, I’ve tried and failed enough to put together a few tips that I hope will be helpful for my fellow resolution-makers this year!
Push yourself out of your comfort zone, but not too far.
On December 31st, I’m usually feeling really inspired to take on the New Year. I decide to tackle not just one goal, but five or six — and they’re always extremely ambitious. Sometimes I don’t even make it past the first week!
The point of New Year’s resolutions is challenging yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, but keep your goals limited and realistic. It’s a tough balance — don’t resolve to achieve something you were going to do anyway, but also don’t make it something so unattainable you fail in the first month.
Make your New Year’s resolution goals quantifiable.
According to psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, one of the greatest reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is that they’re not specific enough. “Eating healthier” or “working out more” just doesn’t cut it. Goals must be measurable. Otherwise, how will you know if you succeeded?
However, as I just mentioned, setting overly aggressive goals can also be really discouraging. For example, if you resolve to read a book a week, and then realize there’s no way you can sustain that, you might be inclined to just throw in the towel and give up reading altogether. Don’t do that! Instead, try setting a more realistic goal, like reading 15 minutes a day or reading a book a month.
Again, it’s important to challenge yourself, but try to set yourself up for success — it is possible to have resolutions that are both quantifiable and attainable.
Establish accountability, but don’t broadcast.
We achievers love talking about our goals, and it can be tempting to post about our resolutions on social media. While it’s true that large-scale public accountability can help hold you to your goals, I’ve found that broadcasting can be counter-productive. First, it adds a lot of pressure. Second, talking about your resolutions can shift your focus to the social perception your resolutions create, rather than the goal itself.
In this world of social media where we all share every detail of our lives, I think there’s something sacred about keeping your resolutions to yourself. That being said, you must find accountability or your goals don’t stand a chance.
Try exchanging resolutions with one or two trusted friends. Set regular times to connect — maybe schedule a monthly coffee date or even just set a weekly reminder on your phone to check in. But, keep it real and prepare to be honest about your failures, which brings me to my final point.
Don’t be afraid to fail at your New Year’s resolution goals.
As imperfect humans, failure is inevitable. Some people manage to stick to very ambitious resolutions without messing up once, and if you’re one of those incredible people then I applaud you. But long-term perfection is unattainable, and expecting yourself to make resolution goals year after year and never fail is just not realistic.
Unfortunately, I can be kind of an all-or-nothing person, and when I fail I just want to quit. In my post on life as an Enneagram Type 3, I talked about imposter syndrome and how paralyzing failure can be for achievers. A 3’s basic desire is to be valuable and our basic fear is of being worthless. Unfortunately, our great weakness is that our identity is so wrapped up in our accomplishments. In the past, failing at my New Year’s resolution goals has had a devastating impact on my self-worth.
Social media has also contributed to the more damaging side of New Year’s resolutions. Everyone posts about their successfully kept resolutions, but no one posts about the ones that fizzled on January 17th. Don’t get me wrong — it’s important to celebrate our victories. But the curse of our connected, curated lives is that we start to believe our resolutions must be completed with perfection, or they’re not worth doing at all.
Lasting change and growth happen gradually. Don’t let failing at your New Year’s resolutions discourage you, but instead strive for consistency over time. This year, when you write down your resolutions, also write down a reminder to yourself for when you fail. We’re so hard on ourselves, but what would you say to your best friend to encourage them? Write it down and save it for when you slip up this year.
This powerful quote is attributed to the great author, C.S. Lewis: “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” As you make your resolution goals for the coming year, I hope you’ll be encouraged to challenge yourself, face your failures, and continue to push forward on the road to success.
Happy New Year!