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[Week 24.01] The New Year’s Daily Resolution

Scott Osman

January 22, 2024

Another new year, another season of fresh resolutions. In and of themselves, these resolutions feel noble; we aspire to bring about positive change in ourselves and our lives. But the positivity of the first few weeks of the year is quickly followed by the regret of failure. Have you ever wondered what it means that most people fail to achieve their New Year's resolution? Here is one often used "statistic": "80 percent of people drop their resolutions by the second week of February." Or this one: Strava, based upon 800 million users logged activities, predicts that most people will quit by January 19th. They call it "Quitter's Day."

It doesn't have to be this way, and I will tell you how to shift the narrative. The approach is based on Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter's classic book Triggers. The book details an approach to asking yourself daily questions that trigger positive change. I have been doing the Daily Questions process with Ayse (Eye-Shay) Birsel for over three years now, and I feel like I can change almost anything I commit to change. At the core of Triggers is a reframing of how we create change, and that's where the new approach to New Year's resolutions comes in. Here is the new approach:

Choose something you want to change in 2023. Make it something that is observable and that you can examine daily. Then, every day, give yourself a 1 to 10 score of how well you tried to accomplish it (the key word is “tried” - intentions do matter, according to Marshall). Look at your score at the end of the year and see how you did. If you arrive at the end of the year with a score - you have accomplished your New Year's resolution!

Sounds simple, right? It is. For over a year I have been testing this, and here are some examples of what I have been doing. Test #1: I have a natural sweet tooth and "need" dessert after dinner. My test resolution: Did I try my best to avoid processed desserts after dinner? Average score: 8.6 (6 out of 7 days). Test #2: Did I try my best to get 8 hours of sleep last night? Average score: 9.0. Test #3: Did I try my best not to watch TV/movies on Saturday? Average score: 6.0. I plan to carry these habits into 2023 and perhaps add a few more.

Perhaps you are thinking - wow! You have stopped eating dessert 6 out of 7 days a week, impressive! (That's what I'm thinking; I didn't think I would make it four days!) Or maybe you are thinking - barely over 50% of the time, you stick to your goal of not watching TV on Saturday; what's that about? Here is the real bottom line: in keeping this up for a year, I have avoided over 300 desserts and spent 26 Saturdays filling my free time with something other than TV. It's not all or nothing. It's about succeeding by trying. It's about not having to stop because you missed one day. Every day is a new fresh start and a chance for success.

Try it out and see if it works for you. I will warn you that it is simple but not easy. It takes discipline to consistently track and review progress. If you want to try the Daily Questions process, I recommend finding a friend to do it with. You'll spend less than 10 minutes on the phone every day asking each other your questions. You write the questions; you give the answers. However, a little external accountability goes a long way.

I'd like this to be a movement where we celebrate our accomplishments and slough off our imperfections. Since your measure of success is trying every day, there is no failure. Whatever you accomplish at the end of the year is better than if you did nothing. Please pass it on, and let me know how you do! And I wish you and those you love a year of health, happiness, and magic.

With love, gratitude, and wonder.


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