There has been a lot of talk lately about how silly New Year’s Resolutions are. Facebook is full of satirical posts pointing out our past failures. Demotivational posters line the internet’s walls, reminding us that we – despite everything 2013 might mean – will continue to be the same as we were in 2012. These have some truth. But, the presence of failure is only half the story. Those who resolve to change will fail, multiple times, before succeeding.
So, in the interest of realistically tackling our New Year’s Resolutions, here is a guide to successful failure:
1. Make Goals for 2014
First, don’t make your expected result part of this year; make it for next year. In other words, don’t say, “I’m never going to bite my nails in 2013.” Say, instead, “I’m never going to bite my nails in 2014.” Spend 2013 becoming the person who will never bite her nails (or what have you) in 2014.
2. Your Brain on Autopilot
So, how do you become that 2014 person? Well, learn a little about how habit formation happens in the brain. There’s lots of interesting articles out there. The long and short of it is that your brain likes autopilot. A lot. It likes autopilot so much that when you try to act differently, it will fight like a cat in a bathtub.
3. Your Will Power gets Tired
Your will power fatigues as you make tough decisions. Choose broccoli over a cookie at lunch and find yourself allowing a heaping dessert at dinner. It’s tough on the brain to make good decisions, especially ones that run counter to previously made decisions. That means making good decisions on January 1, January 2, and January 3 wore out your will power enough that that entire box of Krispy Kremes you swallowed on January 4 kind of makes sense.
4. Let Failures Pass By
It takes 66 days of doing something to really make it a part of your autopilot; accept that the days leading up to those 66 straight days will include failures. That’s the only way to change. Celebrate how long you go between failures. Gradually, watch the failures grow further and further apart. The failures don’t own you.
5. Listen to Mr. Wright
In my favorite talk on iTunes U, N.T. Wright speaks dynamically on spiritual development, habit formation, virtue, and Christianity that folks seeking to improve in any area would benefit from listening to. Find it here under “An Evening with N.T. Wright: Learning the Language of Life.”
Go litter 2013 with the failures necessary to make 2014 a success.