pixabay new year

Unlimited do-overs

It’s pretty common for New Year’s resolutions to dissolve just weeks into the new year, and as we approach the start of 2018, I have some thoughts on why that’s so.

Don’t get me wrong: I definitely don’t discourage setting resolutions—I am just interested in exploring why we have a hard time keeping them, and I’ve come up with some tips to make resolutions more keep-able.

arbitrary or intentional?

pixabay new years resolutionJanuary 1 is an arbitrary date. It’s like saying you’ll start a new diet…Monday.

A colleague of mine once shared that his therapist calls these “promise goals.” In the coaching world, I’ve often heard them referred to as “when/then” goals. Whatever you call them, the fact is that if you are not ready to making a shift today, making it on an arbitrary day in the future is also highly unlikely.

And if you break your when/then resolution, there’s a tendency to think, “Well, I fell off the wagon, so today (this week, this month, this year) is lost—I might as well make bad choices all day (week, month, year). I’ll get back on the wagon tomorrow (next week, next month, next year).”

In my own experience as a coach and a coaching client (yes, I have my own coaches), I’ve come to realize that there is no greater indicator of commitment to and success in achieving goals than our mindset: simply put, when you’re ready, nothing can stop you, not even your own tired narrative about and resistance to making changes.

That readiness doesn’t usually just appear on a specific day of the week or date—and when it appears, it’s time to act on it, whether it’s a Wednesday or the middle of March.

Perhaps rather unfortunately, it frequently takes slamming into rock bottom to help us get ready. And that’s why those crises happen for not to us.

tip #1

Remember that any given moment is the first one of the rest of your life—we get unlimited do-overs. How cool is that?

external or internal?

pixabay listen to your heartA lot of our resolutions—especially those around health—are the result of us looking outside ourselves for answers and for validation.

An extreme example is resolving to lose weight because, consciously or not, that’s the message we get from most media. And we gauge our success in losing weight by external measures as well, whether it’s the number on the scale, our body fat percentage, or our BMI. And there are similar examples from every area of our lives: our sleep, our physical activity, our career path, our relationships, our spiritual practices, etc.)

It’s as though we look to others to determine what we believe in rather than working from the inside out.

Pausing to consider what we value most and acting in alignment with those values—whether they are shared by others or not—can bring a deep sense of fulfillment and joy, which are in my experience much stronger motivators than external measurements. (I highly recommend Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map for more on this topic.)

I recently had the honor and the pleasure of being interviewed by Andrea Catherine on the Fearless Self-Love podcast, and in that episode (season 1, #6), we dig more deeply into the idea of living with integrity, asking at each turn in our lives whether an action feels “good” or “right” or “true,” not by external standards but by our own internal compass.

tip #2

Want to keep a resolution? Make sure the goal and action you’re committing to are in line with your most deeply-held values and bring you joy—not just in the result but in the action.

Yes, that means you might want to figure out what those values are. And if you’re not quite sure about that, don’t panic—see tip #1 above. If you head down a path without integrity, you get unlimited do-overs to go back to start.

happy new year!

I invite you to reach out any time if you would like support in setting and reaching your health goals.

Wishing you all the best for 2018!


  1. Marine Yanikian-Sutton

    Love tip #1, will definitely have to share it with my students. “Any given moment is the first one of the rest of your life!” Nice. Happy New Year!

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      I started with the quote “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”—yeah, awful earworm—and then realized that makes it too easy to just give up on the day entirely (something I do a lot where sugar/chocolate is concerned). Much better to realize that we have a choice in every moment.

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