New year’s resolutions “don’t work”

Frameworks I've found useful in setting goals & maximising the probability of you achieving them

Read time: 9 mins

👋 Hey, it’s Ashvin. Welcome to my occasional newsletter where I share my learning adventures, thoughts and reflections as I journey through building a startup and navigating the world of Generative AI.

My goal with this newsletter is to share anything helpful I’ve been learning in case it inspires you or helps you along your journey.

If you haven’t already, do subscribe :)

In this week’s newsletter, I’ll be breaking down some of the frameworks I’ve found useful in setting New Year’s Resolutions, my experiences and thoughts about them.

Grab a cup of coffee and join along :)

(Btw this ended up being much longer than I initially expected 😆 feel free to skim through or jump to relevant sections to you!)

Anyways, first some quick updates:

Quick life updates ✨

I’ve been building a marketing agency that helps founders/business owners/solopreneurs build their personal brands over the last 3 years (whacked).

In October last year my co-founder (Lizzie) and I decided to join Antler, a renowned tech accelerator program, similar to YC; but focused on day 0, early stage companies.

In December we completed the program, pitched to the panel of investors at Antler. We also incorporated a new company (Cleve) which aims to be the go-to AI personal assistant for creators (more on this in a future newsletter).

And in a couple days we’ll be getting the official results on whether or not we’re securing the investment from Antler.

(Either way, we’ve learned sooo much from the Antler program & decided to launch efforts in building the startup regardless of the investment results)

So yeah exciting year ahead and lots to learn! So, so, so grateful for all the support from all of you in the past year ❤️

Anyways back to the topic for today - New Year’s Resolutions.

New year’s resolutions “don’t work”

This topic was inspired by this random conversation I was having with Lizzie recently.

I’ve got a bit of a problem with the jokes around New Year’s resolutions that are popular and circulate around social media.

“I made a New Year's resolution to stop procrastinating, but I'm going to wait until next year to start.”

“My new year’s resolution is to achieve the ones I set last year, which I wrote the previous year”

Don’t get me wrong, I mean I do find them funny, but too much of hearing anything (even a joke) can become a part of your subconscious beliefs.

And it could make you feel like this whole resolution business is pointless.

At least that’s how I started to feel. I wasn’t achieving a number of my goals so maybe this resolution thing doesn’t work anyways.

Though one philosophy I’ve started adopting recently is that things happen (or don’t happen for a reason.

When we don’t achieve our goals, I’ve found it’s usually due to one of these reasons:

1. It isn’t a priority (or was never a priority enough)

2. We forget about the goal

3. We didn’t have a clear system to move towards the goals.

We’ll break these down over the course of this article & analyse each reason to find solutions to increase the probability as much as possible for you to hit your goals.

Part 1: Why even set goals in the first place?

Your goals define which opportunities you take, and which you don’t

Ashvin’s shower thoughts

As we go through life, we have to make choices - a lot of them. With every choice, there’s going to be an opportunity cost tied to the option we didn’t pick.

Our main constraint (or limiting factor) in this is time. We only have a limited time on Earth to make these choices, so we will need to pick.

Goals help you identify what is important to you in life, and which choices do you want to make.

Eg. if one of your goals is to get into good shape, you’re probably going to be prioritising the time for the extra hour of training/bodybuilding a day, over say - spending that hour learning a new language, going to a dance class or learning to code.

So instead of listing out all the things you want to do in life as your goals for this year; ask yourself first; what are your actual priorities this year & why?

From your list of 20 things you want to improve yourself in, what are the top 3 that you want to commit to this year? and why is this top 3 so important to you?

If that why is strong enough, and you’ve only got a few things you’ve identified, the priorities are clear, and you can focus & double down on these areas.

Here’s 5 questions that I used for myself in defining my priorities this year:

1. What is the goal?

2. Why do I want to achieve this goal? How would it impact me?

3. What is the emotional reason behind me wanting to achieve this goal?

4. What does my future self look like? (with this goal prioritised)

5. What would it look like if I didn’t have this?

This structure wasn’t something I came across in a self-help book actually. It’s a sales framework I learned when I was doing B2B sales.

When you’re selling something to someone; you need to understand their underlying motivations, goals and build a strong enough “why” case before they buy.

With your personal goals, you’re essentially selling your goals & dreams to yourself. You have to be “sold” that this is the best decision for you this year in order to get working on it.

One of my goals this year is to build up my fitness, strength and bulk up. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years, but have never really prioritised, and I never had a strong enough why for it until this year. I’ll share some examples from my approach in moving towards this goal throughout the article.

Part 2: Keeping the goal in mind

When we’re dealing with customers, one thing I learned was you need to keep reminding them of their “why” for taking up a service / doing something.

In whacked’s context - during monthly calls with our clients we would remind them about their long-term goals with their personal brand and content; the audience they’re aiming to build.

I think the same framework applies to ourselves too. Most things we want to improve in our lives take a significant amount of work and energy; and while doing that work and feeling the “pain” of moving towards our goals, we lose sight of the vision and forget the why.

As a result, we tend to drop off from those goals.

What I’ve found effective is having the goals (and why’s) written somewhere you can easily & regularly see.

Whether that’s at the first few pages of a journal you use everyday, on a vision board, or on a small paper taped to your wall.

In my case for the fitness goals, I’ve got a journal which I use daily, where I’ve put my key fitness goals on page 1.

Part 3: Think thoroughly about the systems

Once that’s clear, you can start breaking down the goal into actionable steps.

Again, steps 1 and 2 are most important because if the why and vision is strong enough, you’ll have the energy & drive to execute.

But systems are what makes it possible to achieve those goals.

Here’s how I’ve been approaching building systems:

1. Write down the goal, and define it clearly on the top of the page.

2. What do you know about how to accomplish this goal?

3. How can you move towards this goal on a weekly basis?

4. How can you create accountability towards this goal?

5. What metrics / indicators can you look at towards this goal?

6. How can you celebrate small wins in taking action towards the goal?

Eg. for my fitness system, in the same order, here’s what I’ve written.

1. My goal is to build up muscle to feel confident (especially when meeting clients and stakeholders; and in pictures)

2. I got some basic understanding of how muscles grow; how progressive overload works, which exercises target which muscles, how many reps and sets I would need to do & diet changes I need to make. I’d break it down to an exact science.

3. I setup a weekly routine of two push days, two pull days, a leg day and a rest day. Setting a min of 15 mins (which should be feasible with a busy schedule) & timeblock in my calendar.

4. In my case I’d share this with Lizzie and invite her to join along some sessions

5. I keep a record of my exercises on pen and paper (number of sets and loads)

6. After each workout, I’d reward myself with some time to drum along to some of my favourite songs.

When it comes to systems, there’s 2 schools of thought on achieving them.

  1. Take massive action

  2. Small daily changes

Take massive action means making sudden changes in your life, especially with things you want to significantly improve. Go all out in a specific priority that you’re looking to build in.

I’ve realised different people build systems in different ways. So far, I’ve seen more success with massive action and very focused efforts; while other people around me tend to have more success with small daily changes & improvements.

I’d suggest to try both and figure out which approach works better for you.

Part 4: How I’m approaching my fitness goal differently this year.

A snippet of my approach to building systems and figuring out fitness

While reflecting, I think the biggest reason for me for not achieving my fitness goals in the last year was it just wasn’t prioritised.

Sure I wanted to build muscle and bulk up, but why?

There’s a few things I’ve documented in my why this year.

  1. Pretty privellege is a thing

    • I was having a chat with a creator friend last year, Declann (Instagram: @__diditee__) and he shared something really interesting.

    • Most of the big creators that we follow are pretty good looking, well put-together and pretty fit, even if they’re knowledge-based creators who aren’t “influencers”.

    • The reality is being “pretty” is an unfair advantage which affects people subconsciously. We associate pretty people with being successful, capable and aspirational.

    • As much as I dislike the idea; I’ve kind of accepted it as a reality and something I need to somewhat prioritise too.

  2. I want to feel more confident, and confidence was one of my biggest limiting factors last year.

  3. I want to do something that gives me more headspace to think (and helps with my short form content addiction tendencies).

Of course the usual things come in after - better health, able to have more energy, etc. But to make getting fit a priority for me; I needed something more tangible and in line with my main goals which are in building businesses, influence and career.

In a nutshell

I wouldn’t dismiss the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. I think it’s important for us to (in regular intervals -eg once a year) to evaluate where we are in our lives, take corrective actions, recognise our wins and assess our priorities.

Life is messy, complicated and things change like crazy all the time, so it’s also a good time to give yourself a bit of a break from the execution and hustle, and look at the bigger picture; so you know where you’re going.

For myself, I’m not sure if I’ll hit my fitness goals (or whether this will remain a priority as things change over the course of this year) but I think the exercise definitely gave me a certain level of clarity.

Hopefully some of these frameworks help you too in building the life you’re aiming to :)

Lastly just wanted to mention that we’re all in this together 💪 Happy new year everyone! Wishing you guys a happy and fulfilling year ahead.

Cheers,

Ashvin

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