I hate New Year's resolutions.
A single day neither decides what you will or will not be motivated to do over the next year, nor does it decide whether you'll actually commit to creating new and beneficial habits.
The New Year's holiday is often nothing more than an excuse to passively complain about what you dislike in your own life, while being too lazy to make any long-term changes.
I cannot stand the naïve, happy-go-lucky aura that surrounds it.
Sure, there are a few people here and there who make a commitment and actually follow through with that commitment until they reach their goal(s).
I applaud those people.
I applaud them because they didn't actually make a New Year's resolution.
They didn't make a fleeting "promise" to pay for a couple months of gym memberships before realizing they're "too busy" and could spend that money elsewhere.
They didn't start working on a project, only to leave it unfinished in their garage gaining dust.
They created a year-long plan (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer) to accomplish their goals, and they saw them through to the end.
While I can't stand New Year's resolutions and the hype that surrounds them, I love long-term projects.
So instead of succumbing to the hype and instability of a New Year's resolution, here are six things you can and in its place:
1. Decide (roughly) where you want to be a year from now.
Do you want to be a better friend?
Do you want to learn an instrument?
Do you want to be in a different career you'll feel more strongly about?
Do you want to build a startup?
This is difficult for anyone to figure out.
I understand that, especially if you're in a transitional period.
But, you have to decide what restaurant you're going to before you can eat.
2. Figure out how to improve at something you want to be better at.
Before you can set out to accomplish anything, you have to figure out what in blazes you're actually going to accomplish.
Let's say I want to be a better writer. The most obvious way to improve is to write more.
So if by next January I want to be a better writer, say good enough to be paid full-time (or paid more) for it, how much do I need to write to get there?
Let's say I want to lose weight and get in shape.
In what ways do I need to change my diet to lose weight?
What kind of exercises do I need to do, and how often, to get in shape?
Whatever it is you want to set out to accomplish, you need to work through the process of what it's going to take to get you there.
3. Create a plan to get there.
Buying a gym membership is not creating a plan.
You need to have set steps along the way.
Day in and day out, here's my biggest tip for accomplishing any long-term goal: "Today, I am going to do X."
You insert what "X" is.
Saying you're going to lose weight this year is absolutely absurd.
Where's the accountability? What's the actual goal?
How are you going to get there?
But saying, "Today, I am going to go to the gym for 30 minutes before I get ready for work" is a concrete statement and goal you can and will achieve.
Or say things like, "Today, I am going to write 1,500 words towards my book," or "Today, I am going to spend an hour practicing this instrument."
This is the best way you'll find to building a habit, and it's integral to any plan you create for your year-long project.
4. Have set goals and milestones.
You're not going to accomplish any long-term goal without milestones or checkpoints along the way.
Maybe you can set weekly goals.
For instance, I had a year-long project to read a book a week for 52 weeks. (I wanted to force myself to relax and work on becoming a better writer.)
Every week, I had the goal of finishing a book.
Others might need a monthly goal.
Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds a month, and that's your milestone.
Just be sure to create as many opportunities for goal achievement, success, accomplishments, etc. along the way to your end goal.
Doing so will give you more motivation at each checkpoint, and it will help you build the habits you know you need.
5. Share what you're doing with as many people as possible.
You will not achieve what you want without accountability.
Accountability doesn't mean having someone else yelling at you to do XYZ whenever you fail to.
Accountability means sharing your goals, hopes, dreams, passions and aspirations with others so they can help and encourage you to stay motivated to continue on your path to success.
If nothing else, the fear of letting someone down is one of the strongest motivators you'll find.
By telling as many people you can about your plans, you'll be much more motivated to complete it so you don't let them down and yourself.
Luckily, social media has made this part easier than ever before.
You can keep a blog, write continual updates on Facebook, post daily pictures on Instagram, etc.
6. Don't wait until January 1.
This is the part that most frustrates me the most with New Year's resolutions.
If you actually want to make a change in your life, why in the world do you have to wait for the day to come to you?
You can start today; you should start today.
Forget a resolution that will die out with everyone else's by February.
Set out today to begin accomplishing your goals, and you won't get stuck in the rut of all your friends tapping out after a few "difficult" weeks.