Here we go again. It’s the start of a brand new year, and just like every year that preceded it, it’s time to make that infamous list… That’s right, your list of New Years Resolutions. I’m going to get straight to the point: I don’t like New Years Resolutions. I think that, as well-intentioned as they may be, you should skip them entirely. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I’m going to extend this statement even further into uncomfortable territory: If you’re making the typical resolution for one or more goals in 2013 then you’re already planning your own failure.

I’ll readily admit that this is a bold claim, one you probably don’t like. But, if what I’m about to say can help you, then, I’m absolutely okay with that.

Just before this new era of our lives begins, tradition says that we’re supposed to indulge our imaginations and think about our personal possibilities in the coming year. Following this, we write our little lists, and hope for the best, thinking we’ve just made that big, first step. The problem here is that we actually haven’t.

Let’s take a peek at the typical quality of a New Years Resolution. Often times we desire transformative goals hence why something related to body image (e.g fat loss) is almost always at the top of the list. This is the first issue we encounter. Many people confuse the action of creating a list as the commencement of their transformation. In reality, a list is more suited to being an organizational tool. It’s not the powerful statement or experience needed to initiate the kind of personal shift we desire.

Think of it this way: If you just wrote a few goals down on a piece of paper, slapped that onto your fridge with a magnet, how much effort did you really put into into it? You have a list without planning, without any kind of commanding trigger, and this is supposed to push you into action? Granted, some people take this one step further and talk to their friends or colleagues about their list. Then again, how often is this actually just a social event that’s used to make future failure okay? Ever notice how everyone half-jokes about their goals within the group, making their desires known, yet subtly admitting defeat before anything is ever even initiated? This phenomenon is so prevalent that the gym industry has its own category of clients known as the (surprise!) “resolutioners.”

I could go on and further put-down the New Years Resolution (really, I can), but I think I’ve made the most important point clear: The New Years Resolution, despite its best intentions, is not the best way to begin changing yourself for the better. So, for those of you who have or wish to make resolutions for 2013, what should you do?

Step one, the most crucial step, is holding yourself accountable. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I’m going to tell you the why and the how. Why? Because accountability is necessary for valuing yourself. If you don’t value yourself, how can you value your goals? You need to have an active stake in your success or failure, and that stake must be you. How? You must take the time to create an intrinsic link between you and your goals. Sounds odd and complicated, though, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Let’s go back to the title of this article, the whole “becoming your own resolve” part. If your goal is to be a weightlifter or to attain that physique you’ve always wanted, then you need to embody your goal(s). I admit, this must still sound cryptic, but it’s actually quite simple. Which do you think is the better question to be asking yourself: “I really should try and make it to the gym three times next week” or “I have to train today?” See any differences? The former statement is uncertain, lacking clear commitment whereas the latter possesses immediate intention, placed in a timeline that makes it much likelier to be achieved. Let’s extend this further.

Ask yourself: “do I workout or do I train?” Working out doesn’t imply much beyond going into a gym for a session to “exercise,” it lacks commitment and specificity. Training indicates planning and working towards a specific end, a concerted effort. Your mindset must be one that embodies focus and action. That is why the language you use to think about your goals must always be precise and intentional; there’s no room for wavering. Learning to think this way is no different from training; the more practice and effort you put in, the better you’ll get. And, when this sort of mindset becomes natural, then, failure becomes the unlikelihood rather than the likelihood.

Step two: planning. Just as with the way you think about yourself and your goals, your planning must be active and intentional. Planning is often presented as a linear activity, but this is only partially true. The planning process may start as a discrete organization of ideas, but the performance of the plan will be anything but. This is why it’s crucial that you take the time to develop your sense of accountability, as this will be the foundation upon which the performance of your plan will rest. Things will go wrong, and events will occur that you can’t predict. You have to be able to fall back on yourself first before the plan, as it will be your sensibilities that dictate how you respond. An example of this is when some people miss a workout, and they utterly give up on their goal. One step of the plan didn’t work, ergo, the whole plan won’t work. The plan was likely fine, it’s that they had no sense of accountability for the plan to rely on.

The reality is that a meaningful goal is a challenging one. If you don’t have a personal foundation to support your transformation, nor a meaningful stake in the end result, you won’t make it through the process. Not only will you be more sensitive to the unexpected (and often negative) realities on the path of goal achievement, but you’ll be that much more ready to quit. It’s a synergy of failure. However…

You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, I suggest that if you embark upon a path like the one described here that you do it with other people. At JustLift, this is the fundamental reason we use a class structure for training sessions; just as we train together, we succeed together. The reality is that there are very, very, few people who’ve ever accomplished anything great by themselves. Working with other, dedicated people that have a course to navigate comparable to yours? That’s a synergy of success.

There’s a certain sense that comes with using the end of a year to take stock of your life, what you want, and who you wish to be. It’s certainly convenient, and perhaps that’s the greatest fallacy of the New Years Resolution. It’s both a casual and a convenient act, and yet, I can say with certainty, there is nothing casual or convenient in the act of evoking change in yourself. However, if you can take that first step towards accountability, your chances of achievement have already dramatically increased. Just remember, your resolution cannot truly begin with a seasonal list; it must be cultivated from within. Think of that first step as an initiation into a new phase of your life. So, let’s stop fooling ourselves and drop this resolution business. Begin by planting the seeds for change in yourself, and save the sticky note for your groceries.