How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Work

How to Make New Year's Resolutions Work“88% of all resolutions end in failure, according to a 2007 survey of over 3,000 people conducted by the British psychologist Richard Wiseman” (C) The Wall Street Journal

With the rise of the internet and social networks, it seems that almost everybody has one or a couple of New Year’s resolutions nowadays. While it is definitely a right thing to do, a lot of those resolutions result in failures. People that promised themselves to lose weight/stop smoking/quit drinking break their vows in fucking January! Of course, they do not even try to get back on track in further months because they “tried everything” (in reality trying nothing). Obviously, it is not the way New Year’s resolutions meant to work. Therefore, here are my thoughts on how to make everything right.

Why Do We Fail?

First of all, we should look at the roots of the problem. Basically, there are five possible reasons for a resolution to fail:

  • Lack of a plan;
  • Lack of discipline and willpower;
  • Lack of motivation;
  • Lack of focus;
  • Abundance of excuses.

It is enough to have only one of the symptoms above to fail in your year’s goals. Therefore, to succeed your main task should be to eliminate all of them.

How to Eliminate the Symptoms?

Here are the solutions to every particular problem from the previous section:

Lack of a plan -> Goal-Setting

“Goal-setting” is a fancy name for the main principle of strength training – progressive resistance (or progressive overload). Reaching a big goal may seem daunting at first. However, when you break it down into smaller, much more manageable steps, it becomes not that scary. And the brilliance of this method is in its simplicity and applicability to anything. Yes, it is most commonly used in strength training, but who said that you cannot apply it, say, to chess or playing the piano, or entrepreneurship?

Just recall your school lessons (if you attended them, of course). At first, you learnt just the basic math operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. After years of weekly practice, you were gradually introduced to harder stuff like logarithms. Now imagine if you were taught backwards. Your head would have exploded. That is exactly what you do when you try to complete a hard task without breaking it down. That is why it results in “88% failure”.

Take-home point: have a plan. Divide your task into smaller parts and do one step at a time. Be gradual. Set milestones throughout the year and do everything to complete them in time.

Lack of discipline and willpower -> Regimen

Regimen is a highly overlooked discipline builder. There is a reason why there is a strict regimen, for example, in army. There is something magical about getting up, eating, training, and going to bed at the same time every day. It just works. The more you commit yourself to a certain regimen, the more disciplined you become.

As I wrote in this article:

Discipline – do what you need to do to get results, with no excuses. Sacrifice the immediate satisfaction and your comfort to achieve something greater. That’s what discipline is all about.

The regimen forces you to sacrifice the immediate stuff. That’s why it works.

Take-home point: get a regimen. For example, get up at 7:00, train at 12:00, eat at 14:00-20:00, go to bed at 23:00. Now repeat this every day. [NOTE: of course, you’ll need to adjust the actual times for your conditions]

Lack of motivation -> Going Public

If you seriously lack motivation, then going public may be the perfect solution. This means that you clearly state your goals to as many people as possible. This way you will ensure that you complete your goals. Otherwise, you will be ashamed to look in other people’s eyes to say the least.

If you do not give a shit about what other people think about you, then let’s add some spice to everything. How much would you pay to get your goal accomplished? Let’s say that you want it so bad that you would pay $1000 for it. Good, now give this sum to your really good friend or a spouse and ensure that if you fail to achieve your goal in a specific period of time, he/she will send it to the organisation you hate. If you make it in time, you will get this money back as a reward. This will give you a nice boost in motivation.

Take-home point: go public. State your goals loudly to increase your motivation.

Lack of focus -> Constant Focus

A lot of people fail to succeed simply because they forget about their goal. They sacrifice it to get “more urgent” stuff done, which is a completely wrong approach. To resolve your problem you should be in constant focus. Expose yourself  as much as possible to an image of where you want to get. Visualize your success. Write your goal down and put it at places where you can see it often, i.e. your PC wallpaper, phone wallpaper, stickers, etc. This will help you to remember what is important and not to flush all the precious time down the toilet.

Take-home point: remind yourself about what is important often.

Abundance of excuses -> “It Could Have Been Much Worse” Method [ICHBMW]

ICHBMW method is a simple and effective way to fight those excuses. Any time you think that your life is too hard, just remember that somewhere a person with MUCH WORSE conditions makes MUCH GREATER things with his/her life. Everybody thinks that his/her life is hard, but it is rarely true. If you have a place to live and money for food, I don’t see any reason why you cannot achieve anything you want. If you replied just now with one or more excuses, shove them up your ass.

Read this article for more information/inspiration on the method.

What’s Next?

Now you know how not to fail. The next step is to do the work. Set your goals. Set the time period you want to achieve them in. Start accomplishing them. There is no other way around.

Finally, let us break down a simple example. Let’s assume that you want to learn the One-Arm Push-Up and apply all the techniques from this article:

Goal-Setting: check this article out for the progressions. Depending on where you are, it can take different time to achieve the skill. If you are pretty proficient, you can nail it in a year. Anyway, pick the progression you like and set milestones. For example, if you choose Incline progression, you can use power rack pin numbers for this purpose.

Regimen: train it 1-3 times per week depending on your routine. Sacrifice anything that gets in the way of progress.

Going Public: state to as many people as possible that you will achieve the One-Arm Push-Up this year. Use the money trick if needed.

Constant Focus: remind yourself about the One-Arm Push-Up every morning, afternoon and evening. Think about how cool it would be to perform it.

ICHBMW: always remember that somewhere some dude that is heavier than you and has worse genetics nails more reps in harder variations.

This should be a solid, fail-proof approach. Use it and achieve the goal.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this article gave you some food for thought. Do not worry if it seems that you cannot finish your goals in time. I felt that a lot. Push hard and persist. You will get there one day. Never give up.

Remember that it is better to push hard and not make it in time (but still achieve it in future), than to fail in January and wait for a whole year to make another fake promise. Thanks for reading.

Play rough!

Alex Zinchenko

Every time you don’t like and share this article, you upset a kitten somewhere.

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6 thoughts on “How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Work

  1. Joe Eynon

    Hi Alex,

    I was following the One Skill a Day plan and got good results. I moved onto the version of it where you suggest how to go nuts by lifting upper body push, upper body pull, and lower body each 3x per week. I decided I wanted to get better at my favorite lift, the weighted pistol, by training it almost every day following the set and rep schemes from Dan John’s 40-day workout. I still lift my pulling and pushing movements 3x per week each following the Flexible Set/Rep Scheme. Just curious if you’ve ever tried the 40-day workout.

    I’m currently at 1 rep on the left and 2 on the right with a 32kg kettlebell for my pistol. Looking to hit 1 each with the 44kg by March following solid advice from you after buying the Rough Strength Files. Thank you for the great site. Here’s to a strong 2014.

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey, Joe,

      I’m always glad to help.

      I never tried the actual 40-day workout.

      I tried doing bodyweight (!) Pistols every day and ended up with micro-injury in my knee. Therefore, it is a no-no for me. However, you can try it. Be careful and let me know how it worked.

      Good luck with your goal. I don’t know how about 44, but you MUST nail 40 by March. After stating your goal to me, you have no chance to fail. Muahahaha!

      – Alex

      1. Joe Eynon

        Hi Alex,

        I stated my goal to you of a heavy pistol. You were right, the 40 was more practical. So here it is from Cleveland, Ohio, in the USA:

        Will be returning to the FSRS program from Rough Strength Files this week.

        I hope you’re safe in Kiev. Not sure where you stand on Russia or the EU, but things look scary from over here. I hope things turn out for the best. Take care, stay safe.

        1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

          Hey, Joe!

          Great job! Good luck with FSRS. Let me know how it worked.

          Regarding Kiev, Russia invades the territory of Ukraine without any reason. This isn’t right. People may die for nothing.

          – Alex


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