Start. Stop. And Continue: It’s time to let go of your new year resolutions

We make resolutions every year, for better health, a better financial outlook, or losing some extra luggage. By the time we hit 30 days, most of us have already abandoned those hard resolutions. At the 90 day mark, we are back to our old ways. The weight loss industry thrives on our inability to stick to our resolutions. You will agree with me that there is obviously a problem with these types of resolutions. So if the once a year rendezvous with our resolutions is not working, what is one to do?

I propose an easy solution. Forego the entire new year resolution idea and move to a simple start, stop, and continue approach. In my book, start-stop-continue is a much friendlier resolution management system. I cannot guaranty that this system will work for you, but I can say with confidence that it works better than the current yearly feel-good exercise in which some of us partake.

For most of us, new year resolutions fail because we treat them as something that we must do at the beginning of a new year. Perhaps we would increase our chances to stick to our resolutions if we review them more often. Before I go any further, let me clarify what I mean by start, stop, and continue.

Start is about new beginnings, new habits, new practices. Start is the consequence of your deep reflection about things that are not working. It’s a response to failed strategies and fruitless tactics. You are going to start doing something that you were not doing before. You are going to start acting in a way that you were not acting before.

Stop is the opposite of start. It relates to things that you have done that have not yielded the expected results. Stop is a push to halt the actions that have proven unsuccessful. Quit smoking three packs a day, stop binge-watching Netflix, and stop accepting to too many side projects. Stop is about clearing out the unsuccessful processes.

Continue is an encouragement to self. You have been taking some actions and have had some success or are beginning to see some noticeable progress. This is not the time to stop. Continue is like a doubling down on behaviors and resolutions that are working well. Additionally, it’s a bit out of the scope of this topic.

Essentially, the point I am trying to make here is that Stop-Start-Continue should not happen only once a year. We have all, at least once, dabbled into a new revolutionary diet. In the beginning, it seems to work miracles. You make quick progress for a few sustained weeks toward your goal. You are glad to finally see some well-deserved progress. You could not be happier. That’s until the gains you have made, start to disappear, and you realize a few months later that you are back to where you started. Diets are good starters, or rather, jump-starters. To truly enjoy their benefits, you need to turn them into life-long habits.

I am suggesting that you treat the whole Stop-Start-Continue process the same way. Turn it into a lifestyle. Not everyone can work on a yearly schedule. Although some people can work on that annual schedule and manage to reach their stated goals, most of us require shorter assessment periods. If long periods work for you, there is no reason to change. However, if like many, you prefer shorter evaluation periods, then you should do a Stop-Start-Continue assessment as often as you need. The length of the assessment time is not important. The most critical item is the process. It must be systematic, documented, and peer reviewed.

By systematic, I mean you should establish a process by which you review your goals at regular time intervals. I cannot prescribe a process as everyone works differently. The danger of prescriptions is that they become templates that people can sometimes fall into the habit of using without questioning their validity. Whichever process you decide to use is the right process for you.

The documentation requirement is an attempt to facilitate tracking. For better or worse, we do tend to revisit our goals so keeping a detailed log of your Stop Start Continue actions is a good way to make long-term adjustments to your plans.

The peer review portion is to help you improve by having someone you trust hold you accountable for accomplishing what you set out to do. The role of a peer reviewer is not to criticize you. The peer reviewer is your support person. Think about this person as your personal cheer leader. Win or lose, he/she will still cheer you on.

Do you absolutely have to follow the suggestions I espoused in this article? I say no you don’t. These steps work for me. If you can find something else that works for you, great. Just make sure you assess your goals with enough frequency that you can measure progress. A series of small wins is always better than a big win that never materializes.