Do you struggle with making and keeping your New Year’s resolutions? Are your resolutions nothing more than empty clichés?

We all know that most New Year’s resolutions are broken far before they bring about any substantive results. Think about your past commitments: increasing your exercise and/or losing those stubborn pounds, taking that plunge into a new career, booking tickets for that new trip.

Will this new year be any different? Are you ready to try a new method?

Below is the thought process I use when setting goals—and I hope it will inspire you, too.

1) Be specific.

First, ask yourself “what do I most want to resolve in the coming year?”

Seems simple, right? We all probably can check off a half-dozen goals, dreams, or wishes. But, instead of trying to change everything, focus on changing one thing.

For me, I started taking an inventory of typical New Year resolution items:
– Lose weight? Not really a problem for me, so I can strike that off the list.
– Exercise more? Ditto, could do better but I am in a good place right now.
– Write and blog more? Not quite a “resolution” as it is something I love to do already.
– Travel more? Ah, there it is. Travel.

Every time a friend returns from a great trip, I remind myself it’s time to book something special—and yet I procrastinate. I have been postponing making any plans for quite awhile now. Why am I procrastinating about something I love to do? There are certainly more destinations that I could ever pursue in a lifetime. Why is this such a road-block and what’s behind me not doing it more?

2) Break it down.

Identify the parts of the resolution—the things that scare you as well as the ones that excite you—and break it down.

Thinking about my resolution to travel more, and why I don’t make the time to do it, I try to identify the specific road blocks:

Procrastination—If my resolution was to give up procrastination—how long do you think that would last? Procrastination comes in many forms and reasons, so that would be too hard to resolve to wholly wipe away.

Fear of the Unknown—If my resolution was to give up fear, ditto the above.

Commitment—Should my resolution be to make a commitment to travel more in 2019? Is that achievable? Sustainable? Affordable? How can I make sure procrastination won’t get in the way?

To answer these questions, I did a bit of homework on why someone would procrastinate on something they truly enjoyed doing. (Knowledge is power, after all.) I quickly perused the usual online posts on “New Year’s resolutions” and procrastination, especially on procrastinating for making travel plans. But nothing quite resonated.

Then, I discovered a scholarly research article: “Procrastination of Travel: The Effects of Crowdedness.” In the article, the authors report that crowdedness, the fear of being overwhelmed by being in a place that is too crowded, can trigger procrastination. Interesting. Do I procrastinate because of concerns regarding feeling too crowded? (I live in Manhattan, so why would this affect me?)

Then I remembered my interest years ago about the impact that tourists can have on fragile environments, called “tourism pollution,” and some articles I read a while back on this in the Journal of Travel Research.

Do I subconsciously worry about these things or are they just procrastination excuses to undermine my travel resolution? It’s time to make this resolution real.

3) Plan to plan.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In order to turn my resolution into something actionable, I would need a plan. Yes, I could go through the mechanics of planning—sticking a pin in the calendar, Googling some destinations, or looking up airfares or hotel reviews—easily enough on my own. But, the best plans are fueled by excitement, urgency, and encouragement.

I thought of a text I received from my jet-lagged friend Eric who, with his wife Laura, had just returned from an extended trip to New Zealand—a destination on my wish-list.

Even in their sleep-deprived state, they were obviously still on a travel high—excited to share all the details of what they experienced. We all have friends like this—those who have just returned from trips; experienced a new restaurant, hobby, or took a class; or someone who recommends a movie or television show they just love. Most of us tune-out or silently think “but that’s not for me.”

Are they wrong for sharing their excitement? No. We’re probably more at fault for not opening ourselves up more to experiences. Instead of tuning out, why not harness their passion?

Eric ended the text, with words of encouragement for me (left)—and an open invitation to help me make my travel plans real.

Whether it is on Facebook or face-to-face, find the people who share your passion and who are willing to help you experience it. They’re out there, waiting to share their experience and advice with you.

They can be your coach—and can help you pick the best time of year to travel; give advice on the best travel arrangements, itineraries, and the “must do” things; and even advise on how to travel within your budget and capabilities. Many people are excited to share their knowledge and help you get back on track and over the hurdles. Reach out!

So, for 2019, remember to be concise and specific about your resolutions, dig-deep into what is inspiring you to action and identify the possible hurdles, and to find those who are excited to help you get there.

When you have all three you’ll spend 2020 wondering why you waited so long to do it.


Expressive Links

Shiv Gaglani, Ditch your New Years Resolutions Instead Plant Your Seed HabitForbes (19 December 2018)

Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC, Why New Years Resolutions Fail, Psychology Today (05 December 2018)

Moya Sarner, “Anyone can change any habit”: the science of keeping your 2018 resolutions

Procrastination image via Pinterest


Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research (November 2018), “Procrastinaton of Travel: The Effects of Crowdedness

Journal of Travel Research (October 1983), “Research and Strategic Marketing in Tourism: A Status Report” (co-authored by Suzanne Roff)