It’s hard to believe we’re about to enter 2023. If you haven’t already, soon you’ll be seeing messaging everywhere about setting your New Year Resolutions.

If you’re one of those people that says, “I don’t believe in resolutions,” it’s probably because you’ve tried to set new year goals before. And then it made you feel terrible when you weren’t able to reach them, or when you couldn’t keep them going all year long.

Well, you’re not alone. Many people struggle to actually follow through on their goals. In fact, a study at the University of Scranton showed that 23% of people give up on their resolution after only one week. And when looking at the long-term staying power of resolutions, the study found that just 19% of individuals are actually able to stick to their goals for two years or more.

So, if resolutions don’t really work, then what are you supposed to do? We all have things we want to stop or start doing that we know will make our lives more meaningful, enjoyable, and successful. For example, I want to establish more of a daily routine in where I spend some time in meditation, exercise, and learning, which energizes me and allows more opportunity for my creativity and intuition to flow into my life and work.

Interestingly, if you simply change your resolutions to questions, or “questolutions,” they will have a higher rate of success, according to a study at the University of Illinois. So, asking yourself, “How will I learn something daily?” is much more motivating than declaring: “I will learn something daily.”

Why does this work?

Asking how you will reach your goal engages your brain toward a resolution, inspires creative problem solving, and creates energy. And it allows you to continue to use questions even in your solutions to keep the creativity flowing. This helps lead you toward more potential behavior change.

Saying you will reach your goal is a very yes/no statement that doesn’t engage your brain in the same way. It puts self-imposed pressure on you which can at times be helpful, but can also feel emotionally defeating and discouraging, which quickly leads to dropping the goal altogether.

Asking yourself a question is also more motivating, and your brain feels challenged to come up with solutions. As your brain starts working on solutions, you build motivation. It is less overwhelming when your brain is focused on one strategy at a time versus the whole goal.

Lastly, having your resolutions as a question engages and invites others to help you come up with solutions. People are not that excited about hearing that you will do X next year. But tell them you’ve been wondering how to be more creative in your work next year, and they will immediately engage with you in your strategies. Just as a note, I would share your question with people you respect and trust. It takes some vulnerability to do this and be open to feedback, so you want to do that with others that have your best interest in mind.

Here’s an exercise that can help you develop your own “questolutions” –

  1. To identify your one key questolution, sit down and answer these questions for yourself, or maybe have a friend ask you, and your dreams and aspirations will bubble up from that conversation.
    • What have you been wanting to feel, experience, learn, or have in your life more?
    • How do you want to be different by the end of next year?
    • If you did, or you were changed, how would your life be different?
  2. Write your questolution at the top of a document. Make sure you phrase it as “How might I?” For example, how might I be more creative in my work each day?
  3. Put that document in a location where you will see it each day.
  4. Each time you think of an idea that might help you reach your goal, write it on your piece of paper, but phrase it like this, “What if I started writing one page each morning to unlock my creative mind?” Or, “What if I sat for a quiet moment before writing each donor email, so I allow space for creative thought?”
  5. Share your page with trusted colleagues and friends and see what ideas they might add.
  6. Having that list in front of you keeps your mind engaged with solutions. This will help motivate you to start taking those small steps, engaging in those strategies, and moving toward your goal.

Once you have your questolution and you have identified some strategies on your piece of paper, then what? The next step is to ask yourself how you’ll define success. Your concept of what success looks like for you will greatly impact your potential.

If you decide that success means that every single day you MUST spend 30 minutes working toward your goal, then you will surely fail and give up. But if you give yourself grace and kindness when you don’t put in your time for a few days, and define success as starting again and not quitting, that is so much more motivating.

Your ultimate goal is to create a schedule and routine so that doing those things every day becomes a habit. It takes about 21 days to build a new habit. So give yourself grace and be patient with yourself as you develop your new habit.

Lastly, pay attention to how different you feel and what has changed for you when you start implementing your strategies. Keep focusing on the outcome instead of just the task. Remember to be kind, keep a sense of humor about it, and celebrate each small victory. I hope to hear how your questolution goes for you in 2023!