Say This, Not That

Dear Ilana and Jess: We all know that New Year’s resolutions fail more often than not. Why is it that we lose motivation so quickly and what can we do to keep it up? — Jen 

Dear Jen: For the resolution-making kind, New Year’s may bring a renewed commitment to self-improvement. We know that this particular turn of the calendar packs more meaning than most; and that’s part of the problem.

To make goals that stick, we’ve got to rethink our approach to change. There are a few things wrong with the emphasis placed on New Year’s resolutions. First, it puts an inordinate amount of pressure to make long-term changes overnight. Second, it implies that the New Year’s holiday presents a somehow unique opportunity to create change, when it really offers no advantage (apart from symbolic meaning and social expectations). In fact, this time of the year can come with a range of obstacles to making change: a return to old routines after the holidays, cold and inclement weather, new projects at work, etc.

Don’t get us wrong: turning a new page and committing to change are wonderful ideas. But goals need to be supported with follow-through. Here are several ways to keep the goals you set:

Don’t treat your New Year’s resolution(s) as the only opportunity to change your habits. When resolutions are abandoned by mid-January, most people quit the change-making process. Don’t view New Year’s Day as your one and only shot to start a new habit or rhythm. Instead, treat January as your launchpad and anticipate setbacks; they’re a normal part of change (and life.)

In keeping with this, don’t leave goal-setting for January. Let inspiration strike you at any time of the year, and don’t wait for a mile marker to start working toward your goal. Waiting to start is just another form of making excuses.

Don’t try to change everything at once. When we go too big too soon, we set ourselves up for failure. For example, let’s say you (like many of us) want to improve your fitness practices. If you haven’t attended the gym in a year, don’t set a goal of spending 3 hours at the gym, every day. Not only is such a goal unrealistic, it’s probably incompatible with your professional and personal life. We all do better at making long-term change when we take advantage of the snowball effect; starting with small, achievable steps performed consistently. Over time, these changes lend themselves to bigger ones. Following the fitness example, setting the goal that you will attend the gym at least twice a week will make it more attainable, help you achieve success and feel successful, and will make it easier to increase gym attendance down the line.

Say This: “I’m going to commit myself to going to the gym at least two times per week/playing the piano every Friday/turning off my phone for 15 minutes a day.”

Not That: “New year, new me.”

We wish you all a very Happy New Year! 

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


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