A new year is upon us, and with it comes the annual ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions—a complete waste of time and exercise in frustration for most people. Here are three reasons this hollow tradition fails to deliver results, along with one powerful action you can take to break out from the crowd.

Reason #1: We’re Marching to Someone Else’s Drum

We don’t make resolutions at this time of year because we feel it in our bones. We do it Summit_Blogbecause everyone else does, and it’s something to which we’ve become accustomed. Those are poor reasons to do anything.

Is an annual check-up a good thing? Yes, absolutely. It falls right in line naturally with our daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly self-analysis. I’m a believer; but only when this annual event is part of our ongoing review and strategic planning process—not as a euphoric romp into the self-improvement realm that fades within a few weeks.

Don’t march to someone else’s drum. Own your regular introspection, planning, and goal-setting activities and employ them regularly on your schedule, in a way that actually works for you.

Reason #2: We Think Big, With No Plan That Leads to Success

“Think BIG!” We hear this trite statement all the time from hypesters—usually because they have something to sell us that we think will make our dreams come true because we threw some money at them. That’s simply not how it works.

“I want to make an extra hundred thousand dollars this year,” or “I’m going to lose 30 pounds” are flimsy goals, at best, without a plan that incrementally leads to those results. Are both of these possibilities for the right person? Sure. But jotting them on a list of resolutions with no plan to lead to their accomplishment is a waste of time.

Reason #3: We Already Know When We Make New Year’s Resolutions That We’re Not Going to Keep Them

You know you’ve had this experience. We all have. You think that somehow the magic of a new year is going to make something happen that hasn’t happened in the past. History has a way of repeating itself, and this scenario is no exception. You know when you write a goal if you’re going to see it come to fruition because you know your commitment level to achieving it. We all know how this works from our own past experiences.

No More Self-Inflicted Torture

So why do we engage and write these wistful dreams down anyway? If it’s for entertainment sake, and we’re honest with ourselves about this reality, perhaps there isn’t any real harm in it. If, however, we somehow believe our resolutions are going to see the light of day despite our inner-most belief that they won’t, why torture ourselves?

How to See Your Goals Come to Fruition

Are resolutions useless? No. We just need to see them in the right light and apply them in an effective way. I’m not going to cover a complete goal-setting and implementation plan here, but I do want to share the one principle-based action I’ve found to work consistently in achieving what we want in all facets of life. It can be summed up one phrase…

Make incremental, sustainable, measurable improvements.

Let’s look at each of these three adjectives and why they are the trifecta of ongoing accomplishment and success.

Incremental – It’s human nature to want the prize before we’ve completed the journey, so we often attempt to arrive at the finish line in one giant step. This rarely works. Eat the elephant in bite-size pieces and you’ll successfully devour it instead of finding yourself at the same point in time in the future with a partially eaten elephant and a plate full of discouragement. Additionally, small missteps are usually relatively simply to correct. Big missteps can be cumbersome to correct, or even irreparable and detrimental.

Sustainable – For me, this has been the real powerhouse realization in achieving my goals. We’re not just going to be consistent for the next week, or month, or even year. And our incremental steps aren’t going to be bigger than we can handle or daunting in any way. If we can’t see a step, process, or other action being sustained to the end of its necessity in accomplishing our goal, we don’t engage. Stop. Rethink. Revise. Then run the scenario through again. When we only engage in sustainable actions, our success skyrockets!

Measurable – Not only should our destination goals be measurable, but so should the incremental, sustainable actions we take each day in our journey to those goals. Measuring and analyzing our outcomes, then tweaking our plans based on our findings, will greatly accelerate success.

As you review this past year and look forward to what you want to accomplish in the coming year, commit to making incremental, sustainable, measurable improvements that will lead to your larger annual goals. Engaging in a sincere review and strategic planning session in this way, instead of just writing a few wishes on a paper and sticking them to your bathroom mirror, will help you arrive at your desired outcomes.