Pretend for a second that you and I are sitting across the table at lunch. I can hardly contain my excitement. I’ve discovered a new business venture. I like the guy behind it. I like the concept. I am investing money in it.

“Great!” you say. “Do you think you’ll make money in the first year?”

I dismiss your question with a wave of my hand as I say, “Oh, that. There’s only a 9% chance the business will succeed. I’m not expecting to make any money. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’ll fail.”

Check, please!

You’d think I’d lost my mind if I said those things! Nobody would ever invest their money in a business if the chance of success was only 9%. That’s a basic financial principle. You’d be crazy to do that. But what if I said you were investing your time and energy in something that has only a 9% success rate?

That’s exactly what you’re doing when you make New Year’s resolutions.

Say Goodbye to Resolutions

According to Statistic Brain, only 9.2% of people meet their New Year’s resolutions. Yep, there’s less than a 10% chance you’ll be able to check all those to-do items off your list, and yet over 40% of Americans make resolutions every year.

Why don’t resolutions work? Because for most people, resolutions are arbitrary. Vague. Fuzzy. Most of us in American culture associate resolutions with watching the ball drop, drinking champagne, and cleaning up confetti on New Year’s Day. You make resolutions in late December and forget about them in late January. Don’t believe me? Go to the gym in January and you’ll fight for a machine. In March? You’ll have the place to yourself.

Say Hello to Promises

Promises are different. They carry weight. They involve commitment, sacrifice, determination. When you make a promise, you determine to keep it because you attach your character and faithfulness to it. You want to keep your word.

As the new year starts, think seriously about the promises you want to make to yourself. Don’t just go through the motions and write some random stuff down on a piece of paper so you can post it on social media. I want you to spend time thinking about what you are serious about accomplishing this year. Then turn those into promises.

How to Make Your Promises

So what promises should you make? I can’t decide that because promises are personal. But I can tell you that your promises come from your priorities. If it’s not important, or if you don’t intend on keeping it, don’t make the promise.

Even though promises are deeply personal, you are more likely to keep them if you factor in these elements when you make them. A good promise is:

  1. “I promise to spend more time with you” won’t get you anywhere. But if you say, “I promise to leave work by 6 p.m. every day,” now that promise has some teeth!
  2. “I promise to jog on the treadmill three times a week.” It’s easier to keep that promise because you know when you’ve kept it—and when you haven’t.
  1. Don’t promise to lose 100 pounds in two months. That’s nuts—and unhealthy. But you can make a promise to yourself to lose five pounds a month. That’s a little more than a pound a week—completely doable.

Because promises carry more weight than resolutions, be careful about how many you make. One or two promises in each area of your life—career, financial, spiritual, physical, family, social, and intellectual—is enough to keep you busy!

If you don’t make promises to yourself, your 2017 will be just like 2016. And I want you to make this year the best year you’ve ever had! Whether it’s getting out of debt, learning a new skill, or ramping up your business, you can make 2017 a year of huge wins—if you’re willing to make that a promise to yourself!

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