Blog | Becoming a Resolutionist

Becoming a Resolutionist

Becoming a Resolutionist | Patti & Milledge Hart | Authors

So, how are those New Year resolutions working? Still on track to lose twenty pounds? Still avoiding reality TV? Learning a new language? If you’re like most of us, all of your best-laid plans have already fallen by the wayside. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, a whopping 80% of all the resolutions made as the New Year’s Eve ball fell in Times Square will be forgotten by the second week in February.

This common phenomenon—not just confined to New Year’s resolutions but to any commitment to change behavior—is the focus of researchers, who have delved into how we can turn those optimistic resolutions into long-term actions. Turns out, just two small tweaks gave research participants a significantly greater chance of succeeding.

The first one simply involves rewording the resolution so that it is positive rather than negative so that it adds something rather than removes something. Instead of committing to lose weight, participants who vowed to eat vegetables at every meal or to walk thirty minutes every day were much more likely to have kept their resolutions at the end of the year than those who vowed to cut carbs. It is much easier to add activities that have the effect of crowding out bad habits than it is to stop the unwanted habit cold turkey.

The second trick was to break larger resolutions down into small, achievable parts. Instead of resolving to read every book on the Amazon list of “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime,” it is easier to commit to reading 30 minutes each day. Or instead of resolving to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you are more likely to stick to your resolution if you commit to run a set number of miles each week and build up naturally. The psychology behind the small-step approach is simple. Every time you reach a small goal, it gives you the incentive to keep going. Conversely, if you miss a day or two of reading or running, you don’t feel all is lost and quit completely. You just pick things up where you left off and keep going. If these steps lead to a larger goal, so much the better. If they don’t, you have still read more than you would have or run further than you ever thought you could, and that is a success in and of itself.

New Year’s isn’t the only milestone that brings out the urge to resolve to do better. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and even holidays can cause us to look around and take stock of where we stand, what we have accomplished, and what we haven’t.

One milestone that should trigger the Resolutionist in all of us, but often doesn’t, is leaving a full-time career. Instead of resolving to continue to be interested and interesting, people too often fall into the stereotypical retirement with its emphasis on relaxing and Facetiming grandchildren. They often don’t choose this retirement, but drift into it because they think that is what is expected.

In fact, researchers have found that there is something called the “stereotype threat,” which means that when people are presented with stereotypes of their group—retirees, women, scientists, athletes, etc.—they tend to unconsciously take on those stereotypical characteristics. So, if older folks are told they are irrelevant, tired, and less quick-witted after they leave their career lives, they tend to begin acting in ways that confirm that stereotype.

So, what’s a person to do if they want to avoid the stereotype threat? Become a Resolutionist!

The generation approaching or recently entering “retirement” has worked the past thirty or forty years to change just about every stereotype out there. Now, it’s time to change the retirement model the way we changed the career model. We no longer want to fall into an outmoded stereotype. We want to create a model of retirement where the only stereotype is that there is no stereotype.

We call those living a post-career life their way “Resolutionists” because they have committed to living the next phase of their lives as fully as they lived their college, career, and family phases. Resolutionists vow to break stereotypes and expand their list of possible activities in ways that are not defined by age or historic expectations. You can learn to fly fish or hip-hop dance, you can cruise around the world or kitesurf at your local lake. You can go back to school or join a theater group. The list is endless. Don’t convince yourself that you are destined to a life of evening game shows and baking pies (unless that is what you love to do). Nothing is off-limits so reach for the stars. Look forward rather than backward, and embrace the new you!

We know it’s not easy to make changes—we’ve been there. In fact, one of us was a retirement drop-out the first time around. But over time, we found twelve resolutions, which we’ve outlined in our book, The Resolutionist: Welcome to the Anti-Retirement Movement, that will keep you growing and thriving in your post-career life. You just have to resolve to do it.

Give It a Try

In this stage of your life, you can choose to be and do nearly anything you like. The key is to make a resolution to do the things that need to be done to get where you want to be. One of the resolutions in our book is “Dream Less and Do More.” Wishing and hoping will not change your life. Action will. So, our challenge to you:

  • Choose one thing you’ve been putting off doing—signing up for art classes, volunteering at a local school, planning a dinner party, learning a language, whatever you’ve wanted to do but haven’t—and take the first step to do it. Research local art classes, ask friends about volunteer opportunities, watch videos of themed dinner parties, and so forth. Take action. Take that first step. The second step will be easier. You’re a Resolutionist now.