Plenty of people make New Year’s resolutions. Bill Gates isn’t one of them.
“I’ve never been a big New Year’s resolution person. I don’t have any specific goal in mind for 2022,” the 66-year-old billionaire Microsoft co-founder wrote in his annual end-of-year blog post last month. “But what I do hope is that next year is a lot more settled than this one.”
Instead of setting goals for the coming year, Gates asks himself a series of questions that help him take “stock of [his] work and personal life,” according to his 2018 “Year in Review” essay. What went wrong over the past year? What went right? What does he hope for over the next 365 days?
Gates noted that as he’s gotten older, his annual questions have evolved to take on a more personal bent.
“Did I devote enough time to my family? Did I learn enough new things? Did I develop new friendships and deepen old ones?” he wrote in his 2018 essay. “These would have been laughable to me when I was 25, but as I get older, they are much more meaningful.”
His wish for 2022 to be “more settled” makes sense. Last year, Gates advocated for solutions to Covid and climate change through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, got divorced from his wife of 27 years amid allegations of workplace misconduct, walked one of his daughters down the aisle and fought conspiracy theories regarding his role in the development of Covid vaccines.
Notably, Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, plan to keep working together as co-chairs of their philanthropic foundation. Perhaps predictably, French Gates has a similar approach to New Year’s resolutions: In a 2016 essay in Real Simple magazine, the author and philanthropist described selecting a single word to set the tone of each new year.
“I’ve found this to be more successful than a traditional resolution,” she wrote. “Because instead of promoting a radical change in behavior, it encourages a gradual change in mindset.”
Her single word that year: “gentle.”
“I’ve spent 2016 trying to put it into practice,” she wrote. “Being gentler to those around me, gentler in my approach to the world, and most importantly, gentler to myself.”
Both Gates and French Gates may have the right idea. According to clinical psychologist Joseph J. Luciani, roughly 80% of people who set New Year’s resolutions — like going to the gym, reading more books or adopting a new diet — abandon them by the second week of February.
The reason, Luciani wrote in a 2015 U.S. News and World Report essay: Grandiose goals and result-oriented mindsets are much harder to achieve than “small successes” and process-oriented mindsets.
“You’re not born with self-discipline; you acquire it,” Luciani noted. “Like a muscle, you need to develop your self-discipline muscle, one challenge at a time.”