The new year is almost upon us and if you’re a New Year’s resolution setter you’re starting to think about which goals you’ll set for the year ahead.
Ever notice how we hear a lot of talk around setting resolutions each year but not a whole lot around keeping resolutions after the ball drops? If you’re the type that fails as early as Jan 2nd, then you know why the talk of resolution success peters off. It’s called: failure, followed by denial, and then quick goal recalibration, back to the pre-New Year you.
If you are indeed the type that fails, not to worry. You are part of the majority. According to a study by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people who set resolutions, end up keeping them.
I was pretty shocked when I learned about this but when I started to think about my own resolution success, I had a swift reality check as it seemed that I was also among the majority. That’s not to say I don’t achieve goals but specifically, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’m not particularly successful.
This year I decided to take a stand and really understand why we fail since understanding the why is a critical part of addressing the problem. There are 4 reasons you’ll want to make note of if you’re going to have any hope in achieving your resolutions this year:
1. You Can’t Just Flip a Switch
The reason New Year’s resolutions are so different from other goals is that there is heightened awareness around this 1 day each year in which we have a chance to really start fresh. The danger of this heightened awareness is that we don’t really start to think about it until December and we think about it in a very aspirational way (as opposed to a practical). We envision ourselves waking up as entirely new people but the truth is: change doesn’t happen overnight and if we think about midnight December 31 being a Cinderella story fixed with a little sprinkling of fairy dust then we are doomed to be in for a quick path to failure.
Solution: Start planning now for how you will reach your goals in the future.
2. You are human. Humans are weak.
Goals are designed to be a challenge for the person setting them. If they weren’t challenging, they wouldn’t be goals. They would be accomplishments. In order to overcome challenges, we must apply a steady dose of motivation and mental strength. Let’s be real honest here: If you have been slacking on your goals all year and are sweeping them under the holiday party rug until Jan 2, then of course you’re going to find a big pile of the same old trash still sitting there in the new year. I don’t know about you but waking up with hopes of a fresh start, to the same issues you’ve been trying to hide all along, tends to be more de-motivational than anything. This contributes to declining mental strength around goal setting and before you know it, you’ve failed.
Solution: Start getting mentally tough and creating your motivational plan.
3. You are Being Too Vague
Sure, losing weight or landing a new job sound like reasonable goals but if you’ve ever tried either, you’ll know they take some work. Working towards an intangible goal can seem like a never-ending uphill hike when you’re in the trenches and this can lead to the will to quit. After all, if you can’t see what you are working towards, you will never get there. This year I resolved to learn Spanish. I failed (I’ll admit it) because when I started about 2 months ago (okay yes, I procrastinated too) I realized there was so much I needed to know and very little time in which to learn it. This of course freaked me out and I quit. Had I been specific from the beginning about perhaps becoming conversational in a restaurant setting then I wouldn’t be doing my resolution walk of shame here.
Solution: Set tangible, realistic goals with clear points of achievement with which to work towards.
4. You Aren’t Consistent
Planning for the future requires building a roadmap and taking action. A realistic goal becomes overwhelming and unrealistic if it isn’t broken down and acted upon regularly. Create your goal and then reverse-engineer your plan across months, weeks or even days. Put it on paper and hang it on your bathroom mirror so you have a constant reminder of what you need to be doing. Then, do it. A few months ago I wrote about why so many people fail to find happiness and meaning in their jobs. People fail because they don’t take action. If you’re unhappy where you’re at then the worst thing you can do is fail to take action because you’ll always remain where you are and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
I wish you much success in the New Year especially when it comes to your resolutions. Whether you’re a resolution-setter or not, just think about what the world would be like if we all set resolutions to become better people & made good on them. It’s a nice thought!
Check out my no-fail plan for achieving your career resolutions.