About 40% of us will be making New Year’s resolutions this year, but just 8% of us will achieve these resolutions according to research from the University of Scranton. After one week, 75% of us will still be on the right track, 71% after two weeks, 64% after one month, and 46% after six months.
As I’ve mentioned before, moderation is not a strength of most people. We are naturally drawn to extremes, and resolutions are not an exception to the rule. We either set too many resolutions or make our goals much too lofty. This is not an appropriate time to make “go big or go home,” a personal mantra. Take it from me – I would know. I made 30 resolutions every year for five years. Crazy.
You’ve likely heard of ‘SMART’ goals, but it’s never a bad thing to review, so here is what it stands for:
Specific – what exactly is it that you are trying to achieve?
Measurable – How will you know if you’re achieving the goal by measuring your success?
Achievable – is it a realistic goal and one that you have control over?
Relevant – is it applicable to your life and relevant to you right now?
Time-Bound – what is a realistic timeframe for the achievement of this goal?
Here are some examples of crappy resolutions and recommendations to make them a little better:
Crappy Resolution: I’m going to lose weight.
- Better Resolution: I will lose ten pounds over the next six months and maintain that loss for the rest of the year. I will weigh myself twice a week to stay focused.
Crappy Resolution: I’m going to get organized.
- Better Resolution: I’m going to spend one hour a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays filling out my calendar and day planner, sorting mail and paying bills, and writing a menu and grocery list. I will keep a record of weeks where I accomplish my goal.
Crappy Resolution: I’m going to spend less money and save more money.
- Better Resolution: I’m going to stick to my budget of _________ dollars per month for entertainment, _____ dollars per month for clothing, and _________ dollars per month for home décor. I’m going to keep track of what I spend using an app.
All of these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound. However, if you were setting these resolutions, only you would know if they were relevant to your life or not. Maybe you’re setting the Resolution to lose ten pounds, but if you’re honest with yourself, you’re doing it because you feel like you should and not because you care. Maybe you’re setting yourself up for failure by saying that you’re going to spend time getting organized each week when your goal really should be to quit committing to help out with projects that your heart isn’t in. Maybe if you do that and free up some time and space in your head, you’ll become more organized.
Make it easy on yourself. This is going to be hard enough without you making it more difficult than necessary. Pack your gym bag the night before, make a big batch of something healthy on Sunday that you can eat for lunch all week, put a basket on the table to corral your mail as soon as you bring it into the house, or block out time on your calendar to do whatever it is that you want to do.
For every Resolution, picture yourself practicing it one year from now. Does the idea of it make you chuckle? Do you inwardly groan, “Yeah, right, that will happen”? If so, this probably isn’t the best Resolution for you, and you should reconsider. It helps if you can link your Resolution to a core value of yours – for example, happiness, family, freedom, or pleasure. Focus on the broader goal. You’re not just losing 10 pounds. You’re losing ten pounds so that you will feel healthier and enjoy your life more.
When people fail to achieve their Resolution, whether one week in January or at the end of August, they almost always blame their lack of willpower. They make it about some personal character flaw and, in the process, drag their self-esteem through the mud. This makes it much less likely that they will get back on that horse and try again. This sort of mindset tends to be self-fulfilling; if you believe that you don’t have willpower around sweets, guess who will grab a candy bar at the checkout line tomorrow? That’s why it’s critically important that you gauge your progress and focus on what you’ve already accomplished every day.
Your Resolution is not a failure as soon as you slip up. It’s not like you can just say, “Ah well, then, I’ll just try again next year” and slip out for a smoke, buy a box of Twinkies, or order another mojito. We are going to mess up. OK, I’ll rephrase. Most likely, most of us will slip up or, at the very least, will be extremely tempted to screw up. It will be OK, though, because we will have a concrete plan of what to do when it happens. We know that this is a marathon and not a sprint. It helps that we made SMART resolutions and didn’t do anything stupid like decide to go running every morning at 5 a.m. when we know that we are probably going to hit snooze no less than ten times most days of the week. No, that would be self-destructive! We didn’t set 30 resolutions, did we? Hell no. We are going to be just fine.
Some people would argue that the most critical aspect of setting resolutions is not whether you ultimately achieve your goal, but that you’ve taken the time to evaluate your life and recognize that change and growth are an essential part of happiness and success. Merely setting a resolution, before we’ve even taken the first concrete step towards achieving our goal, makes us feel more hopeful and in control of our life. That is the whole point.