5 Ways to Make New Year Resolutions Work

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Have you made New Year Resolutions before? Were you able to stick with them through the first week? If yes, then you are with the 75% of the resolution-making population. And if you were able to maintain them through the first month, you will find yourself in a group with the 64%. The further we look into the year, the lower these numbers drop. And what do you think the percentage of people successful in achieving their resolutions is? According to a study by University of Scranton in the US, it’s a meager 8 %!

So why do New Year Resolutions not work for the vast majority of those who make them? I have picked five main reasons that I have seen and I would like to offer ways to turn them around.

Reason #1: Being interested but not committed. We may pick goals that sound good and trendy, our friends are pursuing or our family member convinced us we need. Those do not stick because they don’t personally matter to us. Up to 10 years ago one of my resolutions year after year was to lose weight. And whatever methods I chose for achieving that goal at best they lasted till March.  When I look back, I am not surprised. I wore a size 4! And if you know what size 4 looks like, you can tell I did not need to lose any weight. The problem was – I had friends who wore a size 2, size 0 or even secretly shopped for their clothes in children’s departments. Looking at them made me want to be skinnier, but in reality, achieving that goal would gain me nothing.

So pick things that truly matter to you. To get started make a list of things you want in this life but currently do not have. Maybe one of them is getting fit, or maybe it’s publishing your own book. Dig deeper – what is the reason behind this desire? Do you have an idea burning inside you that you must share with your fellow humans or else you feel you are dis-servicing them? Or is it the fame of being a bestselling author that you are after? Whatever it is be truthful with yourself and acknowledge the feeling you crave behind all this. Choose a goal that will have a strong positive impact on your life and stick with it.

Reason #2 – You keep long laundry lists of goals or your resolutions are too vague. New Year has come and many of us are already busy with tons of competing priorities. Face it – we won’t be able to keep everything at the top of our list. So let’s focus on the vital few and turn each of them into a concrete statement. It makes me laugh when I think of one of my other New Year resolutions from the past – “To be happier next year”. Sounds nice but so vague! How was I going to measure it?

You need to be able to measure your goal. For example, if you know it will make you happy to finally have your book published, then set aside an hour or two to writing it every day. Specify the time of the day that you will commit to.  If you can afford it, by all means, plan spending two months at a retreat with yourself to get this done. Whatever you decide, it has to be a tangible plan, realization of which you can measure in progressive increments.

Reason #3:  You are aiming for an extreme makeover. Drastic changes in our lives are hard to keep up with. A diet that keeps you starving or an extremely demanding exercise regime will frustrate you long before achieving any actual results. That’s why January gym memberships are notorious for being ineffective and a great share of gyms’ revenue comes from people who sign up for long-term membership plans and rarely use them.

It’s better to choose things that you can incorporate into your current lifestyle relatively easily – one behavioral change at a time. Most importantly, if your resolution is to get rid of a bad habit, fill the void immediately with a good habit. For example, one of my bad habits was to work through my lunch breaks while eating something at my desk. Now I go for a walk at the exact same time.  I did not drop the habit of eating of course, only the habit of chipping away at endless tasks through my lunch break.

Reason #4: Doing it alone. I personally find it easier to abandon a commitment, if I am the only one who knows and cares about it. On the other hand, if another person is involved, I feel added responsibility to follow through with my plan. That’s why it’s useful to share your goals with someone. Some people like to state their resolutions publicly in order to keep them up. But if you aren’t too comfortable announcing your personal aspirations to the whole world, a trusted accountability partner is the way to go. You can choose someone who knows you well or has similar challenges and goals.

Sometimes I have complete strangers as my accountability partners. Some of them become friends along the way, with others we may part ways at the end of that journey. What matters is that your partner does not shy away from reaching out to you as many times as necessary to get through to you and is not afraid to tell the hard truth to your face.

Reason #5 – Focusing on the negative. Choose only positive statements. For example, if your goal is to “give up all the junk food” reframe it into “I am switching to nutrients that are good for my body”.  If you would like to minimize all contact with the toxic people in your life turn it into a statement like: “I am surrounding myself with positive and effective people”.

Imagine yourself a year from now. What would it be like for you if you have achieved your goals – if you got yourself into the best shape of your life, if you published your book or traveled to your dream destination? Post the images of those achievements in a place where you can see them daily in order to keep your focus sharp.

You can make new resolutions at any time, no need to wait for the New Year, the first of the month or even Monday to begin. But if closing the old calendar and opening a brand new one gives you that added inspiration, then by all means, there is no better time than right now to commit to your new beginnings.

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  1. Doing it alone and being interested not committed is the biggest reason people fail usually.One example is myself 😶.

  2. Thank you so much for putting this nice article together. I think I found some of the reasons of my New Year Resolution glitches in this article.

    Almost every new year, I try to revise my upcoming business plans, imagine a better life style, and re-prioritize my reading list.
    But almost every end of December, I find myself have watched more movies than having read my books, instead of taking enough risks, stayed in my comfort zone in the business plans, and let others decide on the changes of my life style.
    I think my commitment to the goals is usually strong, but some are too vague like you stated, and I need to make them more clear.
    Also teaming up on the goals really help me a lot on the way. I try to set regular reading hours with my family. I also try to encourage them to motivate me on my new life style goals. When I find myself out of my revised business plans, I try to draw my colleagues into it. I always like team work.

    Thank you so much again for your nice article.


  3. Murat, thank you so much for sharing! This is so powerful! I love how you enroll your family and colleagues in your goals. Continue doing this. If I may suggest one thing that I learned recently – do not use the word “try”. This word could remind of struggling. Do it instead of trying. All the best to you in 2017 with your business plans and family goals. I love the family reading hours and reading more books instead of watching more movies!

  4. Great article with many helpful tips. Your statement “one behavioral change at a time” from Reason #3 struck a chord with me. This is exactly how I’ve had success making positive changes in my life. The key to making a significant impact “one behavioral change at a time” is that you need to be able to identify the point where you are comfortable and confident to introduce yet another new behavioral change. Success comes through the process of continuous improvement. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish “one behavioral change at a time”.

  5. Thank you for sharing Jason. What an exciting parallel between our behavioural changes and the continual improvement of a business process! The PDCA cycle, Planning, Doing, Checking and Acting does not have to be overwhelming: make one change of a manageable scale first and watch how it unfolds in your organization. Pinpointing the moment when you are confident with the outcome of the newly improved process and ready for more change is the key and merits its own discussion.

  6. First of all, personally I never ever make yearly plans. Maybe, I am too simple, too lazy… or am not a goal oriented person… After reading these stories looks like a few people achieve their yearly targets.
    Does it mean I did not miss out on anything? Although I am a lazy guy, I will try your tips once… Who knows what comes up …