Now that the excesses of the Christmas season are almost behind us, as tradition dictates most of us start planning the New Year’s resolutions we’re going to make.
Will 2018 be the year you get stuck with the 92% failures, or will you join the elite 8% that make it to the end?
Setting these resolutions at the start of the year is a great way to make a positive change in our lives, whether it’s quitting smoking, losing weight, waking up earlier, going to the gym, saving more money, learning a new language, getting a new job, or simply getting home earlier to spend more time with the family.
Do any of these sound familiar?!
The sad thing is though that it’s very rare that we’ll keep to our resolutions. Studies show that 80% of resolutions fail by as early as the second week of February, and 92% before the end of the year, so the odds are stacked against us!
Making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 4,000 years. Ancient Babylonians pledged to their gods to pay their debts. The Romans, who in 46 B.C. established January 1 as the beginning of the New Year, prayed to a 2-faced god Janus; believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, they offered sacrifices to the deity and vowed good conduct for the coming year. For early Christians, the first day of the New Year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future.
Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement, which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on.
What is it about making promises to ourselves only to break them in a matter of days?
There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, from setting too many of them to getting derailed by small failures. Psychologist Paul Marciano, author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, specializes in the area of behavior modification and engagement. He offers seven keys to achieving your goals.
- Make your goals specific: measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). You want to save money but what does that actually mean? Reaching a certain amount? By when?
- Measure progress. ‘If you can measure it, you can change it’ is a fundamental principal of psychology. Feedback through measurement will be a source of motivation as you reflect on where you started, where you are – are you hitting a plateau or slipping back – so that you can adjust your efforts.
- Be patient. Progress is seldom linear, making lasting changes takes time.
- Share your goals with friends and family. Social support is critical. Get an ‘accountability partner’, someone who checks in with you daily or weekly. It’s easy to break a promise to yourself, but far harder to admit it to a friend.
- Schedule it. Have you ever said ‘I’ll find the time’ to do something? Nobody findstime, we choose time. If you have a fitness goal, schedule recurring time blocks for your daily workouts.
- Something is better than nothing. Are you guilty of ‘all or nothing’ thinking? I’ll have dessert as I’ve already eaten the French fries? I’ve blown my diet last night so I’ll restart next week? The good doctor says that the difference between doing something rather than nothing is huge. Any effort towards your goal is better than no effort.
- Get up, when you slip up. It isn’t whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up. Resiliency is paramount. Don’t turn temporary failures into total meltdowns or excuses for giving up. Instead, just acknowledge the mistake and recommit to the path towards the goal.
Dr. Marciano says achieving your goals isn’t about willpower. It’s about developing the right skills, executing strategies, and having the patience that inevitably lead to success.
Will 2017 be the year you get stuck with the 92% failures, or will you join the elite 8% that make it to the end?