With the New Year right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about what resolutions you want to make. Almost half of all Americans make annual goals, but only 8% actually see them all the way through. That means a whopping 92% of people fail, give up or just forget about the resolutions they made.
Are we really a nation of quitters? That can’t be true! We sent men to the moon and have discovered other technological and scientific advancements that have required years of trial and error.
So, what is it with our personal goals? Are we unrealistic in our goal setting or do we undervalue what we really can achieve if we commit?
Keep reading as we unpack how to achieve success and become part of the (hopefully growing) 8% that keep our New Year resolutions!
A couple tricks
To set attainable goals, first be specific. For example, while in years past you might have set a goal of reading to your child more, the lack of specificity will eventually set you for failure. What does “more” really mean? This year, set that specific goal, for example that you want to read at least three books a day together.
The average person has dozens of competing priorities at every single moment. In the above example, you could also be doing the dishes or exercising, right? Making unattainable goals will allow you to choose a competing priority instead of the one in front of you. Physiologists say goals that are too lofty will actually cause a “failure to launch” scenario where you never even take the first step—due to fear of failure.
Next, set small and measurable goals or sub-goals. If the kitchen is your least favorite room in the house, don’t set the goal of cooking through Julia Child’s cookbook! Start smaller. Start out by committing, for example, to three homemade meals a week. Don’t worry if that seems small in comparison to other people you know, because this is your measurable goal (and statistically, just about everyone else is going to fail at those lofty goals). And so, in this example, any cooking counts! Did you use the crockpot? Great! That’s one meal. Did you boil water to make pasta? That counts, too! Celebrate the little goals you meet as you go.
In addition to attainable, experts advise setting realistic goals. The most common New Year Resolution focuses on losing weight and getting into shape. However, don’t be unrealistic about the end goal, otherwise as soon as you get off track you’ll be more likely to never get back on. So don’t use your high school jeans or suit you wore at your wedding as a goal if that’s never going to happen—or not in a healthy way. Instead, commit to going to the gym three times a week or taking your dog on an extra lap around the neighborhood. Small changes beget big changes! Don’t rush the process.
Finally, set a timeframe to achieve your goals. The resolutions outlined above are not only changes meant to happen in a single year, but also to set you and your family up for success long-term.
However, if you have other short term goals like train for a 5K or baking perfect a soufflé, those may not require a full year. Choose a time frame that is realistic but doesn’t lead to burnout or boredom.
If you are commonly one of the 92% to fail on making your resolution stick, don’t fret! You’re in good company. But you are stronger than you think, and scientists have even concluded that willpower is malleable. In other words, you have as much willpower as you think you have. This means that on some level, your journey toward self-improvement will be a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Also published on Medium.