Some of the most frequently used New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, getting in shape and spending more time with family. As I thought about these resolutions, I decided to take a look at some statistics. Not surprisingly, very few people actually keep their resolutions. Most of the studies I researched indicate that somewhere between 8-20% of resolutions succeed. Meaning, of course, between 80-92% of all resolutions fail. And that begs the question: Why make a resolution if it has such a huge chance of failing? Won’t that failure make you feel even worse?
So, here’s a somewhat radical idea. This New Year, don’t make any resolutions. Instead, consider setting smaller, measurable goals that you reassess frequently.
Set a Reasonable Time Frame
Instead of getting that annual gym membership, consider taking advantage of the one-month introductory offer. Or, instead of saying you want to lose 20 pounds during the course of the year, choose a smaller goal for January or the first quarter. Once the initial time frame ends, you have a chance to re-assess. How did it go? You can then set your next goal based on how your last one worked out. If you achieved your goal, you will feel more confident about either re-upping for the next time frame or, perhaps, pushing it out for a somewhat longer time frame. Let the second goal build upon the success of the first.
Make It Measurable
In the examples above, measurement is very easy. Pick a number of times per week you want to work out, or a certain number of pounds to lose in the first quarter.
What if you were thinking of something a bit less easily measured, like having more patience with your co-workers? Don’t despair! Almost anything can be measured if you put your mind to it. Suppose your colleague, Joe, is just plain irritating. For the first time frame, of, say, one month, you could track the number of times you lose your patience with Joe. Just noting this and bringing awareness to it will be powerful in and of itself. During the next month, your goal could be to have fewer incidents of losing your patience with Joe. Turning this into a measurable, event-based goal will give you the best chance of success.
Assess and Reassess
Being realistic may be the toughest part of goal setting. We all tend to start the New Year with high hopes for what we can achieve, but as evidenced by the studies I quoted above, the majority of resolutions tend to be unrealistic. One way around this pitfall is to give yourself permission to adjust your goal several times during the year. So, if you set a goal to go to the gym five times per week for the month of January and you end up only averaging two times, you will have some good data to use when you adjust your goal for February. And, instead of throwing up your arms in failure as you might have with a year-long resolution, you can simply adjust to your own reality. These adjustments can occur quarterly, monthly, or even weekly – depending on the difficulty of the goal and your level of determination. Consider scheduling more ‘check-ins’ for readjustment than you think you will need, to keep yourself on track. And actually schedule them – put them on your calendar with a reminder or two, so that this important part of goal-keeping won’t fall by the wayside.
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We wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year!