Did you have New Year’s resolutions last year? Can you even remember what they were? If the answers to those two questions were ‘yes’ and ‘no’, there’s a chance it’s because you gave up on your promise to yourself within a matter of weeks. In fact, stats from some surveys suggest that only 4% of people who make a resolution stick with it for the whole year, or reach their goal before the year is out.i For many of those, they were already in the right frame of mind to make a big decision. The timing was just a coincidence.
What makes for a successful resolution?
People who succeed with resolutions have a few things in common. By learning from example and setting yourself up well, you can give yourself a better chance.
First things first: whatever goals you set should be S.M.A.R.T. If you’re not already familiar with this acronym, it stands for ‘specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound’. Ideally, ‘specific’ means something definite and not broad. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to get fit,” you could say “I’m going to go make a weekly appointment with a personal trainer” (side note – if you’re financially committed, that helps).
‘Measurable’ ideally means something you can put a number on. But if that’s not possible, try explaining your vision of success in your goal to someone else. If they get it, chances are it’s fairly objective. Your goal should be achievable (challenging is OK – impossible is not), and relevant to your values or self-interest.
Finally, it should be time-bound. Setting a timeline is simpler for common goals such as weight loss and other health improvements (lower cholesterol, etc.). For more complex resolutions, try at least putting deadlines on the individual tasks that make up your goal. For example, say you resolved to upskill so you can move up in your organisation. You might set yourself a short-term goal of enrolling in a course by a certain date.
Got lots to get done? That’s understandable. Self-criticism and the drive for self-improvement is natural. So when someone asks you “what’s your resolution for 2018?”, chances are you’ve got a few options up your sleeve. The key to not getting overwhelmed is to set priorities. When you’re planning ahead to achieve your goals, you can see whether the time and effort for a high priority item conflicts with a low priority item. Then you can adjust your plans as necessary.
Get by with a little help from friends
There are two different schools of thought regarding involving your mates in your resolutions. Some psychologists think that telling people what you plan to do (and being congratulated) gives you the warm, fuzzy feeling of achievement – meaning you don’t actually do the thing. Others say it’s essential to have a support network around you to help stick to your goals.
If your goals are related to your social circle or family, it may be worth asking for their help. Want to have one fewer pint at after-work drinks? Ask your best work friend to keep an eye on your ordering. Want to spend more time with your kids or older grandkids? Ask them to organise outings and remind you ahead of time, in case you don’t get around to it. Feeling a bit shy about your chosen resolution? Chances are there’s an online community you can reach out to for support. Try visiting a forum site like Whirlpool or Reddit, and searching for on-topic discussions.ii
However you frame your resolution, remember: ultimately, you’re the only one responsible for your success or failure. But you can do it.