Even if you hate New Year’s resolutions, it’s so tempting to make some when January rolls around! You’ve opened a new calendar. You’ve turned a page on last year. Things just have to be different this year! So, you do it again.
And again, you’ll probably fail.
Online statistics say that 23% of people who make a resolution quit within the first week. They’re not the only ones who quit, but they’re the first. 64% quit by the end of the first month. Less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually kept to completion.
That said, resolutions—goals—are actually the best way to move forward in your life and your business. So are there ways to make commitments to yourself and stick to them? Let’s look at some ways not to do it.
10 – BE RESISTANT
“I’m not going to change ANYTHING this year!“
If your life is so perfect, your business humming along on cruise control, congratulations. But keep in mind that things are going to happen to upset that comfortable situation at some point. Change is inevitable. The thing that is rare is status quo. By planning to not plan, by changing nothing, you will actually lose ground when life kicks up dust.
Rather than refusing to change, why not make a list of all the things that are going well, and then make small, incremental plans to improve them even more?
9 – ALL OR NOTHING
“I’m going to change EVERYTHING this year!“
The only people who get to change everything are newborn babies. They enter the world with a clean slate and move forward into the unknown. Every single thing about them changes, almost on a daily basis. For adults, it’s much more likely that vowing to change everything is the same as vowing to change nothing. It will have much the same result.
Goals and resolutions need two key factors: they need to be focused, and they need to be measurable. “Everything” is too vague. Making a goal to focus on one core area of your company or your life and setting benchmarks to measure your progress is attainable. Then you can set a new goal.
8 – BE UNREALISTIC
“I’m going to lose 45 pounds by summer!“
Okay, that’s measurable. But it’s also probably going to lead to crash dieting, unhealthy eating, and a fixation on the scale that makes life intolerable and depressing. Why do you want to lose 45 pounds by summer? Your motivation will give you ideas on how to attain your goal.
If you want to look great in a super-skinny bikini or Speedo, be honest with yourself. Is that something to pour all your effort into? Or do you just want to look respectable on the beach for your vacation? (Again, a rather vapid goal, but let’s work with it.) If that’s the case, why not focus on increasing your activity by walking or some other gentle exercise? It can be as easy as getting a step-counter app on your phone and so you can watch your progress daily. Abandon Barbie and Ken, and work to purchase a bathing suit that looks good on your body type and weight. You’ll still feel good on the beach without putting yourself through torture to get there. Be realistic.
7 – BE STARRY EYED
“This is the year I’m going to find someone to marry!“
People actually make this resolution. The goal isn’t a wedding, it’s to have a happy married life for decades to come. (And if that’s not the goal, what are you thinking?) A wedding is a party and a ceremony. Having a marriage begins with that ceremony but goes on and on. That means two people have to be compatible, not on some crazy time-table to meet your resolution.
Rather than focusing on finding “The One” and corralling him or her at the altar, why not focus instead on becoming more interesting and companionable yourself? Make a goal to take some classes that are just for fun and meet people with similar interests. Join a book club. Get involved in a sport. And stop looking at every person you see as a potential mate. Become that potential mate and things will take care of themselves over time.
6 – BE VAGUE
“I’m going to improve my health this year!“
The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions center around personal health. Giving up smoking, cutting out sweets, joining a gym, becoming a marathoner, losing weight. All worthy goals, but too much to take on all at once. Having a vague goal like “improved health” is a set-up for failure.
What is it about your health that dissatisfies you? Make a short (emphasis on short) list of these things and then pick just one. How can you track your progress on that one item? (Cut down one cigarette a day over the course of how many weeks? Add one salad to your diet every other day? Lower your cholesterol number by eating less fats by your next doctor’s appointment?) Keeping a goal measurable is the first step in achieving it. Once you’ve gotten in the habit of meeting that one goal, move on to another. By the end of the year, you may shock yourself with your progress!
5 – TAKE TOO BIG A MOUTHFUL
“I’m only going to make resolutions in January!”
Things change. Think of 2020. Whatever goals you made in January were probably left gasping for breath by the end of March when we all went into lock-down. Making a lot of goals at the beginning of the year doesn’t work. Making one resolution and then establishing smaller, step-by-step goals building up to its completion will pay off. When you see one goal approaching the finish line, start planning for a new one, even if it’s the middle of July. Dates don’t matter. Commitment does.
4 – AIM AT NOTHING
“I’m going to be kinder this year!“
The world would be better if we all were, but what does it look like? For one person it might mean just not snarking at co-workers. For another, it could mean a revolutionary change of behavior across the board. A goal has to have a point at which it can clearly be said to have been achieved. Like the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.” Being “kinder” is a nothing goal. Be specific.
3 – PLAN BEYOND YOUR CONTROL
“We’re going to get pregnant this year!“
A bit of pressure on yourself to achieve a goal keeps you from letting the resolution fail. But pressure to do something you really can’t control will only raise your stress level and add to your depression if you can’t make the goal. Proper resolutions involve things you can actually make good on. This resolution is actually just an earnest wish.
Can’t this be a goal for some people? Far better to set reachable mini-goals along the road. How are you going to get yourself in shape physically to meet this goal? Are there obstacles to overcome? Are there things you can do to make it more likely? Are there alternatives you are willing to live with if this turns out not to be possible (or will you descend into despair?)
Goals are bigger than wishes. They have legs. They need action. And they can change your life.
2 – FOCUS ON PIE IN THE SKY
“I’m going to eat healthier this year!“
Cut out the chocolate! No more coffee/tea/beer! Go vegan! Eat micro-greens three times a day!
If that’s your idea of eating healthier, you’re mistaken. Instead, you’re planning a series of deprivations, and turning something that is innately pleasurable (eating) into something that will become a source of anxiety and frustration. Instead, ask yourself how you know you are not eating healthfully.
Is it that you’ve put on weight? Are your blood value numbers off? Has your doctor told you to change your habits? Do you admire someone who is on the new “it” diet and want to follow them? “Healthier” is relative. What is your baseline? Without knowing that, you can’t figure out what the next steps are to improving.
1 – BLINDSIDE YOURSELF
“I’m going to fulfill all my New Year’s resolutions this year!“
Unbelievably, 43% of people who set New Year’s resolutions expect to give up by February! They don’t consciously plan to fail, but they know their own history. Because they’ve made bad resolutions in the past, they’ve not been able to fulfill them. Making a resolution to keep a bad resolution is actually more detrimental than not making one at all.
These guidelines can be applied to any kind of goal setting, whether personal or business related. You make progress in your life by putting something out in front of you and striving to get to it. Yet an endpoint that is shrouded in mystery and that you can’t wrap your arms around when you get there does not result in victory.
By all means, set goals. Set them well and then get to work. We’re cheering you on.
Becca Anderson spent 17 years in public relations, advertising and corporate PR before joining Fabricare Canada in 2000. She was named editor in 2013, and welcomes feedback about the magazine via the contact form on this site.