Ah, January. The month of renewal, rejuvenation and resolutions. Maybe you’ve resolved to shed those extra pounds, get a promotion at work or find The One. Maybe you’ll land all three.
Maybe indeed. Every December millions of well-intentioned people set New Year’s resolutions and, then, when January arrives, they promptly give them up. According to Forbes, only 8 percent of us manage to achieve just one of our resolutions. By mid-January, more than half of us have abandoned the effort.
So dismal is our success rate that we now have a day that gives us permission to break all those unrealistic promises we made to ourselves two weeks earlier. Jan. 17 has been designated Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day because that’s the date most get tossed anyway.
When you get right down to it, the New Year’s resolution is nothing more than the perfect set-up for a huge letdown. Here’s why:
They’re all about what you think you should do. Our choices are often driven by others’ expectations or by what we see or hear in the media rather than our own values and beliefs. “A lot of times it’s someone else’s goals,” says Liz Brown, life and wellness coach and owner of Be Well Life Coaching in Centreville. “One reason why people fail is that they don’t buy into the process.”
There is no commitment. Resolutions that lack a personal “why factor” soon wind up on the back burner. What’s your reason for achieving that goal? What will happen if you quit? Commitment requires an expectation of personal gain and without commitment, motivation wanes. “You have to have a really clear idea about what the goal gives you to suffer through the change process because change is hard for people,” says Brown.
The timing is off. Let’s be honest, we’re not at our best on Jan. 1. We’ve just come off a holiday season that encourages overindulgence, so it’s no surprise that come New Year’s Day we think of all the things that need rehabbing: finances, weight, relationships, work. “It’s like trying to lose 50 pounds in two months,” says Brown. “It doesn’t work.” Why stick to an arbitrary date when you have 364 equally good candidates to choose from?
Resolutions are not goals. Resolutions are often so vague they’re virtually meaningless. Whatever you want to accomplish, Brown recommends that you stop treating it like a resolution. Turn it into a goal, make a plan and track your progress. Here’s how:
1. Look at the various aspects of your life and rate how you’re doing in each on a scale of one to 10.
2. Prioritize. Determine your reason for accomplishing the goal. Why is this particular goal important to you and what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it?
3. Create a plan. A goal without a credible plan remains a wish. Break the larger goal into a series of smaller, specific and measureable steps and track your progress. What obstacles do you anticipate and how will you work around them? What resources will you bring?
4. Prepare to fail. Change is hard. If the goal is important, chances are it’s going to be tough to accomplish. Don’t give up if you get off track. It’s not an all-or-nothing.
5. Seek accountability by communicating your plans to family or someone you trust so they can check in with you on your goals.