New Year's Resolutions: Success or Failure

Here it is – the New Year!  What this means for many of us is that it is time for New Year’s Resolutions.  This can also mean it is time to set oneself up for failure.  So should we even bother with Resolutions if we are going to fail and give up within 6 months anyway?  If we do choose to make them, how can we stick with them so we succeed?

I have recently been interviewed by 2 reporters for Channels 10/11 on this topic of interest to so many, so I decided to pass along the information I shared with them in this blog.

The fact is, there is nothing special about January 1 as far as setting goals and being successful.  People tend to put a lot of stock in the idea of trying something new at the beginning of a new year, but the truth is that you can set a goal and make a plan for success at any moment in time and on any day of the year.  You just have to change your mindset – move away from the idea of “New Year’s Resolutions” and move toward the idea of setting achievable, reasonable goals for yourself.

Another aspect to consider is the answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”  In other words, “why do it?”  If there is no pay-off or emotional tie-in, we aren’t likely to follow through, which leads to failure and the cycle repeating itself.  We don’t do things unless we get something out of it (even things that we know are not good for us because if we look deeper, we will discover what the pay-off is).  If you set goals to please somebody else or because you think you “should” do it, you don’t have the emotional connection to motivate yourself with following through. 

I ask my clients where they are on a scale of 1-10 as far as willingness to follow through on a goal and if they are anywhere below an 8, I tell them to hold off on it until their willingness moves to an 8 or above because they are not ready to do what it takes to make the change, yet.  This doesn’t mean to give up, but to see themselves in a stage of pre-contemplation or contemplation in order to get their brains ready to move them into action.  Once they hit an 8 or above, they are more likely to stick with it and achieve their goal.

Many people fail because they don’t put it in writing.  Research shows that those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t put them in writing.  You need to be specific and create contingency plans for each goal to help you to stay on track when something comes up that may interfere with your plan.  For example, years ago I discovered that I needed to have Plans A,B and C for my exercise goals.  Plan A was to walk 4 miles in the neighborhood first thing in the morning.  Plan B took into account cold weather whereby I would move indoors to walk in a rec center or gym.  Plan C was based upon considering the road conditions when it was impossible to get out of our cul-de-sac.  In this case, I would go to my basement and plug in a DVD or use the Wii Fit Plus.  (I also continue to use Plan C when I don’t have enough time to make it to the gym for water aerobics class at the scheduled time.)  By setting up contingency plans, I took away my excuses and knew that regardless of the weather or the road conditions, I was going to get my exercise in every day.  I also kept my exercise clothes near my bed so I wouldn’t be tempted to talk myself out of getting up and going.  I would awake and begin putting them on before I could talk myself into staying in bed.  This is part of creating a plan for success by setting up your environment for success. 

When you do slip up, don’t let it stop you from getting back on track.  Remind yourself of the reasons for your goal and look at how far you have come!  Meeting your goals 2/3 of the time is 2/3 better than before!  Recover quicker after each set-back realizing that nobody is perfect.  Look for the pay-off that caused the detour and find a different way to get the feeling you are looking for – something that keeps you on track.

Find an accountability partner.  This may be a friend, an acquaintance who has a similar goal, or a life coach, like me who will help you to stay on track.  When we hold ourselves accountable through another person, we are more likely to succeed.  There are various apps available to help you to keep track of your goals (for example diet and exercise) which also keep you accountable and mindful of the choices you are making.

Include fun in your goals!  Keep them small and have some fun with them.  According to the January 2015 issue of the “O” Magazine, you should consider these habits:  Laugh, read, daydream and connect with others to reduce stress, be more inventive and to live longer.

The bottom line is there is no better time to start your path to achieving your goals than right now, regardless of the date on the calendar!  Know yourself and what you really want.  Create a specific plan to reach those goals, put it in writing and find an accountability partner.  When you slip up, be gentle with yourself, look at your success so far and get back on track.  Make 2015 the year you Dream, Plan and Achieve!

This article was posted in the Coach's Corner of the ASTD Newsletter for January 2015.  You can reach Kolleen through this website, Linked In, Facebook or by calling her at (402) 499-5547.  She offers workshops, small groups and individual life coaching on a variety of topics to help you create the life you dream of but haven't been able to achieve. 

Kolleen was interviewed on KOLN/KGIN TV twice recently about New Year's Resolutions. Unfortunately, the links have expired.