It happens at this time of the year, every year. As the New Year arrives, people talk about making resolutions. In fact, the ritual of making promises or resolutions at the start of the New Year goes back as far as the Babylonians, and can be found in nearly every part of the world, in many religions.
Apparently there is something about the New Year that gets us thinking about improvement, growth, happiness and contentment.
And that is a good thing.
But there are problems too.
The Top Ten Resolutions
According to the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, December 13, 2012 edition, the top ten resolutions for 2012 were:
- Lose Weight
- Get Organized
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy Life to the Fullest
- Stay Fit and Healthy
- Learn Something Exciting
- Quit Smoking
- Help Others in Their Dreams
- Fall in Love
- Spend More Time with Family
All of these are valuable, meaningful sentiments, yet most are only sentiments. And because of that, it is no surprise that the same research found that only 8% of people are successful in “achieving their resolution.”
So 45% of people set resolutions, 17% often do, and 38% never set them. The rest of this article is for everyone – whether you set them or not. Because the process I’m going to outline isn’t about resolutions, it is about results.
The List of Resolutions
Let’s look back at that top ten list again and notice that only one of them is even close to a goal (Quit Smoking) – and even it is incomplete. They are changes in habit, they are wishes, and valuable sentiments – but not goals.
We all know that changing habit is hard stuff – if it weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing these words and you wouldn’t be reading them. Remember that you keep a resolution, and you achieve a goal.
The biggest problem with resolutions is that people want a result, but never clearly identify what the result is.
Moving To Results
If you want to achieve something, you must set a target – we must move from resolution to goal – that step will improve your success rate significantly. While much has been written about goal setting, and you likely already “know” something about it, if you are like most people, you don’t apply that knowledge. I’ll share a few keys in a minute, but first, let’s turn that top ten list of resolutions into goals.
The Top Ten Resolutions, Revisited
I’ve taken some license here and made some assumptions. Your actual goals in these areas would be different. What I am trying to do is draw the distinction between a resolution and a goal.
- On February 15th, I weigh XXX pounds.
- My desk is clean each Friday when I leave work. (You have to know what “clean” means to you, and of course you may mean something different in terms of organizing)
- I save $XXX/month –or- on December 31, my savings account contains $XXXX.
- I schedule and spend 4 hours each week on an activity I am passionate about.
- I exercise 4 times per week, for at least 30 minutes.
- On May 1, I have read 3 books (or taken one class, etc.) on exciting topic X.
- On March 1, I am completely smoke free.
- I do one thing each week to help other people reach their dreams/goals.
- On September 15, I feel the warm embrace of the one I love.
- We spend one evening each week together as a family, with no TV.
Notice that all of these now have a regular target (a process or activity goal), or have a desired end-state (a destination goal). Both are important and useful. It isn’t hard to see how they have a better chance of success than a resolution.
Tips for the Transformation
As promised here are a few ideas to help you set goals, rather than make resolutions. Buy a book on goal setting or Google it, for much more.
Have a target. What do you want to achieve and by when? The target and timeline make it a goal. Without these things it also isn’t measurable (like most resolutions).
State them in present tense. Notice how all the goals above are written as if they have already occurred. Without going into the reasons why this works, just trust me – writing them this way is much more powerful and effective.
Review them regularly. Setting a resolution often happens late on New Year’s Eve or before the Bowl Games on New Year’s Day – hardly a time of perfect focus. Set your goals and write them down. Then review them at least once a day. Whether you put them on your pc, in your wallet or on your bathroom mirror, remind your conscious and subconscious mind of your goals often.
Have a big why. Perhaps more important than any mechanics is to have a big reason why you want to achieve the goal. Why does the achievement matter? What is the purpose? When that purpose is clear (and you remind yourself of it each time you review the goal), the chances of achievement will skyrocket.
Hopefully this helps you look at resolutions differently – and helps you move further and faster towards what you really want – which is new and better results.