Did you know that 78% of people do not achieve their New Year’s resolutions? And did you also know that over half of all New Year’s resolutions have been resigned to the bin of failure by January 31?
With this damming statistic, what’s the point of having New Year’s resolutions at all?
The New Year signals a new beginning just as the dawn of each day does. We tend to mark the ending of the old year and celebrate the beginning of the New Year, which gives us a much-needed boost of energy and motivation during the darkest part of year. Given that most of us take time off over the festive period, it is great to time to take stock of the old year and plan ahead for the New Year. And, the great news is, despite all those statistics, there are loads of people who achieve one or more of their New Year’s resolutions! The trick is to understand what these people do differently to those who abandon their resolutions within the first month.
You will be pleased to know that the difference that makes the difference in achieving New Year’s resolutions is not vastly different to what it takes to achieve goals!
So what makes the difference?
1. Crown off the old year
So many of us set new resolutions or just rehash the old (not achieved) ones, without truly taking stock and highlighting to ourselves what we actually achieved over the course of the past year. It is very human phenomenon to forget past achievements and take for granted, and not giving those achievements (and thus ourselves) the appreciation, admiration and pride that is due to them.
Collate your achievement profile for 2011
I invite you now to take one hour out your busy festive period, and really go back over this year, and discover and celebrate these achievements. Really challenge yourself to identify your achievements, your biggest learnings, your best memories, even if they seem small or insignificant to you, write them down! Also check out my earlier article on Celebrating your successes improves confidence and self-esteem!
Create an achievement board
To make this really fun, consider creating an achievement board (similar to a future vision board, just for past achievements) where you mark your achievements by month or by area with symbols, funky colours, memorable drawings or pictures of yourself.
Give awards for your achievements
How about giving awards to those achievements? Examples of achievement awards could be:
- Most fun experience award
- ‘I am so proud of myself’ award
- Super happy award
- Most challenging achievement award
- Biggest learning award
Be really creative with those and make the awards ceremony really fun. This is also a fabulous exercise to do with your children (if you have any) or get group of girlfriends together and give each other awards!
Notice how you feel about 2011 once you have done that. I know, a lot of us may fall into the trap of cataloguing all the things we wanted to achieve, yet for some reason did not. If that is you, put these to one side until you get to step 2!
2. Focus on what is important to you
This may seem rather simple, however it is crucial. A lot of us set New Year resolutions (or any goals for that matter) for things that do not really matter to us. We set them because we feel we should because we did not achieve them the year before, other expect it of us or it is what everybody strives for.
Weed out de-motivating resolutions!
The thing is, if something does not truly matter to you, it will not motivate you to achieve it either. So, as a next step, list all your resolutions that you want to achieve (past, present and future) and consider the following questions (also check out my blog article on Motivation! ):
- What is really important to you about that resolution?
- Why is that important to you?
- What would happen if you achieved it?
- What would happen if you did not achieve it?
- How motivated are you by this resolution? (you could use a scale 0 (not at all)-10 (high), or high, medium, low to make this more real)
Ideally write the answers to your questions down for each resolution you have, and then consider the final question:
- If you could achieve only one thing in 2012 out of all those listed, what would that be?
Really go into yourself and find out what truly excites and lights you up. You may have several resolutions or goals for next year that you truly wish to achieve. If so, list them in order of priority.
Make your resolutions SMART
Almost everyone will have heard of SMART goals. It is an approach that has been proven to work well for most people. I invite you now to take your priority resolutions and make them SMART. For each goal make it
- Specific and simple: what specifically do you want? When, where, how and with whom you want this?
- Meaningful to you: what does this resolution look like, sound like, feel like when you have achieved it? How do you know unequivocally that you are on the right track and that you have achieved?
- Achievable: where are you now and what resources will you need to achieve this goal? What are the smaller steps that you need to do to achieve the goal?
- Realistic: given what else is going on for you, how much time, effort and energy can you devote to you resolution? Be real!
- Timed and toward what you want: can you put dates to the small steps? And when are you going to take the first step towards you goal? Is the goal stated in positive language – what you do want and not what you don’t want. Also check out my blog article How serious are you about your goals?
3. Stepping forth into the New Year
Now that we have weeded out those resolutions that don’t motivate you, and have made those resolutions that totally matter to you SMART, the final step is to increase the energy and motivation behind those resolutions to make them even more compelling and self-motivating.
Do one at a time!
Trying to work on all your resolutions at the same time, could be a step too far. This is backed up Richard Wiseman’s and other research. People who tend to fail in their New Year’s resolutions are trying to do too much in too short a time.
So, choose the one resolution that will make the biggest difference to you (either it is the most fun to do, will make the biggest impact on your life, is the easiest to accomplish, or any other criterion that works for you).
Spread out your resolutions over the year
And then, schedule in your other resolutions throughout the year. Be clear when you will start on each one, and when you will have accomplished it by. Consider using a vision board as a fun reminder and as a way to keep track of your progress.
If you would rather wait with scheduling in the other resolutions or you decided on one resolution for 2012, consider reviewing your resolutions each month and doing monthly resolutions, which are also very effective and keep motivation up.
Taking the first step increases motivation
Motivation is not just a feeling of energy towards a goal, it is also about using that energy to take the first step! And that first step is crucial. So be really clear, what your first step is towards your New Year’s resolution, and take it in the first week of January. No matter how small the step, you will find it is worthwhile.
The trick is to schedule the next step, as soon as the first step is completed and get into the habit to diarise the next step as soon as you have completed the previous step.
Share your resolution with others
Get friends and colleagues to support you in achieving your resolution. Most people around you want you to succeed. When you lose motivation or feel that it is not worth it anymore, those are the people who will root for you and help you get motivated again. And more often than not, sharing our resolutions with others opens up new, quicker and easier ways of getting what we want. So be brave and go public with your resolutions!
Let me know how you get on!
 according to research conducted by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire.
 S-Specific, M-Measurable, A-Achievable, R-Realistic, T-Timed
- New Year’s Resolutions (suemcdonald-online.com)
- Resolution Experiment (quirkology.com)
- How serious are you about your goals? (beingasuccessfulwoman.wordpress.com)
- Motivation! – When is it ever the right time? (beingasuccessfulwoman. wordpress.com)
- Celebrating your successes (beingasuccesfulwoman. wordpress.com)
- What’s your ‘obstacle’ strategy? (beingasuccessfulwoman.wordpress.com)
- It’s so easy to give up on your dreams, isn’t it? (beingasuccessfulwoman.wordpress.com)
- New Year’s Resolutions. It’s about your career too. (mcnakblog.com)