Most of the talk about New Year’s Resolutions is just that – talk. Despite all of our good intentions, most people won’t achieve their goals for the coming year. Research released by the University of Scranton Psychology Department reports that only 8 percent of Americans are regularly successful in achieving their resolution. 49 percent achieve occasional success, and 24 percent are never successful. So in other words, the odds are stacked against you even if you set a goal for the New Year
Here are three reasons why most of people will fail at turning their good intention into positive results:
- We don’t bother to make a resolution or set a goal for the year. The University of Scranton study states that only 45 percent of Americans usually make a New Year’s Resolution. So if you are one of the 55 percent who never set a goal for the coming year, the good news is that you are at least being honest with yourself. The bad news is that you are less likely to achieve a goal that you don’t commit to writing. Research published by Dominican University in California stated that writing your goals contributed to a 42 percent increase in their achievement.
- We aren’t emotionally ready to make a change. Let’s face it – it is not like you didn’t already know that you needed to make whatever change you are considering. Most resolutions are about losing weight, getting fit, stopping smoking, spending more time with family, saving more, etc. From a professional perspective, you may resolve to be more conscientious about customer follow-up or even commit to something mundane such as turning your expense reports in on time. I promise that no one mentioned that you should do any of these things at a New Year’s Eve party and you responded with, “That’s brilliant. I need to do that.” People change because of emotional readiness not intellectual understanding.
- We lack the discipline to turn good intention into changed behavior and performance. Let’s go back to the research from the University of Scranton. 75 percent of us are able to maintain our resolution through the first week, but only 49 percent are capable of doing so for six months. The popular belief that you can form a new habit in 21 days isn’t true. The average is about 66 days, but some habits can take up to 254 days.
What it Takes
Everyone has areas of strength and those on which they need to improve. There are parts of my life and business where I have a high degree of discipline and commitment. Likewise, there are many areas that need consistent effort to sustain new habits.
I could make my resolutions more than well-intentioned talk. You can, too. Here are three ideas to help us all beat the odds on achieving our goals in the coming year.
- Get emotionally ready. There are two basic reasons why people change: crisis pushes them to change or opportunity pulls them to change. You have to get completely focused on the crisis to be averted or the opportunity to be secured. And, you have to really want it. I mean gut-wrenching to the bottom of your soul want it. Otherwise, you won’t stick with it when it is inconvenient.
- Understand what it really takes to change. Be realistic about the level of work it takes to make the transformation you want. Put processes in place to help you stay on track, and surround yourself with people who support you enough to help you be accountable. The Dominican University study cited earlier also revealed that the accountability of sending weekly progress reports increased goal attainment. If you want to achieve your goals.
- Celebrate your victories and take your setbacks personally. Celebrate progress – large and small – toward your goals. I celebrate every day that I maintain my goal weight. I also know that it is easy to rationalize setbacks. That is why I take it very personally when I go over that goal weight for more than a week. You have to be relentless in both.
Here’s hoping that 2016 brings you everything that you are committed and disciplined enough to achieve.
Randy Pennington is a business performance expert, award-winning author and speaker, and leading authority on leadership, culture, and change. Through his engaging articles, books, and presentations, Randy teaches companies and associations how to make change work within their organization; achieve positive results; effectively lead through transformation efforts; and build a strong organizational culture to safeguard success.