As the New Year arrives I want to write this post to you who are setting your New Year’s resolutions. Did you know that at least 5 studies show that about 90% of your New Year’s resolutions will fail within the first 30 days? You could argue that point but I bet if you took a moment to reflect on your past resolutions, you would be forced to agree. Does that mean you are weak and incapable of bettering yourself? Of course not! It does mean that we need a little help setting goals that actually work.
Here are 7 mistakes that most people make when setting their new year’s resolutions and how to fix them.
Mistake #1: They don’t write them down. This is the first and biggest mistake. It is the sure way to sabotage your goals before you even start them. It has been said that if your goals aren’t written down they are just day dreams. I have found this to be true over and over again.
Fix: Write your goals down on a piece of paper in as much detail as possible. This will help to solidify them and make them real. You have to write them down!
Mistake #2: They don’t ever review their goals after New Year’s Day. Writing a goal down is a great start but if you aren’t looking at it and revisiting that list often, you will start to forget some of the excitement you had when you made the goals. You never put food in the oven, forget about it ,and hope it will get cooked perfectly at some point in the future. You have to check on it over and over again until it is perfect.
Fix: After you have written down your goals, make a few copies of that paper and post it around your house or work in places you will see it every day like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, your computer monitor, your car dashboard, etc. Goals are no “set it and forget it”!
Mistake #3: They focus on setting many goals instead of focusing on one. It is not wise to divide our energy and willpower in 5 different directions as we attempt a total overhaul of our life. Multiple studies have shown that our willpower works like a muscle and can suffer from fatigue. If we work hard to stop drinking soda all day, we will be less likely to avoid eating fast food at night. If you have too many goals to focus on, within a month you will have started letting most of the go.
Fix: Make your list of resolutions and then decide to focus on just one resolution per month. Within a month you will have mastered your first resolution and can move onto the next. Within six months you will have mastered your whole list while most people will have abandoned theirs.
Mistake #4: They make broad, ambiguous goals. If your New Year’s resolution is “Lose Weight”, you can just accept the fact now that you won’t be losing any weight this year. Goals have to be specific to have meaning. Some examples of ambiguous goals are: “Lose Weight”, “Eat Healthy”, “Work Out More”, “Stop Smoking”, “Make More Friends”, etc.
Fix: Make your goals more powerful by making them specific. Here are some examples: “I will lose one pound per week by jogging for 30 minutes every day.”, “I will only eat out 2 times per week.”, “I will introduce myself to one new person every day.”, “I will not smoke a cigarette for one week.”
Mistake #5: They don’t make themselves accountable. When a goal is just between you and yourself, it is really easy to abandon it when the going gets tough because nobody will really know. I know you think you are strong enough to do it on your own but trust me, it is a lot easier when there is someone counting on you to do it.
Fix: A great way to stay on track with your goals is to share them with someone you know will check up on you. Even better, you can set up a competition or challenge with some friends. Psychologically, this will add importance and accountability to your goals.
Mistake #6: They don’t change their normal patterns. Most people will set a goal but not think through the behavioral changes that have to happen in order to facilitate that goal. For example, they make a goal to eat healthier or lose weight, but they don’t think ahead to make themselves lunch in the morning to take to work. Lunch time comes around and they have a choice: skip lunch or go out to eat. They decide to eat because they are starving and when they get to the restaurant they have to decide between the salad and the cheeseburger. The salad doesn’t sound good so they tell themselves they will just eat half of the cheeseburger. 15 minutes later they have eaten everything and abandoned their goal.
Fix: If you want to change behavior, you have to change your patterns. You can’t put yourself in the same situations and expect a different result. If you really want to stop smoking but all of your friends will try to get you to smoke with them, you need to figure out a way to avoid “smoking situations.” If you want to stop eating at the Burger King by your house, stop driving past it every day with your windows rolled down to smell the french fries.
Mistake #7: They forget to focus on the present. New Year’s resolutions are goals we make for the entire year so it is easy for us to say, “I’ll start tomorrow.” Every time we mess up we say the same thing, “I’ll start tomorrow.” I think that if every Dec. 31st we were forced to revisit our New Year’s resolution list from the previous year we would all get a little depressed.
Fix: When you look at that list of goals you have written and locate the one you want to work on this month, ask yourself, “What can I do today to accomplish this goal?” or “What one thing can I do right now to get me closer to this goal?”
Setting goals and self-improvement are some of the most noble undertakings we can make in life. New Year’s Day is like the first chapter of a new book you are writing for your future. Learning how to write effectively is key to any successful book. You can make your goals and resolutions ten times more effective by utilizing the principles we talked about above. The purpose of this blog is to help you on your road to self-improvement and I find great joy in hearing your success stories.
May your new year be full of hard work and success!