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Making New Year’s Resolutions Work

We’re all aware that with the New Year arriving, there are going to be expectations placed upon us and most often they come in the form of traditional New Year’s Resolutions. The problem with these resolutions is that nearly 80% of them fail, and part of the reason that resolutions fail is the same reason that goals fail in general and that is lack of planning. Any time you set a large goal, if you don’t make a means of following through and an accurate way of measuring it then you won’t meet it.

Think about the most important goals in your life, or in society. Graduate high school, get married, establish a career, etc. all of these goals are clearly defined and have easy checklists to measure out where you are. Graduating high school has the simple steps of go to school, get passing grades, accept your diploma. Every semester/trimester you or your parents get a report and an accounting of where you’re succeeding and where you need work, it’s measured out clearly and concisely and reported back to you so that you can adjust behaviors and actions accordingly. Careers are the same way, you find out the qualifications for the job, meet them, get hired, get reports on what you need to do to get raises and advance. All of these systems are set in place to help you succeed.

Next think about the average resolution that people set. “I’m going to get in shape,” or “I’m going to save more money.” The problem with these goals is that they a) aren’t specific and b) have no measurable steps. Without a methodology for success, you will not succeed.

There are a few really good ways to go about making goals measurable. My preferred method is to see what the goal requires and set markers along the way. Say I want to get back in shape, my first step is to define what that means to me. Being 6'3" and preferring to have more muscle than I currently have, I would set a goal of being 195 lbs. and being able to run three miles consecutively by the end of the year. That means that I have 12 months to put on 20 lbs. and add an extra two miles onto what I can run in that same timeframe.

Okay, so my goal is set, now I need to break it down to make sure that I’m able to measure progress along the way. I want to be able to add 5 lbs. every 3 months, and also add half a mile onto how far I can run. I’ve broken it down into small enough pieces that it’s measurable, and adjustments can be made along the way. Now I just need to plan out my diet and a workout schedule and make sure that I’m keeping track of those things.

If you have a goal of reading more books next year, choose a quantity. Do you want to be like the average CEO and read 52 books a year? Do you want to do half that? Or do you just want to be better than the average person and read more than one book over the year? Whatever it is, it just has to be quantifiable and trackable. According to this study out of Michigan State University, you’re even more likely to succeed if you include a friend to report to.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in goal setting and planning is failure to make goals personal. I’ve made goals like “save $1,000” but I never give myself a reason why. Having a reason, a personal one, makes things more tangible. Take my fitness goal above, part of the reason that I love fitness goals is because I have always enjoyed the act of doing physical things, I generally work in professions or have hobbies that involve a physical aspect and being able to enjoy those more and longer is beneficial to me. I want to get back to my weightlifting shape because to me it’s an outward representation of me being at my best.

It’s not hard to make goals personal, it’s really just tagging on something that is relevant to either where you are now in life or where you want to be. “I want to save $1,000 this month because I’ve never saved that much before” is both precise and related to where you are. You’ve given yourself added motivation, it’s no longer some arbitrary goal but something you can be proud of yourself for. When you make things personally relatable, they become easier to remember and easier to achieve.

I know that 2020 has been a drain for many of us. I hope that you go into 2021 looking to make it a year worth remembering, not because of what happened in the world but because of what you made happen in your own life. Set some goals, build yourself up and remember that it’s okay to fail and to fall short as long as you get back up and keep moving forward. I hope this year is one where you take honest steps toward living your life and enjoying it.

Writer and Life Coach working to better himself and help those around them reach their best.

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