Research in America by the University of Scranton has shown that almost half the population of America set resolutions for the New Year in 2012. Yet only 8% of those resolutions were ever achieved. One week into the New Year 75% were still achieving their goal, but by the end of January this dropped to 64%. From then on it declined further until by the end of the year 92% of people had failed to stick to their resolutions. The problem isn’t with making the resolution; it is the type of resolution that gets set. Some of the top resolutions for 2012 were:
- Lose weight
- Get organised
- Stop smoking
- Spend less
By aiming for such big challenges an enormous amount of willpower is required and that is something the brain struggles to sustain. The area of the brain which handles willpower is the pre-frontal cortex. If you can imagine it as a muscle, then it requires training to build it up and if it is overstretched it takes time to recover. So by setting a target that requires so much willpower you’re not only likely to fail but also to discourage yourself from trying again.
The successful way to reach your goals is to break them down into chunks and address one chunk at a time. So for the resolutions above you could replace them with smaller goals:
- Lose weight becomes “I will replace all my snacks with fruit and nuts for one week”
- Get organised becomes “I will de-clutter one cupboard per week for one month”
- Stop smoking becomes “I will stop having the one cigarette I always have after breakfast for two weeks”
- Spend less becomes “I will identify how much I can afford to spend on all areas of expenditure by January 16th”
Start with small, achievable goals like these and review them at the end of your timescale (not just once a year). This will allow your willpower muscle to get gradually stronger – then who knows what you can achieve.
Top tips for achievable New Year’s resolutions:
- Choose only one resolution, to ensure you keep focused
- Make sure you have chunked it into small achievable goals
- Review your progress regularly. If you were successful celebrate your success and build on it with another small, achievable goal. If you weren’t successful, understand the reasons for it and adapt your goal as necessary
- Get someone to hold you accountable by telling them what you are aiming to achieve.
- Remind yourself daily of the goal and the benefit it will bring to your life
- Why wait until New Year’s Eve, start now!
If you would like help with identifying and achieving your goals for 2014 please contact me by clicking here. Also if you have set yourself any New Year’s resolutions I’d love to hear about them.