Every year around this time, many people approach the new year with a sense of optimism and determination, vowing to make a number of life changes and self-improvements. Healthy food is consumed, gym parking lots are full and everyone is at their best. Unfortunately, by late January, most have already fallen off the wagon and abandoned their new year’s resolutions.
According to a study by the University of Scranton, 92 percent of all new year’s resolutions fail. How is it possible that so many good intentions can fall through the cracks? Psychology professor Peter Herman describes this as the “false hope syndrome.” Herman points out that most people fail because their resolutions aren’t realistic. They underestimate the difficulty of the task and the time required to accomplish it. There are a number of approaches one can take that may not guarantee success, but can certainly increase the odds. Let’s look at a few tips that will help you achieve your resolutions and set you up for career success in the new year.
Don’t make resolutions you can’t control
Perhaps your new year’s resolution is to get a promotion at work. You’ve been with the company for several years, gained the necessary skills and experience, and proven your interest and determination. Unfortunately, a part of this resolution is beyond your control. Maybe there are no current job openings. Maybe there’s another candidate who is equally qualified, or perhaps more so. Maybe they’ll be offered the position, but they won’t be a good fit and it will be offered to you the following year. While it’s good to have career goals and continue to work toward them, hinging your resolution on something that is ultimately someone else’s decision can leave you feeling a sense of failure, even though you did everything required to succeed.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Just because it’s a new year and you’re looking to make some positive changes, presumably your everyday responsibilities won’t change. You’ll still have the same commitments you had last year – to your wife or husband, to your kids, to your employer, to your friends. Therefore, keep these commitments in mind when making your resolutions, and try to keep them realistic. Instead of vowing to get a degree or a certification, start by just taking one class. Each small step will move you closer to your larger goal. Celebrate your success by reaching small goals – don’t regret your failure by not reaching big ones.
Take baby steps
Whatever your resolution may be, look at it with a micro view, not a macro one. Work small steps into your daily or weekly routine, and don’t expect to knock out large portions at once. If your goal is to read a book about a new subject or for a course you’re taking, focus on reading one or two pages a night, not on finishing the book in a week or two. There’s nothing wrong with starting small, and if you find you have more time in your schedule than you anticipated, you can always increase your efforts. On the other hand, taking on too much to begin with will only cause stress and frustration, and will most likely leave you feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
Set a realistic timeframe
A common reason that new year’s resolutions fail is the lack of an appropriate timeframe. Not setting a target date invites procrastination, and while there may be several months left in the year, an “I’ll get to it when I have time” attitude can easily lead to unmet goals and feelings of failure. Likewise, setting a target date that’s too soon can lead to similar frustration. Choose a date that’s realistic for completing your resolution, and that will allow you to balance the extra work with your daily schedule. Once it’s set, hold yourself accountable. Ensure you’re taking the necessary steps on a regular basis to achieve your goal on the chosen date. While some resolutions may benefit from a partner who can hold you accountable (like a workout buddy), in the end, no one will celebrate your success or regret your failure more than you.
Only choose goals that are important
This sounds like a no-brainer, but some people feel they MUST have a new year’s resolution or they just aren’t improving. There’s really no shame in not having a resolution. Most resolutions fail simply because people just don’t care enough to follow through. If it’s not something that’s important to you, skip it this year and start thinking of a resolution for next year that you’re truly passionate about. Without willpower, determination and a meaningful goal, you’re setting yourself up for failure, which will only have a negative psychological effect on other aspects of your life.
Any gambler will tell you that it’s better not to gamble when the odds aren’t in your favor than to gamble and lose. Such is the case with new year’s resolutions. While we can all learn from certain failures, there’s nothing to be gained from talking about resolutions of years past that you weren’t committed enough to see through. If you’re part of the nearly 50 percent of the population who typically makes new year’s resolutions, choose a goal that’s meaningful and attainable, with a realistic target date of completion. Then above all, hold yourself accountable for achieving it so you don’t become one of the 92 percent who fail. By this time next year, you’ll be looking to repeat this year’s success instead of hoping to avoid another failed resolution attempt.