The Secret to Successful Resolutions Nobody’s Talking About

It’s the New Year! A time for new ideas and fresh starts, but you know that because everyone tells you it should be, and of course there’s the long-time tradition of New Year’s resolutions. But do people really do this anymore? Well, kind of. According to Statistic Brain’s survey of over 1,500 people on January 1, only 41% of people usually make New Year’s resolutions. A slightly high percentage (42%) of people said they NEVER make New Year’s resolutions.

This is a great way to start the year, though, right? Goals, optimism, a go-get-‘em attitude…why aren’t more people interested in this? I’m sure this is a rhetorical question, as it seems everybody knows: the chances of actually achieving those resolutions is abysmal. Like less than 10%.

I would assert there are some possible reasons for this:

The resolution goal isn’t clear or specific
The resolution goal is unrealistic or overwhelming
The resolution goal didn’t come with a plan
The resolution goal didn’t come with commitment

They start off with the best of intentions, and you know the rest – the more time passes, the more the resolution passes to the wayside, until it’s a forgotten token created for New Year’s sake, or worse, it becomes a nice little nagging reminder of incompletion or failure. Do these statistics from the survey seem familiar?

Resolutions maintained through first week: 72.6%
Past two weeks: 68.4%
Past one month: 58.4%
Past six months: 44.8%

(cue overly-zealous awkward laugh to conceal too-close-to-home accuracy)

I know. I think almost everyone has experienced this including me. So why bother? Why make silly resolutions if you only have a 1 in 10 chance of actually accomplishing them?

Obviously a lot of people don’t – the cycle of resolution failure (or witnessing it in others) has made itself apparent, and there’s almost a feeling of bitterness that accompanies even the thought of doing so.

And the others that do: perhaps some of that is the immediate gratification that comes with making the resolution. It feels good to make some decisive statements that add some direction and control to life! Yeah! But then there’s that action thing…

I think there’s a third camp of people, though – the ones who earnestly want to make change, do make an attempt at a plan, tell friends and family in order to have some accountability, and really do make a go of it. For these people, the lack of accomplishment is especially painful, because the intention was there and the effort was made.

If you fall into this category, then what I’m about to say is for you. There are lots of articles out there about resolutions and statistics and which resolutions are most popular and what successful people do to achieve them, so I’m not going to spend time on that. Instead, I want to tell you what I think the secret is to keeping resolutions when you really do want to make them happen.

Ready? Here it is:

Be willing to make adjustments.

Repeat after me: The plan can be grey and the plan will need tweaking.

I think this is where most people go wrong. They resolve to achieve something, they make an action plan, but they see the plan as being black or white – it works or it doesn’t. And when it (inevitably) falls apart, it’s seen as a fail. But what if it was a great idea and a great plan, and it just needed some modification?

Look at how a product is presented to the public: it’s typically market tested in some way before it’s mass produced. Do people like it? Does it work as intended? What’s good about it? What’s not so good?

Almost always, there are mixed answers at first. Of course if there is no interest, the product is abandoned before it ever goes to sale. But if the interest is there, the data is collected – both the positive and negative – and the product development continues. It’s fairly rare that a product is ready to go from prototype to consumer without revisions. Often it’s market tested again with the improvements. And again. And again.

So your action plans can be just like product testing. You come up with a plan, and then see if it works. If it doesn’t work, you don’t have to abandon ship! See what parts of the plan are good and which parts didn’t work. Did you try too much at one time? Didn’t leave enough space for life getting in the way? Just make an adjustment to any part that keeps your plan from working.

And then test it again.

Still have problems? The same ones or different problems? Tweak the plan and try again. Refine and retest, over and over if necessary, until it works for you.

There are some other things that obviously will help you with this, like a positive attitude and perseverance. But above all, don’t forget: if something’s not working, you can make changes and still keep the concept. It’s YOUR goal, YOUR concept, and YOUR action plan! It can be as individual and unique as you are. And really, your plan is just another place for your creativity to shine.

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