New Year's resolutions - measuring success
There's a common belief that New Year's resolutions don't work. By the third Friday of January, the average person has already given up (it's known as 'fail Friday'). And yet, research has shown that the success rate of resolutions is approximately ten times higher than the success rate of adults desiring to change their behaviour but not making a resolution.
So what is it about New Year’s resolutions that makes them so easy to give up on? In most cases, it’s because they’re just not detailed enough or sufficiently thought through.
Identifying specific measures is critical, but it's tricky. It’s not so bad if there are obvious quantifiable measures, such as lose two stone or set aside 45 minutes three times a week to do something just for you. But watch out that you’re not choosing a figure just for the sake of it.
With improving fitness for example, there are all sorts of measures that could be used. You could set yourself a goal of rowing 500 meters in under two minutes by this time next month, or perhaps being able to run a marathon in six months’ time. But why choose these rather than any of the many other measures that might indicate your fitness is improving? And was being able to do so many sit-ups or press-ups really what you were after? Find the measures that mean something to you, such as being fit enough to dig a new pond in the garden.
But what about resolutions like giving up smoking? At what stage will you call yourself an ex-smoker? Is it after one month without a cigarette, six months or maybe a year? Life assurance companies think it’s five years. And what if you slip and have a couple of puffs of a friend’s cigarette – do they count?
Sometimes, instead of going for hard and fast numbers, it works better to think about what you’ll experience. How about being able to climb a particular hill to enjoy the view without being totally breathless? And success with giving up smoking could mean going to certain places you currently associate with smoking and no longer craving nicotine.
Write down exactly how you’ll know you’ve been successful, making sure you have something about both quantity and quality.
And if by any chance you fall into the 'fail Friday' trap and lose momentum, don’t wait until next year. Do something now, and do something regularly. In fact, setting aside time once a month to review your goals is a probably the best resolution of them all.
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About Tim Schuler
Tim has over 30 years' experience of helping people understand how to achieve their goals. He specialises in working with people during periods of change in both their personal and work lives. He is an accredited member of the Association for Coaching.