Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Then it’s just like your New Years Goals,
You just won’t make the time.
So, yeah. It’s New Year’s Eve! The traditional time of year for making resolutions that we won’t bother to keep. Seriously, a study on the subject of New Year’s resolutions from 1989 found that 23% of people studied had abandoned their resolutions within one week of making them, and 81% had abandoned them within two years. A second study in 2002 found that 54% of people who make New Year’s resolutions will have failed or given up within six months. The good news is, of course, that 96% of people who didn’t make a New Year’s resolution but who had the same goal failed within that same six month period.
Here’s the better news. You don’t have to fail. I mean, look at those numbers. If you have a New Year’s resolution, you’re already ahead of the game. You’ve got a much better chance of success, simply because you have committed yourself to doing something. And you’ve got a 77% chance of continuing that goal for at least a week, a 46% chance of still working on it in six months, and a 19% chance of still doing it within two years. In other words, you can do this. And there are things you can do to increase your odds of success.
First, have a concrete goal. This is essential. You need to be able to articulate exactly what your goal is, and it needs to be measurable. “I want to lose weight” is a bad goal. “I want to lose two hundred pounds” is a better goal, because you have a concrete target in mind. If you can put a deadline on it, so much the better: “I want to lose two hundred pounds in two years” is really good.
Second, create an action plan. Take that goal, and figure out what you need to do (or at least what you think you need to do) to achieve it. I recommend breaking it down until you have measurable daily goals, and progress benchmarks. That way, you know exactly what you need to do each day to meet that goal, and you have signs that indicate progress.
Third, recognize that the action plan may need to change. If you are working towards a goal, it is almost by definition something that you aren’t already doing. So you probably don’t know quite how to do it. Your action plan represents your best idea(s) of how to achieve your goal, but you’re going to learn a lot as you work on your goal. So be ready to update, modify, or even rewrite your action plan as needed to make sure you are achieving your goal.
Fourth, find some accountability. You will need some way to keep yourself responsible for your action plan. Use a journal to keep track of your progress. Use a phone app (I like Habitica, because I’m a nerd). Find a friend or loved one who will be your accountability partner. It doesn’t matter exactly what you use, but you will need something or someone to remind you that you have a goal – especially early on, when you’re still getting in the habit of working on the goal.
Fifth, find a cheerleader. Sure, you need help keeping on task. But you also need help remembering that you’re actually making progress. It’s really easy to miss the improvements you’re making, because you’re with yourself all day and you don’t see the little changes. So find someone who is willing to (realistically) help you see the positive changes and the progress you’re making. If that someone is also your accountability, so much the better!
Sixth, memento mori. Remember, you are mortal. You will make a mistake. You will slack off. You’re human. But remember that it isn’t the end of the world. You’ve got a goal of running a marathon, and you just can’t drag yourself out of bed one morning to go run five miles? It happens. But don’t let that one moment of failure wreck your goal. Take advice from a child learning to walk: when you fall, scream and cry for a minute or two. Then pull yourself back up, and toddle along some more while holding onto something for balance. Sure, you’ll fall down again. But soon, you’ll be toddling along without holding on to anything. And then you’ll be walking, and even running.
And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill drink
For auld lang syne!