Theo Tsaousides Ph.D.

Smashing the Brainblocks


Will You Achieve Your Goals This Year?

It is time to track your progres on your New Year's resolutions

Posted Mar 12, 2017

Source: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

I am breaking a tradition.  It is only March and I am already writing about New Year's resolutions.  And you may be wondering why...

With respect to New Year’s Resolutions (NYRs), I am like most people.  I think about them a lot…in December.  That’s when I write blog posts about them, that’s when I remind my clients of the importance of NYRs, and that's when I take out my journal – just a few days before January 1 – to write down my own NYRs.

NYRs are a metaphor for how we approach goal achievement in general.  They are like all other personal goals.  They are expressions of our desire to change, to add, to improve, or to eliminate something in our lives.  Similar to other personal goals, no one forces us to make NYRs, no one dictates what they should consist of, and no one will fire us if we don’t accomplish them.  That's a relief.

The majority of NYRs fall under three categories: improving physical health (usually by exercising more, eating healthier, or quitting harmful practices), improving the self (either by developing more desirable traits and engaging in behaviors that enhance our well-being or by contributing to the welfare of other people), and improving finances (for instance, saving more, spending less, doing something more lucrative).

As you probably noticed, there is nothing about NYRs that makes them inherently more special.  The only difference between NYRs and any other personal goal is…their date of birth.  The fact that we set NYRs on January 1st is what makes them receive more attention and, unfortunately, more jeers!

The rate of success for NYRs is reported at under 10%.  That’s quite low.  Only 1 out of 10 of people reading this post will have good news to report by the end of the year.  Why is that?

There could be a lot of reasons why.  We may be failing because:

  • We don’t set them seriously. 

One possible reason for the low success rate may be that the goal setting process itself requires some tweaking.  For example, we could be investing more time and putting more thought into choosing personally meaningful goals to achieve.  We could explore our motives behind the goals we set - understanding the “why” behind the goal - a little more extensively.  We could also spend some time assessing whether we have the resources to bring the goals we set to fruition.  We could ask ourselves whether we are serious about the NYRs we set or whether we are setting them mostly to be a good sport and follow the tradition, not because we really have the intention to follow through with the goal.  In this case, there are no losses whether we achieve the goal by the end of the year or not.  We didn’t really care about it. The only problem with that approach is that we mess up the statistics because they don’t separate the people who are serious about their NYRs from those who aren't!

  • We don’t pursue them seriously. 

Another possible reason for the low success rate is that we falter with the implementation.  We think deeply and seriously about what we want to achieve, but somehow we are unable to follow through.  The research on NYRs shows that a substantial percentage of people who set NYRs in the beginning of the year, are unable to recall what their resolutions were, when asked later in the same year.  It is hard to be focused on something and work on it, when you can’t remember what that was.  You may have a vague sense that there is something you ought to be doing, but you are not clear about what that was, and instead you’re left with this gnawing feeling.  It’s like when you are at the grocery store and you have a sense that there is something you need to buy, but you can’t remember what that was, so you stop looking for it.

  • We are doing everything right, and we still can’t achieve our NYRs. 

This is the most disheartening scenario: when we are doing everything right and we still can’t achieve our NYRs.  This is a very important point that requires its own blog post.  Nevertheless, if we are doing something - anything, and maybe not everything, and maybe not everything right, we are still ahead of the curve. 

By now, you may have guessed correctly that you are not reading something that invites you to set NYRs for next year.  It is March.  It is too early for that.  But it is not too late to check in with you about the NYRs you made on January 1st of this year.  We are 3 months into the year, and it is a good time for a quick review.

My questions to you are:

  1. Did you make NYRs this year?
  2. Do you remember what they were?
  3. How much progress have you made?

Share you answers in this brief survey!