Forget Making New Year’s Resolutions

Change can happen anytime.

Posted Jan 05, 2021

Marizza/iStock
Source: Marizza/iStock

Research tells us that 80% of New Year’s resolutions made will actually fail. Repeatedly. Every single year.

Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, so what gives? Why do something you only have a 20% chance of accomplishing? Would you take on a challenge where someone gave you 20% odds? Would you spend your hard-earned paycheck on a bet that had a 20% chance of winning? Would you take 20% odds on anything meaningful to you? Then why follow the crowd and make resolutions that have a high likelihood of failure?

It doesn’t mean there aren’t things you’d like to change: lose those 5 to 10 lbs you might have put on during quarantine followed by the holidays, or change that job you absolutely, positively have hated for too long, or find a better girlfriend or boyfriend, or spend more time with those you love, or meditate, or go to bed earlier… the list just goes on and on. There are likely a number of things that you would like to shift next year or even next week. The goal could be to make that shift any time you want to and to be successful with it. Don’t tie it to the 1st of the year; just decide what you want to do and do it when you want.

There are steps you can take, at any point in time, to be successful. Whether it is at the start of 2021, or any other time, here is what you need to do to succeed:

1. Be clear on where you want to go. As human beings, we are almost always in one of two states – moving toward something we want or away from something we don’t want. Unfortunately, we tend to put a lot of focus on the “don’t want” category. You know what you want to move away from, be it that extra weight, that undesirable job or the guilt from not spending time with your loved ones, but you haven’t identified the end state you will find your bliss in. What will success look like to you? Define it in quantitative and qualitative terms. If you give yourself a pat on the back for succeeding, what exactly are you celebrating? What “win” would matter to you? Sometimes it can help to write out ideas first, or draw a picture of an outcome. Do whatever will help you to see that end goal and to know exactly what you are aiming for, so you can aim with confidence.

2. Know what gets in the way, and organize a response to remove obstacles. If you haven’t succeeded in the past, and most people do make several attempts at changing their lives in some ways, you might not be paying enough attention to the obstacles lying in your path. It can be therapeutic to identify obstacles – after all, there are real blocks in any goal-based initiative. What’s important is to categorize them – what can you control? What can you influence? What’s entirely out of your control? When making your plan of action, focus only on those obstacles that are controllable or within your influence. Too many people spend time on the uncontrollable; this depletes your energy and makes planning harder. Figure out what you can move, or deal with, and then choose to do something about those obstacles.

3. Know the human factor. Examine your personal strengths and weaknesses and identify where you have gone astray in the past. This isn’t an exercise in beating up on yourself – that only depletes your energy; this is to be objective about what you can and cannot do. Then, consider your stakeholders – who has the power and influence to be able to help you? Who cares about outcomes and can support your efforts? Don’t go it alone. Most weight-loss and addiction programs operate with the buddy system because it helps to be accountable to someone and to have someone who has ideas for steps you can take and things you can do. Find these people in your life and bring them into the fold. 

4. Consider a multitude of alternatives. Instead of saying you are going to join a gym (for example) to lose weight, consider other options. You could take long walks, exercise on your living room floor, eat differently, and so on. Many times, you don’t make the change you want because you engage in one-way thinking where there only seems to be one solution. Develop criteria for decision-making. If you hate the gym, and it is too expensive, don’t make that your only option! Think about cost, ease of implementation, likeability of your choice and so on. Make a list of what matters just as you would if you were buying a new car or moving to a new location. You’d know what you want and the priorities for purchase. Do the same when you consider the actions you can take. Choose those that fit your priorities and criteria the best.

5. Have. A. Plan. This cannot be stressed enough. Too many people say they will “eat more healthy” in the new year, for example, or “get less upset with my children.” These are certainly positive goals but they aren’t specific. When and where will you shop? What will you buy? What do you enjoy eating? What recipes will you use? How will you recognize triggers so you don’t immediately get upset with your children? What do they do that upsets you? When and how will you practice calming yourself so you are prepared next time? The best-laid plans remain as plans without a clear, action-oriented set of steps to move forward. Break down what you need to do, put it on a calendar and make small progress every single day. The clearer you are on the steps, the smaller the steps can be, and the more you commit them to writing, the more likely you are to move forward with confidence.

This year, change your odds of making an important shift by following these steps. This material is based upon the SHIFT Model® and my book, Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get to Where YOU Want to Go.