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Should You Make New Year's Resolutions This Year?

Here is how to decide.

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It’s that time of year again: Time to make New Year’s resolutions.

What could be better than starting the year with hope and with promises to be more successful, more productive, or more loving? The debate has already begun. Just as in past years, some of us will honor the tradition of making resolutions, while as many others will mock it—and us. There's so much dissent and disagreement around resolutions because they so often fail to deliver. Research shows that less than 10 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. And more than 50 percent of people who make resolutions can’t even remember what those promises were when asked later in the year. Apparently, what happens in January stays in January; it rarely makes it to June.

It's understandable that people are cautious about New Year's resolutions. The grim 10 percent success rate can make even the most extreme optimists skeptical. If the odds are stacked against you, why even bother? Why sign up for something you'll probably fail to achieve?

Whichever side of the debate you stand on, you will be right: Just make sure that you are right for the right reasons. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to make resolutions this year:

You should make resolutions... :

  • If you like infusing your brain with extra motivation. Being actively engaged in the pursuit of a goal activates the brain’s pleasure centers, giving us a jolt of happiness, regardless of the outcome. We seem to derive as much pleasure from chasing dreams as we do from achieving them.
  • If you have been setting the same goals for years. Stating the same goals year after year means that these are important areas in your life, and that you want to see yourself make progress toward them. That you haven’t achieved a goal yet, though, means that your approach should be tweaked. Set the goal again this year, but change your approach.
  • If you have a tendency to forget what your resolutions were. Repetition is the mother of all learning. The more often you remind yourself of a goal, the more attuned your brain becomes to information, people, events, or opportunities that support it. And because human memory needs external support, write your resolutions down somewhere where you can look them up easily and often.
  • If you want to get things done. Knowing the end goal of anything sets our wheels in motion. From daily targets, like getting out of bed to go to work in the morning, to once-in-a-lifetime dreams like visiting the Great Wall, we get things done when we treat them like goals that need to be accomplished.

You shouldn’t make resolutions... :

  • If you already have a system for setting and achieving your goals. If you already know what you are doing, there is no need to complicate and confuse things by adding resolutions to your life plan.
  • If you think it is ridiculous to wait till the first of the year to set important life and business goals. When you are truly ready to pursue your goals, any moment is the right moment. It doesn’t matter if it's April, July, or December. So start working on your goals now, and spend New Year’s Eve celebrating.
  • If you still have enough excuses for why you haven’t achieved your goals yet. Instead of making resolutions and then making excuses for why you haven’t worked on them, focus on the excuses themselves: Identify the barriers preventing you from being fully committed to your goals, and eliminate those first.

Where do you stand? Will you make resolutions this year—or will you make fun of those who do?

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