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how-to-make-new-years-resolution-workAccording to a study done by the University of Scranton, 39% of people in their twenties will achieve their resolution each year, whereas a dismal 14% of people over 50 years of age will keep theirs.

According to another study, 75% of New Year’s resolutions will last the first week, but only about 46% will make it past 6 months.

While most New Year’s Resolutions are about breaking a bad habit or losing weight, there are many other resolutions that people set that do not actually become achievements.

According to a Business Insider article quoting Professor Amy Cuddy, social psychologist from Harvard Business School, setting New Year’s Resolutions are bad for most people because, as she stated, “We’re really bad at setting reasonable goals,” . . . And when we don’t meet an unreasonable goal, we fill ourselves with feelings of anxiety and lower our self-worth.

She goes on to explain 4 factors that set people up for failure of resolutions including:

  1. Dealing with absolutes
  2. Framed in negativity
  3. Focused on the outcome instead of a successful process
  4. They are reliant on outside forces

The team at Focus 5 agrees with these failure indicators, and have several practical solutions which are proven to make resolutions and goals 3 to 10 times more achievable.

Knowing why resolutions fail, and how to set them more appropriately, while also understanding your own psychological dynamics of success over failure will help you set more reasonable resolutions and increase your chances of personal success and positive change.

So how can you make resolutions that actually work (whether it’s New Year’s or not)?

Goals must be flexible – if your goals or resolutions are too concrete or absolute, a mistake, missed day, or small failure will make you feel as though you have failed or in some cases, failed completely.  

Thinking in terms of making small improvement steps toward a positive goal is a better way to face your resolutions.

If you fail to meet a certain goal during your first week, look at the progress you did make and pat yourself on the back for reaching 50%, 70% or whatever attempt you made.  Start new the next week and try again.  For example:  If your goal is to quit smoking, getting from two packs a day down to one pack a day is significant progress!

Remember, some of the best baseball hitters struck out nearly 7 out of 10 times at bat!

Goals must be framed in a positive manner – Even in the world of marketing and advertising, negative headlines, or headlines that signal to people the possibility of avoiding a negative situation, have a tendency to get a worse response rate than headlines that stress the achievement of positive things.

Frame your goals in terms of positive achievement instead of what you won’t do or what you want to avoid.  Focusing against the negative actually brings the negative to mind more often, reinforcing its existence.

Instead of making a goal to avoid junk food, make a more specific goal to eat healthier by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your weekly diet.

Give yourself a weekly rest or Sabbath from your goal achievement to reinforce a reward and to experience a normal weekly rest cycle.  

The Body For Life Program is a very successful diet and exercise program that has defined exercise and eating boundaries for 6 days, but allows you to rest and eat anything you want on the 7th day.

It follows normal weekly and daily circadian rhythm ideas which fit our natural body rhythms and helps reinforce cycles that are already natural.

Use short-term, achievable goals – Goals that take 6 months or a year to accomplish fall off the radar of many people because the reward is not immediate enough to reinforce the changes in behavior or effort required to sustain the changed behaviors.  

As noted in the study above, only 46% of New Year’s resolutions make it past the 6 month mark.

Goals must focus on the small incremental steps it takes to reach the mountaintop, and not the mountain top itself.  

By breaking your annual goal into quarterly, monthly and weekly benchmarks with small rewards will allow for a daily or weekly positive feedback which can be a powerful intrinsic (internal) motivator to keep you going.

Literally, people who climb mountains as professional guides do so in stages and reach certain plateaus every day on their multi-stage journey to the top.  Each goal to the next camp or resting spot is attainable within a day or so of climbing, so that the entire mountain ascent is achievable 1 day at a time.

Employ Rewards – Rewards should be put in place to help bolster short term goals or benchmarks reached.  You should reward yourself with small, meaningful rewards each week, bi-weekly or monthly, depending on your achievement and budget.  

Rewards could be as simple as an extra day off to read, play with the kids or go fishing or golfing, whereas a quarterly reward might be a 3-day weekend away on a mini vacation or “break-ation” or even a mini “stay-cation”.  

The key is to reward yourself appropriately and have the discipline not to reward yourself with things you already do during the regular course of your normal living or lifestyle.  

Accountability with a partner or group will help you achieve much more than you normally would because people typically do not want to let other people down.  

Accountability is a powerful motivator.  

If you are working in tandem with a few other people toward similar goals, the likelihood of success multiplies as well.

This past year, we personally joined a Facebook walking group to sustain the goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, 7 days per week.  Some research has been done to show that walking a minimum of 10,000 steps per day has a significant positive impact on your health, longevity, energy, and overall well-being.=

Joining the group had many other intangible benefits that were soon realized.   

1- We had camaraderie and built new relationships with others who cheered us on
2- We got to encourage others on their personal journey toward more activity
3- We had accountability within the group to post our steps tracked by a Fitbit or similar device each day
4- We felt better and realized how low our personal activity levels were before joining the group
5- We realized that none of us reached 365 days of perfect achievement, but we all achieved much more activity and well-being than if we had not taken the challenge.
6- We all felt the achievement and realized 10,000 steps a day is something we can now maintain for the rest of our lives.

In summary, you do have the ability to achieve your goals and your New Year’s resolution if you follow these simple guidelines and are not too hard on yourself when you stumble or fall short of your benchmarks.

The founder of Focus 5, Tim Scholten, created the Focus 5 concept and app to incorporate all of these tools and psychological advantages to help you achieve extraordinary results.  The app is already helping many individuals, coaches and business owners realize goals they had not previously thought possible.

The app includes the ability to set small, realistic yet flexible goals, gives weekly and monthly behavioral trends and reporting for feedback, includes the ability to add private accountability partners and teamsmanship, and helps you align your small goals on a weekly basis to reach your personal best.   You can try the app free for 14 days and see for yourself here.