Year after year, the most common resolutions remain the same: Exercise, weight loss, improve diet, learn a new skill, and take better care of yourself. Unfortunately, the low rate of success is also consistent. Here’s what science says, will help you be the one that achieves success.
Statistically, most New Year’s resolutions fail and by a significant margin.1 While this type of thing generates hundreds, if not thousands of articles and publications year after year. Nobody seems to have solved it yet. Goal setting is now being looked at more scientifically and is beginning to shed light on the right and wrong ways to go about it. Tolstoy tells us that all happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way; a similar principle applies here. Successful resolutions share something in common. On the other hand, there are many local reasons why goals fail.
Set Quantifiable Goals:
How you word your goals may seem trivial, but it matters. Most goals can be put in quantifiable terms or general terms. You want to have quantifiable ones.
General: I’m going to lose weight in 2018
Quantifiable: I’m going to lose 15 pounds in 2018
Keeping goals quantifiable keeps you more accountable. To follow through, you will need to weigh yourself. While many people are understandably reluctant to do this, it makes sense to do this when your motivation is highest – on New Year’s Day.
Then you will step on the scale at various intervals to see where you’re at. You might mentally break down how much you need to lose (just over a pound a month) and measure yourself at the end of the month to see where you are. When you get closer to that date, you will push yourself as necessary to get to that 15-pound mark. Setting a quantifiable goal leaves you in a position to keep you accountable at every step of the way, and it also keeps your goal in the foreground throughout the year, not forgotten.
Set Specific Goals:
We perform best when we have clear, concrete goals. Similar to keeping things quantifiable, being specific helps to keep you accountable and grounded.
Non-specific: I want more money this year
Specific: I will save enough money to take the kids to Disneyland this year
Granted, most people have better goals than “I want more money” (who doesn’t), but it’s worth noting that you want to be as specific as possible. Better would be, “I will save $3000 so that we can take a family vacation to Disneyland this year.” Setting goals also make it quantifiable, so you know how much you need to save every month in very concrete terms. You immediately know whether the goal is realistic at all, and if it is, you’re much more likely to take direct action – like when Tim Hortons seems as tempting as yesterday. If you “want to be wealthy,” this doesn’t allow for a reality check or any sense of accountability. You will be missing all the intermediate steps required to get to any goal worth reaching.
Set Realistic and Attainable Goals:
Once you set specific and quantifiable goals, it’s time for another reality check. What’s realistic for one person may not be remotely in the realm of possibility for another person.
Not realistic: I’m going to look ten years younger
Realistic: I’m going to protect my skin and wear sunscreen every day
You are still constrained by how challenging objectively a goal is. If you misinterpret this or try to push for the impossible, you will likely fail. Some goals may “depend on what you’re willing to sacrifice.” In the above example, looking ten years younger is, for the most part, unrealistic if you plan to clean up your diet. In this case, it may be possible to look ten years younger, for example, with plastic surgery, under optimal conditions – so it depends.
The next step is simply an extension of everything you’ve set yourself up with: Quantifiable, specific, realistic goals will naturally bring to light all the intermediate steps that need to be taken. Setting up the right goals is more than half the battle. If you fail at the goal setting, you will inevitably fail at the process and find no results. Ask yourself: What are the logical intermediate steps to attain my goals?
I want to save some money → I want to save $3000 for a Hawaii vacation next winter (quantifiable, specific)
That’s $250 a month. Is that realistic? → Ok, well, I can sacrifice my morning trip to Starbucks, which is $40, and save another $100 by cutting out dinner out every month. I need to find another $110 to shave off somewhere…
It’s unclear whether this will work or not, but you can notice that the goal’s specificity forces you to think about the details. You may realize that you have many “details” you have to address from your life that you never thought about. Setting specific, quantifiable, and realistic goals sets you up to force you to think about the small things that ultimately lead to bigger things. This is the same, whether you have a fitness goal, a beauty goal, or a financial one. The big end goal is nothing more than the accumulation of invisibly small everyday decisions coming to fruition.
If weight loss happened to be your main goal in 2019, we have a guide specific to weight loss resolutions on DermLetter.