The Fallacy of New Year Resolutions

Every year, we hear or read about people making certain resolutions about things in their lives they’re not happy with and want to change.  Then a month or so later, we again hear or read how those resolutions failed miserably.  Then there are the endless media articles explaining why resolutions made at the beginning of each year are doomed to failure.  Yet we go through the same dull cycle year after year after year.  Now it has really just become a sort of joke that people tell.  We see it on social media all the time.

When I was marketing director for a health club years ago, we’d target our advertising to those whose resolutions included “going to the gym more” or “getting into shape.”  These were the people on whom we made the most money.  They’d pay for their annual membership, make a half-hearted effort to fulfill that resolution, and by March, we’d stop seeing them.   All that wasted money.

Even back then I recognized the futility of trying to fulfill these resolutions made under duress, and for all the wrong reasons.  There was no motivation, no incentive…or at least people don’t know how to motivate themselves or to keep a viable incentive forefront in their thoughts.  For these reasons, I did not allow my clients to make such flimsy resolutions on New Years.  For one, everyone around you — who should be your support system — fully expect you to fail.  And without any support system, you are most definitely going to fail.

There are some for whom the incentive was always to succeed in their goals, and these people went about it intelligently.  They understand that in order to set and achieve goals, one must — must — have that support system in place.  For instance, let’s say your goal is to stop partying so much, yet you continue to accept invites from your party-hearty friends every weekend, and continue to fail in your goal.  And once you fail for the first time, it’s a foregone conclusion that you will fail completely.  Why?  Because we’re conditioned to give up after one failed attempt.

Each year, on my birthday, I sit down and write out a personal mission statement for the year.  How does this work for me?  It begins with the fact that I have NEVER been a follower, one who allows others to tell me that I “should” be doing something because everyone else is.  I wasn’t born that way.  It took years of vigilance to learn to recognize when I was being subtly convinced that I wasn’t good enough unless I had what others had, did what others did, acted how others acted, looked how others looked. I took ownership of my goal-setting by moving it away from the first of the year.  That automatically created more meaning for my goals, and therefore, more incentive.

I also created a physical document — a sort of contract with myself — that delineated not only the long term and short term goals, but exactly how I envisioned each step.  This helps solidify the goals by making them more concrete.  We’ve already thought the process through, now we must simply take those first steps.  It helps to post the key goals from your Mission Statement in places where you can easily see them on a daily basis.  Visual reinforcement.  This also helps us to understand whether the goal is realistic, or if it’s wish fulfillment in action.

When I work with coaching clients on these goal-setting issues, this tried and true method has worked 100% of the time.  Once we realize that every goal is a fluid target and adapt according to new information we acquire or discovering that a specific process does not work for us (for there ARE no universal rules when our personal goals are at stake), we can adjust and adapt, shift our aim so that we are more likely to achieve success.  And by success, I mean our personal definition of success, not some television marketing campaign’s version.

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