New Year’s resolutions can be thought of as a type of goal setting exercise. Yet, people tend to be more successful at formally setting goals than they are at reaching what they set out in their resolutions. Why do people fail at resolutions?
One big reason could be the process is not formal. We make the statement at a time when everyone is festive, i.e., during the holidays. A formal process would suggest you write down your goals and then you set up tasks that you would complete to reach those goals. You would put up milestones and measure them. You map out alternatives for what happens if you don’t reach a milestone and you take that alternate path. When you have reached all of your milestones, you evaluate if that satisfied your goals.
The resolution process is something you casually mention to friends, family, and coworkers. Most people are well-intentioned with their resolutions. However, the fact that most people give up on them means that no matter what your resolutions are, people aren’t going to really take you seriously when you declare them. In fact, the entire process has almost become a joke for many people. It’s fun to declare your resolutions when everyone knows no one is going to reach them. Everyone has a big laugh about it after a few months have gone by.
Does this mean all New Year’s Resolutions are doomed to failure? The likelihood of that is low. It wouldn’t take much to find several people who successfully reach their New Year’s Resolutions and do so year-after-year. But if you ask these people how they go about it, they will probably tell you that they formalized the process and committed it to paper.
If you have not been successful with your New Year’s resolutions, don’t beat yourself up for it. You can still set goals and formalize your own process and you can do it any time of the year. That can be a liberating experience knowing that you don’t have to wait a whole year before accomplishing something you have always wanted to do. Perhaps a better approach is to forget about resolutions altogether and simply focus on a goal setting process. The people in your life will take you more seriously which means they may help you stay on course. You will have a much better chance of reaching your goals when you have some kind of support system to fall back on.