Every year, many of us go through the exercise of generating a list of "new year's resolutions." Perhaps we want to build stronger relationships, get more organized, spend more time with family, or find work/life balance. Or maybe this is the year that we'll get more education, change careers, or finally get a handle on our stress.
If any of these areas are important to you, and you really want to make lasting change, then my challenge to you is this:
DON'T create a single resolution!
According to a study by the University of Scranton in Dec, 2012, over 40% of Americans create resolutions in matters of self-improvement each year, but only 8% of us actually achieve our resolutions - only 8%!
There could be numerous reasons why we don't achieve our resolutions. Here are just a few:
- We often set resolutions on some ideal future state, which may or may not be aligned to our values or our priorities. For example, I may decide that this year, I will finally "get healthy." Sure, I'd like to be healthy, but why? Until I know why being healthy is important to me, I most likely won't have the motivation to do all that much about it. But if I know that getting healthy aligns to my values of self-care and inner peace, then it starts to have more meaning and importance. If I take this further and ask how being "healthy" aligns to my priorities, then I'll realize that I want to have enough energy to play with my toddler. I know that if I don't eat well and exercise regularly, my energy drains too quickly and it becomes very difficult for me to play at the end of a long workday.
- With resolutions, we also don't get specific enough about what we really want to accomplish or what the ideal future state looks like. In the example of getting healthy, what does being "healthy" mean to me? How do I define it? Is it reaching some ideal weight? If so, what weight? Is it reducing my blood pressure or cholesterol? If so, by how much? Or is it "eating a more balanced diet?" If that's the case, how do I define a "balanced" diet? The more specific we can be, the more likely we are to accomplish what it is that we want.
- Even if we know what we want and why it's important, we often don't take the next step of creating an actual strategy to accomplish what we want. How will I move toward my goal? What will I do differently? What behaviors do I need to change? When will I start? How will I keep myself on track? How often will I monitor my progress and adjust the plan? Having a plan is imperative to helping us achieve our goals.
- Finally, with resolutions, we also don't address the support that we'll need along the way. Who can motivate me and cheer me on as I try to make these behavior changes? Who can I go to when I feel stuck or feel like giving up? Who can help me look at where I am struggling and find a way to keep moving forward? As you create your goals for 2014, be sure to give adequate thought to that support network - who needs to be in it, and what you need from them.
No matter what you want to accomplish in 2014, I encourage you to create goals, not resolutions!