"I really mean it this time! This is the year! I'm going to lose weight/quit smoking/get that dream job!"
Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that we have been bombarded with 'New Year, New You' messages since approximately 8 a.m. on Boxing Day. It's something that we see year after year. It defies logic, because if you stick at it every time you make a New Year's resolution then after a while you would run out of resolutions to make, surely?
Well according to a study performed by the University of Scranton on January 1, 2013 (yes, New Year's Day), only 8% of people achieve their resolutions. This leaves a whopping 92% who fall off the wagon at some point between January 1 and December 31.
The stats aren't great and it's clear that New Year's resolutions lose their grip on most of us.
1. January is the worst time of year to make a change.
Statistically, January is the worst time of year to embark on a new venture. It's cold and dark, most of us are broke and exhausted after the holiday season, and summer feels like a lifetime away. Also, it's easy to make a change when everyone else is making one and so it arguably takes less courage to start something new in January. So what is the best time to make a change? Fall and spring. The seasons are shifting, and we're more likely to persevere with change at these times.
2. It's a wish, not a goal.
"I want to lose weight" is a wish. "I will lose 10lbs by March 15 and I'll achieve this by losing 1lb per week by working out 30 minutes a day, 5 times per week" is a goal with measureable results and specific, achievable action steps. See the difference? Notice also the language we used - "I want to" suggests a wish, while "I will" states a goal with absolute certainty. It's a bit of a Jedi mind trick on yourself, but it works.
3. Something else is stopping you.
As a life coach, I hear about a New Year's resolution and I ask, "Why have you waited until January to make this change?" or in other words "What's stopped you?" As we discussed in the first point, it's easy to make a resolution in January because it's socially acceptable. However most resolutions are not random - we don't think of making a change on January 1 without it ever having crossed our minds before. It's usually something we have wanted to do for a long time. So ask yourself what prevented you pursuing this goal until now - the answer of what stopped you will be the very same reason your motivation wanes come Valentine's Day. Knowing that reason is half the battle.
4. You don't have a support system.
When it's dark out and the rain is coming in sideways and all you want to do is curl up on the couch instead of dusting off your resume and applying for that dream job, what do you do? Don't get me wrong, a misstep here or there isn't the end of the world. But if you start falling off track with your goals, who are you accountable to? No matter what your goal is, it's essential to have a support system by way of a coach, mentor or friend to keep you on the straight and narrow. Without this, it's no surprise that 1 in 3 people ditch their resolutions by the end of January.
5. You're not alone.
Lastly, don't beat yourself up about making any of the slip-ups mentioned here. As the old saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know." But now you know. And you can make the changes that are important to you, and before long New Year's resolutions will be a thing of the past.
One closing thought. According to the University of Scranton study, people who make a New Year's resolution are ten times more likely to make a change than those who don't partake in this annual post-holiday ritual.
So whether you're on track with your goal or you fall off the wagon, you are still light years ahead of those who are not trying.