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Half of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution this year, but only about 8% will keep them. Not only will the majority of resolutions fall by the wayside, but nearly half of the resolutions made will be dumped before February 1. So, it’s very understandable for someone to wonder if making resolutions is even worth it. What’s the point in having a New Year’s resolution if it is going to fail?
Resolutions serve as a line-in-the-sand moment for us to give voice to where we want to go and who we want to become.
Resolutions matter. Everyone wants to grow, but growth requires a concerted effort to push beyond the status quo, to do something different, to get smarter, to be better. Resolutions also serve as a line-in-the-sand moment for us to give voice to where we want to go and who we want to become. They compel us to evaluate what we believe to be important and consider whether or not we are making strides to align our lives with our beliefs. Resolutions also provide an opportunity to commit to significant change.
So how we do make our resolutions stick?
Four Ways to Keep Your Resolutions:
1. Only have a couple of resolutions.
Studies show that the brain can only remember four things at once. If you go into the new year thinking you are going to change everything, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. Instead, choose a couple of things you would like to focus on this year, things that come to mind easily, and you are reminded of throughout the day. If you have a hard time remembering your resolutions, you will not be able to keep them.
2. Write down your resolutions.
Although your resolutions should be few enough to remember, there is real power in putting them on paper. When you write down your resolutions and your plan to accomplish them, it strengths resolve in a way that simply thinking about them will never produce.
3. Use “SMART” goals.
You may or may not have heard of this acronym “SMART”; however, it’s one of the most helpful things you can use when setting resolutions that stick.
- Specific – When we are vague with our goals, it keeps us from accomplishing them. Set specific goals that you want to see happen.
Bad Goal: Lose weight.
Good Goal: Walk a mile every day.
- Measurable – You cannot know you have met your goal if you don’t have a way to measure your results. Set goals that are measurable.
Bad Goal: Save more money.
Good Goal: Deposit fifty dollars from every paycheck in a savings account.
- Actionable – Make sure you can act on it. If the resolution isn’t something you can do, it’s not a good goal.
Bad Goal: Have more family time.
Good Goal: Give one hour a day of undistracted time to being with family.
- Realistic – A good resolution should take you out of your comfort zone, but should not be something you cannot achieve.
Bad Goal: Lose 100 pounds.
Good Goal: Lose 20 pounds.
- Time-bound – Your goals need to have a date of completion. Not all goals will take the full year. On the other hand, some goals will not only take the whole year but will need checkpoint dates along the way to measure your progress.
Bad Goal: Read the Bible
Good Goal: Start the YouVersion Bible Reading Plan.
4. Review your resolutions frequently.
I just gave you a bad goal. Don’t review them frequently. Let’s be specific. Review them weekly. Regularly get your goals in front for you. Remind yourself of what you want to accomplish and how you are going accomplish it. Reviewing your resolutions helps you stay on track, or get back on track if you have fallen behind or quit altogether.
Why do we Fail at Resolutions?
Resolutions deal with improvement, and we live in a culture captivated by the topic – from self-improvement to home improvement, we recognize the need to improve! This is why almost half of American’s will make some sort of resolution. However, we still fail, and the reason we fail is that we don’t have a roadmap for the improvement process. We don’t know how to change or how to sustain the change.
A Harvard Professor’s Research
In an interview with Julia Ryan from The Atlantic, Harvard Professor Lisa Lahey speaks to this issue.
Lahey calls it “the New Year’s resolution approach” or “the dieter’s approach,” which is the method we have been talking about. The goal essentially follows the SMART model; however, for some reason, it doesn’t seem to work. Lahey has often asked audiences, “How many of you have ever gone on a diet?” Typically, she says, “90% of the people raise their hands.”
She then asks, “How many of you have ever lost weight on a diet?” And about “85% of the hands go up.” She then asks, “How many of the people who just raised their hand gained the weight back?” Lahey says that “everybody raises their hand.”
“That is quite consistent with what the studies show.” She says, “The average dieter gains 107% of the weight that they lost.”
Here is the issue: people are trying to change their behavior directly, and this doesn’t work. “For the majority of people, those 85% of the people who are going to raise their hand again, it is just not going to work because it is not fundamentally a behavior problem: It is a mindset problem. The mindset is the thing that has to change in order to alter the behavior.”
Focus your mind
As the article continues, Lahey goes on to say that two sides of you are competing. One side that wants to change, wants to accomplish your goal and wants to do better, but there is another side. This side has always done things a certain way or has to be denied for your resolution to work.
Resolutions are an issue of priority.
For example, one of the things that should be on our list this year is to read the Bible. So, on January 1st, you decide that you are going to start a YouVersion Bible reading plan. However, to do it, you have to get up earlier in the morning, which means you probably need to change the setting on your alarm clock. This is where people get messed up on their resolutions. This is where the mindset we take becomes the most important – it’s an issue of priority.
Change your Priorities
Where on your list of priorities does your resolution register? Is it more important for you to not feel hungry, or is it more important for you to lose the weight? Is it more important for you to have that new item, or is it more important to save for retirement? And most significantly, is it more important for you to get 30 additional minutes of shut eye, or is it more important to start your day in God’s presence? The honest answers to questions like these will tell you if your resolutions have the power to bring lasting change.
Successful resolutions always flow from resolute priorities.