Written by Martha O’Keefe, Associate Vice President of Workforce Development, Germanna Community College
According to Forbes and Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 8% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions actually achieve those goals. Let’s do the math on that . . . that’s a 92% failure rate! We have all probably experienced how New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside by February, when we lose our impetus for change and settle back into familiar habits. I know I have.
Why do we make such resolutions to begin with? It’s the New Year — it’s a time for resolving to eat less, exercise more, work harder, give more, get your financial situation in order, or make a long-delayed life change. Valuable evidence for this comes from the Wharton School, where researchers investigated what they call “the fresh start effect.” At certain salient times in our lives — a new year, a birthday, a holiday — people really do refocus their thinking and even reorient their conduct. Why do these temporal landmarks matter so much? Well, they provide a clear opportunity to step back from daily life and reflect — to ponder whether our actions, and our lives, mirror our highest goals for ourselves. When we hit a birthday or a new year, we often ask about or think about the big picture.
So, if it’s that important, why do we fall away from our resolutions?
Language is often a big part of the problem. When we make statements like, “I will lose 20 pounds” or “I will save $10,000 this year,” it casts energy away from the present moment, and throws it out into the future, sometimes far away from where we are right now. Then we feel, or realize, that the “getting there” will take too much energy or is too big a leap, and we slowly lose our motivation.
We’ve probably heard that New Year’s intention setting is a more effective alternative to New Year’s resolutions. I happen to agree with this! When you create an intention, I think it helps to embody the energy of what we desire, as if it is already happening right now or will be happening very soon. It feels so much more do-able. Enjoying the reward sooner is a good beginning point. And the smaller steps over time will ultimately bring us to the larger end goals.
So, instead of saying “I will lose 20 pounds by July,” say something like, “I appreciate my healthy body today, by exercising at the gym tonight.” Or instead of saying, “I’ll have $10,000 in my new CD by December,” say “I will open the CD account this week, and set up automatic payroll deductions next week.” At first, it may feel like method acting, but try it. You may notice that the follow through actions naturally begin to more naturally flow from you.
Another approach to living your intentions is to use single words or phrases, they can be powerful as well. Words such as “Health,” “Vitality,” “Security,” or “Preparedness,” can help you feel more connected to your intentions, and your actions may more likely become a habit. Consider identifying and using words related to your specific intentions, and posting them up on the wall where you see them every day, or repeating them in your mind. They can help you stay focused and encourage the follow needed as you navigate new direction in your life.
Just a few thoughts as we gear up for another busy year. Cheers to 2019 – May your intentions empower you to attain your desired goals and resolutions!