Reflecting on Resolutions: How to Achieve Your Goals

New Year’s resolutions are – for many – a repeated annual ritual.  This year, let’s pause for a process check. How many of those resolutions have you achieved?  If you can look back on past years and name the resolutions you have successfully completed, then good for you!

For many of us, however, resolutions are long forgotten, often by the beginning of February. We keep carrying those 20 pounds, we quietly stop going to the gym or we fall back into the same bad habits. And yet, we made those resolutions for a reason – there was something bothering us enough that we wanted to change it.  Why didn’t we follow through on those goals?

Here are some reasons that we fail to follow through with resolutions:

  • The perceived problem leading to the resolution was not powerful enough to drive change
  • The resolution was not tangible or tactical enough to become a concrete action plan
  • The benefits of achieving the resolution were not clear enough to motivate change
  • We never really expressed the resolution as a target – it was more of a hope or wish

How do we achieve more success with our resolutions in this new year?  Here are some ideas.

  • Be very clear about the pain caused by the status quo. Change is hard, so it is easier to make changes if we have a real reason to do so. Many think about the benefits that would come with achieving a resolution, but try instead to describe the pain associated with not changing. If you can’t really name a pain that makes you feel strongly about changing, either think more deeply about why the resolution is important, or change your resolution.
  • Be concrete – with actions and benefits. For many, resolutions are abstract thoughts or concepts that float through our mind in the final or first weeks of the year – I want to lose weight. I need to be nicer. I need to get out more. I need to spend less money. Instead, be concrete, naming specific concrete actions and the tangible benefits that are expected.
  • Write down resolutions and milestones. Writing down our resolutions makes us more accountable for them. Attaching specific tangible and achievable milestones and timelines – like with a project plan – can help us keep on track over time.
  • Celebrate what you are proud of. Call it a “reverse resolution.”  Perhaps instead of coming up with things to do differently, resolve to continue doing something you are proud of, that gives you joy and builds on your strengths. Continuing positive actions is a great way to start the new year.

Resolutions help us mark each new year – this year, resolve to make resolutions that stick with you!