Have you fallen off the News Year Resolution Bandwagon yet?
Statistically you have… if you even made any to begin with.
A widely referenced study out of the University of Scranton published in January of 1988, found that only 19% of individuals that made resolutions stuck with them and reached their goals within two years.
In December of 2012, the University of Scranton published another study with similar findings. Only 8% of the nearly half of Americans that made New Year’s resolutions that year would be successful.
Fast forward to 2019, a study conducted by Strava found that approximately 80% of people who made New Year’s resolutions have tapped out by the second week of February. Using 800 million user-logged activities in 2019, Strava has even predicted down to the day where most people thrown in the towel.
I present you with “January 8, 2021” … as Strava calls it “Quitters day”.
Why is it so hard for individuals to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions?
Before we get into this, let’s look at another piece of the puzzle.
How long does it actually take to create a habit?
I believe part of the problem is we forget about the other side. Until something becomes a habit, it is a foreign uncomfortable thing we known we “should do” but it’s a chore. Until that “goal” becomes ingrained in us to perform automatically, it can be extremely difficult to stay on track.
According to Researchers from MIT if neurons fire at the start and end of a specific behavior, then it becomes a habit.
That’s great, but how long does that take and how do we stay on track until then?
There are several myths out there, one of the most popular came from Maxwell Maltz, or perhaps, what society transformed his work into. Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s, that observed his patients would typically take 21 days to adjust to a limb being amputated or a facial feature being changed.
His exact quote from his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, published in 1960 was,
“These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
Well, society took that statement as it takes 21 days (3 weeks) to change your life.
And this is not the case.
First of all, Dr. Maltz said “minimum” of 21 days, not 21 days, and he was absorbing a very specific behavior. An adjustment period for loss of limb is hardly the end all be all for all goal setting.
I think a more realistic timeframe can be found in a 2009 study “How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world,” by Dr. Lally. It took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for a new behavior to become automatic, with the average being 66 days.
Alright, now we know it can take more than three weeks to change a behavior. So how do we go about getting those neurons firing?
The Right Goals
First, let’s take a look at how to set the “right goals”, because most people set themselves up for failure before ever getting started.
Step 1: Find your mission. (The Why?)
What is your “Why”?
Passion has to meet purpose. If your “why” is superficial it will not last the test time. Motivation will waiver, but a compelling sense of why will never fade. It is your mission.
Step 2: Determine your goal. (The What?)
What are you trying to achieve? Does it check these boxes?
- Is it Significant?
- Is it Tangible?
- Is it Objective?
- Is it Action Oriented?
If your goal fails to hit any of these marks, you will join the millions of others that will “try again next year”.
Step 3: Plan your action steps (The How?)
How do we meet out goals? Create 3-5 actions we can take that meet the following criteria.
- Time Bound
I also like to throw in:
While it is important to be realistic, it is just as important to plan an action that will result in the success of your mission.
For example, your Mission is to “Get healthy in order to become a better parent.”
An action step could be to run three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday for up to 5 minutes each session by the end of February.
If the intent is to start January 1st, this action step needs to be stronger. While the task does hit all the “SMART” blocks, “5 minutes” it is NOT aggressive enough.
You must be honest with yourself throughout this process.
Take a hard look at your action steps. If you were to successfully complete them all, but you know deep down they won’t make enough of an impact achieving your goal, what is the point?
I think it was Day 1 in my first Economics Course, we learned about Opportunity Cost. “The value of the next-highest-valued alternative use of that resource.”
You might not realize it, but we play this game every minute of the day. If we are doing “x”, we are giving up “y”.
But let’s try this exercise, what is the cost of NOT achieving your goals? Using the previous example, what is the cost of not becoming healthier to be a better parent? What is the cost of not achieving our goal in the next month, the next quarter, the next year? What are we giving up by NOT achieving our mission?”
We are all works in progress, striving to become the best version of ourselves.
I think another reason people fail is they strive for perfection and when they don’t immediately obtain it, they bail. A bad day, a rough week, however you fall off track with your goals, it isn’t the end. Looking at the big picture is key.
My big tip is very simple.
I have a month printed off and taped to the side of my bookshelf, with my monthly targets written on the side. Each day, as I accomplish a task, I write it in.
Weights, ran, wrote, French, book, eat clean, are the six things written throughout the month.
It’s not sexy, but it’s simple and it works.
It’s important to note, that this calendar’s sole purpose is for tracking. Period. No Distractions.
I add up all the days for each task at the end of the month to see how close I came to my goals and I adjust as necessary.
Reviewing and Revising are important parts of the process.
I’ve had times where my goals ended up being unrealistic. I’ve had to adjust. Sometimes I was able to build up, other times I was never able to hit my original targets and that’s ok.
I’m not always on target, but I am much more successful with it than without it. It allows me to always see the big picture.
Things happen. You could plan perfectly, and guess what?
You are going to get food poisoning that lasts four glorious days, your daughter will get sent home from school because her teacher has gotten the plague, you start to have vision issues and have to drive an hour to see an Optometrist…. multiple times.
This was how my December started. I couldn’t have planned any of it and my tasks all took a hit. I save each month and stick them in a binder to review the progress I have made over the long term. I’m not going to lie, December was dismal, but I’m back on track with January.
You are going to have bad days; you are going to get off track at times. It’s all part of the process. Don’t give up. If you follow these steps, you will make it to Quitters Day and beyond.
Don’t let the endless cycle continue. This time next year, be proud of what you accomplished, and not starting the cycle over again hoping 2022 will be different.
From all of us the IFPA, we wish you a Happy New Year.
Here’s to achieving our goals in 2021 #ifpafamily!