My sister and I are shameless followers of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. Alongside her sister, Elizabeth Craft, Gretchen discusses practical ideas and hacks to apply in your personal journey toward happiness. Mirroring the practice of the ‘Happier’ duo, my sister and I settled on our personalized 19 for 2019 a little more than 12 months ago. Both of us created a list of nineteen things we wanted to get done in 2019. Here’s a few of mine:
- Become a bone marrow donor
- Complete a leadership certificate program
- Read at least 6 leisure books
- Position and hold Salamba Shirshasana without aid (also known as the yoga headstand)
- Complete an annual health check-up and applicable health screenings
- Create a healthier lifestyle for my family
Fast forward to December 31st 2019, what’s the verdict? We failed miserably accomplishing less than one-third our lists! Come to find out, falling short of a New Year’s resolution is all too common. In fact, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February of the same year according to the U.S. News and World Report.1 Here are a few helpful tips for a successful new you (and me) this year based on where my sister and I went wrong in 2019:
1. Set New Year’s Goals instead of a Resolution.
Failure #1: Making a 19 for ’19 ‘To Do’ list instead of a “How To Do” List
What is your New Year’s resolution? Don’t have a resolution yet? Maybe you shouldn’t. Perhaps you should pump the brakes on setting a resolution and instead, create one or more goals.
While often used synonymously, a resolution when compared to a goal carries different baggage. A resolution is a firm decision or statement of what you want to change. In contrast, a goal is aimed at a desired result. A goal requires planning and preparing.
An individual that states a resolution to lose weight is far less likely to do so without a measurable goal. However, goals with a measure and due date are far more likely to take on traction. When motivation, or “the why,” is integrated into the goal, the bond is further strengthened. For example, I want to lose 20 pounds by June 1, 2020 to be a healthier example and have more energy for my kids.
Include milestones, or mini predetermined achievements, in your goal planning. Studies show that immediate, or interval rewards, are a stronger predictor of success versus relying on desire alone to meet the long-term goal.2
2. Seek Accountability.
Failure #2: We lacked scheduled accountability in 2019.
According to The Association for Talent Development (ASTD), there is a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit the goal to someone else, and a 95% chance of success if you set specific check-ins with that person.
There are several ways to implement accountability, such as:
- Make a schedule
- Put it on the calendar
- Engage a formal expert with scheduled appointments (for example, meet with a registered dietitian for goals targeting health)
- Partner with a friend for accountability with outlined times to check-in
- Commit to your goal publicly – tell your family and friends what you are planning to achieve
- Create a competition
For 2020, I’ve put my milestones and goals on my Outlook work calendar and have my sister on the hook for scheduled check-ins to review our progress.
3. Enjoy the Journey.
Failure #3: Failure to exercise patience and perspective.
As I reflect on where 2019 went wrong, maybe it didn’t go as bad as I originally thought. Without setting goals, would I have achieved any of these items? Instead of frustration, perhaps I am missing patience and perspective.
Instead of checking off a milestone and getting frustrated when a goal is unable to be achieved, the focus should be geared to the journey and what you have learned along the way. Exercise patience. What is the point if you get all riled up in a quest to cross a goal off? Modify milestones to maintain your sanity while still moving in a positive direction toward the end goal if the road to success becomes a little rocky.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced perspective can imply vastly different meanings based on the individual. Within my personal journey, maintaining perspective means not taking myself too seriously and engaging with friends and family who push my current view while laughing with me when I falter.
In the quest for a healthier balance, pausing and leaning back to objectively review and appreciate all aspects of a situation when things go wrong is a necessity. Perspective strengthens agility to respond to unanticipated barriers to goals and happiness.
Strategies to exercise perspective in times of conflict includes imagining you are a fly on the wall. That is, look at the bigger picture. Many times, emotion escalates a problem internally when it really isn’t ‘that bad.’ Opt for the half-full glass with an optimistic perspective this year.
Alas, twelve days into the new year, my goals are set. Look out 20 for 2020, you are mine!
1Luciani, J. (2015). Why 80 Percent of New Year's Resolutions Fail. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail.
2Woolley K, Fishbach A. Immediate Rewards Predict Adherence to Long-Term Goals. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2017;43(2):151–162. doi:10.1177/0146167216676480
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.