Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How To Get Results – Updated for 2012

Last year I wrote an entry with the same title here that focused on my disdain for New Year’s resolutions and preference for New Year’s goals instead. It is often said that goals are simply dreams with a timeline. I have used “S.M.A.R.T” goals with my clients for a number of years to great success in a majority of their cases.

Some of you may already be familiar with “S.M.A.R.T” goals, but for those reading this that are not, here is a brief summary of what they entail:

S is for specific. Let’s say you want to become a better free throw shooter next season. M is for measurable. I’m going to shoot 100 extra free throws and visualize shooting another 100 everyday. A is for achievable. This means is it under your control? In this case it is, so we’ll move on. R is for realistic. This means if you follow the plan is it likely to provide the results you want. T is for time-bound. In this case it would be the date that the following season begins. Every goal needs a completion date.

Now that I have given you a structure for your New Year’s goal, I am going to address two of the most common reasons people give when failing to reach their New Year’s goals/resolutions.

The first is that they lacked enough willpower to resist falling back into the bad habits they wanted to eliminate. People often talk about willpower as though they are born with a finite amount of it. I hear them say that some people have a lot of it and some don’t have much at all. The truth is that willpower comes directly from learned behaviors. So anyone can learn to have an enviable amount of willpower. As you learn new ways of coping (and turn them into habits) your willpower will increase exponentially.

The second excuse I hear is that they lacked enough motivation to take them to the end of their goal. More likely, what they viewed as a lack of motivation, was blindness to habits they have that got in their way. There are usually between five and ten different sources (social, situational and environmental to name a few) that are reinforcing the bad habits they fail to see.

Since we are blind to them, we never challenge them. This makes us attribute our failure to our lack of motivation or effort, when in fact it was because we were only attacking at most a fourth of the issues involved. Meanwhile the other three-fourths were running all over us unopposed. Now imagine trying to win a basketball game by guarding just one player on the opposing team and letting the other four run around unopposed. Not hard to figure out who wins that game is it?

This is one reason most diets fail. For example, people who go on diets generally eat less and exercise more, which will definitely work. The problem lies in that they are only attacking those two elements, while they’re blind to the underlying reasons that cause them to overeat and not exercise in the first place (and sadly these are not going to disappear without a fight). It’s also well known that people take on the traits of those around them, so if you are dieting in the midst of a bunch of people who do not exercise and like to eat, your likelihood of succeeding drops exponentially.

One final point, that is the key to success in anything: You must acknowledge and accept that you are going to have setbacks, and you cannot ever take them personally. Setbacks are part of the process. It’s unrealistic to expect a straight line to success. I often tell my clients that ‘setbacks are our friends’ because by going through them we learn valuable lessons that give us the skills we never would have had otherwise, that will help us in the future.

Once you have your S.M.A.R.T goal, you are equipped with a plan of action to help lead you to its fruition. Author F.M. Knowles once said “He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool.” So why don’t you abandon your New Year’s resolutions this year and replace them with S.M.A.R.T goals.

You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc

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