It’s that time of year again: With 2019 solidly underway, the New Year’s resolutions for the changes we want to make and the goals we want to achieve are coming out in full force. By some estimates, more than 40% of Americans will have made a resolution this year.
The sad reality, however, is that most of these resolutions will never come to fruition. The unbridled optimism we feel when the year turns over to a new digit only propels us so far before the inevitable obstacles and monotony of everyday life pull us back to the same place we started from. Different year, same you. That isn’t what you wanted — so what the heck happened?
The first thing you need to understand about New Year’s resolutions is that the vast majority of people fail to follow through on them — more than 90%, some research suggests. By simply making a resolution in the first place, you’re putting yourself into a sample set with a high probability of failure. It’s like betting red on a roulette wheel that’s 90% black: The outcome is pretty much already decided for you, and the chances for success are slim.
The reason most people give for the widespread failure of New Year’s resolutions is that the resolutions aren’t specific enough to be effective in the long term. Vague intentions like “lose weight,” “make more money” or “read more books” are impossible to hold yourself accountable to because there are no clear guidelines for what success actually looks like.
Without defining the result you want, you’ll only halfheartedly attack your resolution and quickly lose steam as you fail to rack up the wins that help sustain your progress. And that leads to the solution for making resolutions stick: make SMART goals. Chances are you’ve already heard of this acronym, but here’s a refresher:
M: Measurable — Must be able to measure progress and define success
A: Attainable — Must not be impossible to achieve
R: Relevant — Must align to your overall life goals and mission
T: Time-bound — Must have some kind of milestones or deadline built in
Using the SMART formula, the vague intention to “lose more weight” might transform into something like this:
Lose 10 pounds by June 30
Unfortunately, this is where most advice ends. Now that you’ve articulated your resolution within the framework of a SMART goal, you should be good to go, right?
Not so fast. While the SMART framework is an important component of goal-setting, it fails to acknowledge the most important component that most people miss: the why.
Simply put, the why is the purpose behind the goal — the reason you’re setting out to achieve it in the first place. And that’s where most resolutions fail: Their “why” is driven merely by an arbitrary date on the calendar rather than a deeply personal and intrinsic motivation.
If a resolution is worth making, it should be just as valid to begin on, say, October 17 or April 8 — as soon as you realize the change is one that you want (or need) to make. The date shouldn’t even be a factor in the decision to change an aspect of your life that you deem needs changing — only the reason why you want to make the change should be front and center. Everything else is secondary.
Before you make a resolution, ask yourself why you want to make it. Don’t settle on the first answer that comes to mind, either. Keep asking yourself why until you hit upon a truth that rattles you to your core. There are often many reasons for wanting to make a change, but there will be one in particular that hits home more than the rest. Finding that reason will give you the fuel you need to persevere through even the toughest obstacles when most people would simply give up.
Find your why, and everything else will fall into place.
Here’s to a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2019!
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This is part of our careers inspirations blog series by Gartner Sales Executive Dan Clay. To receive Dan’s latest updates, sign up for his weekly newsletter here.