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Why Your New Year’s Resolution Will Fail and What to do About It

Why Your New Year’s Resolution Will Fail and What to do About It
Dr. Mike Hill

Every year countless people, all around the world, make a renewed effort to improve their lives by riding the euphoria of the new year. And every year, countless people, all around the world, fail.  If we’re honest, most people seldom take resolutions seriously. In fact, many make them with the expectation of failing. It is the norm—but it begs the question, “Why do resolutions fail”…“Why do most attempts at change fail throughout the year”? There is an answer to that question as well as solutions for increasing the chances of them working.

During a study on social behavior and what truly promotes change, Joseph Grenny and his colleagues discovered that people often tend to “underwhelm, overwhelming problems”. In other words, we underestimate the amount of influence necessary


to truly promote behavioral change. Instead, we try something out and when it fails to work during the first few attempts, we quit. Grenny and his colleagues discovered that the chances of successfully changing behavior is increased when at least four sources of influence are considered. While it is not the intention of this article to discuss the study, here are seven practical tips based on several sources of influence that will help you nail that New Year’s resolution.

Make it deeply personal. Lasting change comes when we have a deep, life-changing, abiding reason for wanting the change. For example, losing weight to look good for others on the beach will not last, however the mindset of losing weight due to an internalized conviction that being healthy adds quality to one’s life is a more noble perspective.

Rearrange your physical and mental furniture. There may not be high-quality research available on the subject matter, but there is a noticeable and positive physiological effect when you rearrange the furniture in your home or office. Experience is the best teacher, rearrange bedroom or living room furniture and see how you feel when you wake up the next morning. It becomes a tangible marker of change. However, if true change is to happen we must also do the same mentally. Life is a cycle of learning, un-learning, and re-learning. There are things we need to learn, but there are also things we need to un-learn. Stopping to polish dusty mental paradigms can breed new life and become a springboard for permanent change.

Increase your capacity for change. Knowledge is power, and as Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose”. Whether it is through formal or informal training, reading a book or taking a college course increasing the ability to do something will help ensure its success. Consistent, personal growth, is a positive factor toward influencing the outcome of a goal.

Don’t talk about it! One of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world is Nike Shoes. Their motto is simple yet inspiring— “Just do it!” Not talking about a goal can seem counterintuitive, however, some studies suggest that when we hear ourselves talk about a goal, there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with hearing it. Do this enough and you will soon be content with hearing yourself talk about a goal rather than working towards it. Be selective with respect to whom and when a goal is shared.

Get help. Some goals are too lofty for one person to accomplish alone. This may be even more true when resolutions involve deeply seated mental, emotional, or spiritual goals. Getting help for the right reasons is not a sign of weakness, but of wisdom.

Be content with progress, but not satisfied. At HCS, our operating motto is, “Dream big, build small, never be satisfied.” We recognize that our school vision will always float just beyond our grasp, so we build small, focus on doing the little things well, and celebrate progress—but not too long. It is acceptable to celebrate the transitory victories as long as the thirst and hunger for more, better, and best are not quenched in the process.

Combine multiple strategies. Changing human behavior is hard! Whether its losing weight, trying to stop smoking, attempts to save more and spend less, or breaking a chocolate addiction—its hard. The process is deceitfully simple, but its not easy. It takes multiple sources of influence to change or begin just one type of behavior. There is no silver bullet to change. Overwhelming problems, require overwhelming efforts. Don’t give up on your strategy just because it did not work. Instead, find out what sources of influences are missing from your approach and try again.