New Year Resolution Check-In—4 Psychologist’s Secrets to Success

March 30, 2016

Are you among half of the Americans which research suggests set New Year’s resolutions each year?  If so, with the first quarter behind us, it’s time to measure success.  Consider how you’ve fared thus far and if you are disappointed in your performance, you’re not alone—only 8% of Americans actually achieve their resolutions. 


Don’t be discouraged.  Dale Carnegie said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”  To get back on track, here are four psychologist’s secrets to making your resolutions stick.

Review your goals.  One of the reasons you may struggle with your resolutions is because you did not use the ‘SMART’ method of goal-setting when you devised them.  Dr. Paul Marciano is the author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work and cautions that the first step to behavior change is to clearly understand what “it” is and set ‘SMART’ goals.  Make sure your goals are: 

Specific- Articulate your goal in a clear statement that states exactly what needs to be done.

Measurable- Tracking progress helps to maintain momentum and focus, especially for big goals that may be comprised of a series of smaller tasks or steps. 

Attainable- Be realistic instead of overly optimistic by setting goals that are out of reach. 

Relevant- Align each goal with your personal vision and mission statement. 

Time Bound- Make sure each goal has a deadline and revise it as needed.

Measure progress.  A fundamental principal of psychology is, “If you can measure it, you can change it.”  Congratulations as you are in the process of completing this step!  By identifying plateaus or “sticking points,” you can adjust your goals and get back on track.  For example, if you manage a team and set a resolution to participate in weekly one-on-one meetings with everyone, but did not achieve this, make realistic revisions.  If weekly meetings are too frequent, modify the resolution to meet bi-weekly.  If you never found time to meet with team members, consider scheduling a recurring weekly meeting or conducting these meetings during lunchtime vs. within your working hours.

Share your goals with appropriate people.  Muster up the courage to publicize your resolutions and goals because many studies report that social support is critical for goal attainment.  Continuing with the previous example, consider announcing to your team that one of your goals for the New Year was to meet with them individually on a weekly basis.  Humbly apologize for missing the mark and enlist their help, e.g. ask who is willing to hold some of their one-on-ones during a lunch hour or even a work-out if your organization has an exercise facility or you have a membership at the same club as your team member(s).

Don’t give up when you slip up.  Every behavioral modification takes time and relapses are inevitable.  When you stumble or experience a temporary failure, don’t give up.  Instead, acknowledge the mistake, determine if goal modification is necessary and recommit to your plan.

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