My idea for writing this blog is to ask to questions about such resolutions. First, why do we make them? Second, is there a particular type or version of the age-old New Year Resolution that is more likely than other types to remain part of our consciousness past January.

Much is made of New Year’s Resolutions and most of us probably make them in one variety or another. Forbes contributor Dan Diamond writes that 40% of Americans make such resolutions.

And, research from the University of Scranton suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.

So, first – why do we make these resolutions if statistically we are likely not to keep them? Most things we do that fade from our minds fairly quickly we probably don’t repeat year after year. So, why keep making the New Year’s Resolutions?

Mr. Diamond suggests that “self-improvement, or at least the desire for it, is a shared American hobby.” Do you agree?

I agree more or less. I also think peer pressure is a factor. If the people with whom we work and socialize are announcing their goals for the upcoming year and query about ours, not many of us likely feel comfortable saying, “Oh, I am not making any resolutions this year.” Would such a statement reflect poorly on our wish to be our best selves? Or, alternatively, give the impression that we think we are just fine as we are, thank you very much? In any event, such peer pressure to set goals for self-improvement is probably not a bad thing. Just consider, perhaps, with resolutions or any goal-setting, for that matter, whether the primary impetus in setting the goal is internally or externally based. The likelihood of success in maintaining the effort to reach the goal likely varies depending upon how much of the initial (or follow up) motivation is internal. As always, we look at ourselves in the mirror every day and know what is true for ourselves; others probably do not share that inside scoop.

Second, what are the factors that researchers in this area have found to increase the chances of success with New Year’s Resolutions? Mr. Diamond offers two considerations: (1) keep it simple, and (2) keep it tangible. Rather than going with the overall life bucket list, he recommends setting small, achievable goals with the idea of adding to this list during the year. As for tangible, he suggests that an amorphous goal like “losing weight” is less likely to be achieved than establishing a plan for eating fewer of certain fatty, high-calorie foods and/or working out at the gym a certain number of times per week. He quotes John Norcross of the University of Scranton: “We say if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions.”

Another contributing author to Forbes penned the article on December 26, 2016 (for those early birds working on their resolutions four days before the New Year’s arrival!!) – “7 Secrets of People Who Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions.” For this article, he interviewed one of the leading experts in behavior change, psychologist Paul Marciano. Dr. Marciano is the author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work and he specializes in the area of behavior modification and engagement. Here is the list of the “secrets” announced by Marciano: (1) make your goals specific; (2) measure progress; (3) be patient; (4) share your goals with friends and family; (5) schedule it; (6) something is better than nothing; and (7) get up when you slip up.

So, now we know why we make them and how to keep them. Do you agree? I like the list of suggestions and would like to make my own recommendations.

First, the best success I have had with goal-setting, whether it be for the New Year or for any time is to go inside. As I mentioned above, having an internal focus, or internal locus of control, works the best for me. I find that as I live more years on this planet, I am more concerned with what I think of myself than with what others may think of me. And, I have way more control over the former than the latter. If you want to play with this concept, I found a locus of control test online at this link.

Second, I totally believe in Marciano’s number (2) above: measure progress. I would add one caveat: and don’t strive for perfection. For example, if I don’t get to the gym when I have planned to, I feel disappointed, but not in myself. Rather, I feel disappointed that I was not able to do something I truly enjoy and have scheduled for myself knowing I feel better when I leave the gym than when I enter. But, I find it is important not to be disappointed in myself; that is, I do not find guilt to be especially helpful in motivating me to do something like go to the gym or most anything else. I did not make it to the gym in that instance because I chose to work or rest or something else that – at that moment in time – I decided was more important. I can examine that choice in retrospect, but usually find that the examination will yield the same result.

I generally make good choices and don’t second guess myself later on. More motivating for me is to focus on how much more fulfilled I feel when I take care of and strengthen my body and mind (or eat well, or act kind, etc.). Rather than feel guilty about not doing something good for myself (e.g., gym or eating wisely), I re-focus on how good it will be to get there the next time and see if I can arrange my schedule to facilitate that sooner than later.

So, can making enduring New Year’s Resolutions help us with our clients’ goal-setting and our own throughout the year? I think so. Focusing on continuing healthy, wise, soulful choices, rather than trying to reconfigure our entire personalities or set unrealistic goals that will only lead to decreased self-esteem when not accomplished can benefit any goal-setting process with ourselves and with our clients.

I am always happy to receive feedback on this or any other blog. If you agree, or don’t agree, or want to elaborate on anything I write, please send me your comments and let me know whether I can share them in this web site and monthly newsletter forum.

Here’s to the New Year! I send up a wish for all of our successful striving for self-improvement and/or increased satisfaction and happiness – in whatever form it may take to stay on the path.

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Deborah M. Henson