Why we make and don’t keep our resolutions – and how to change that

Even though history tells us we’re unlikely to keep them, many of us still make New Year’s resolutions. Less than half of those who make resolutions say they are successful after six months. And apparently, our resolve weakens with age. Only 14% of people over 50 say they achieve their resolutions each year compared to nearly 40% of people in their 20’s who do.

So, what’s stopping us from fulfilling all of our good intentions? Much is written in the media every year about how to be successful: e.g. choosing specific goals (I’m going to lose 15 lbs; not I will lose weight) and realistic expectations (I’m going to lose 15 lbs in six months; not by next Tuesday); focus on only one or two goals at a time; having a plan to deal with procrastination; going public with your intent; gathering a support system that can hold you accountable, etc.

And still, we fail year after year.

One of the reasons we fall short is that the resolutions we choose are not aligned with what we truly value. They are often things we think we ‘should’ do, rather than things that would ignite our energies to achieve.

If we’re not truly invested, we are unlikely to be motivated to stick to our promises to lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, work or spend less, live life to the fullest, learn a new skill, find a new job, plan for retirement, help others, or whatever else tops your usual list.

Before you commit to any resolutions for 2017 that you’re not likely to keep, here’s a simple 3-step process to improve your odds of success.

3 Steps to Achieving Your Resolutions

  1. Think about what’s really important to you – make a list of what drives you, energizes you, inspires you, makes you feel joy, light and happy. Those are the things that align with your values and bring meaning and satisfaction to your life.
  2. Next, ask yourself what does each of the things you listed give you? For example, if you chose spending time with friends, the value represented might be ‘fun’ or ‘belonging’. Or if you listed learning something new, the value you hold dear could be ‘accomplishment’ or ‘adventure’.
  3. Finally, think about how can you build on those values and integrate them into other areas of your life; e.g.how can your values of fun, adventure, belonging and accomplishment help you to get fit? (Tough Mudder, anyone?) How can you devote time on your calendar to exploring what else will bring on the sense of energy you get when you are living out your values? Your answers will form the basis for your resolutions.

Following this process not only improves your odds of sticking with and achieving your resolutions, but will also increase your overall sense of well-being. Wishing you much joy and success in 2017!

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