Did you have a New Year’s Resolution? How is that proceeding? If you are like most people, then you probably gave up already. According to recent research, around 92% of the people who set a New Year’s resolution, fail. That means only 8% of the people actually achieve what they set out to achieve. That is a pretty pitiful statistic.
What is the reason behind the fact that most resolutions fail? You probably gave up because you didn’t have a system. Having a proper system will address many of the common mistakes that occur when people make resolutions and will serve as a way to keep you on track.
There are some common mistakes in resolution setting that keep reoccurring:
1) The goals set out in resolutions don’t follow the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-related) criteria. The goals themselves are vague and there are no milestones or even dates set.
Most people when they set goals, come up with very broad goals like “gain weight” or “lose weight”. That’s only the first step. You need to refine these goals into more specific and actionable items. You should be clear about how much weight you want to gain and by what time, or at what level you want to be able to speak a foreign language by what date. Your goals need to be specific and measurable.
2) You set up too many resolutions and don’t prioritize.
People often set too many goals for themselves and try to achieve them at the same time. Unless you have vast amounts of willpower and self-discipline, you are not going to be able to achieve all those goals. In fact, you might get so overwhelmed, that you might just drop everything and not achieve anything.
Instead, start by setting a list of priorities and work on one or two goals at a time. You can put all the other goals in your long term vision, but it is better to work on a few goals per time period. Once you have achieved these goals, or they become a routine habit, then you can start working on your other goals.
3) The resolutions are often unrealistic.
Many resolutions are extremely unrealistic. People think they can change from one day to the other, or overestimate their willpower and self-discipline. They set up goals that are too restrictive or too big of a change. Most of these people end up sliding back to their old habits.
Your goals need to be realistic. You are not going to be a muscle bound hunk overnight, but after a few months of working hard you might end up gaining some weight and muscles. People sometimes also start off by setting up diets that are too rigid and end up giving up on it, instead of starting off slowly and including cheat days.
I don’t want to discourage you from setting ambitious goals, but just for you to keep in mind that it will take a long time and a lot of hard work to achieve those goals.
Also always keep in mind what is in your control and what is outside your control. If you are 35 and short, you are not going to grow taller, so don’t set “growing taller” as your goal, but instead something more realistic.
4) Not describing the reasons of why you want to achieve those specific goals (benefits).
If you set up a goal, you need to be clear about why you want to achieve that specific goal and what benefits it will bring you. If you are not clear about the “why”, your motivation might end up wavering. Having clearly defined reasons and visualizing the potential benefits, will keep you motivated.
5) There is no plan set up on how to achieve your goals.
Even if people set realistic goals, oftentimes they don’t come up with a concrete plan on how to achieve those goals. If you want to achieve something, then you need a plan on how to go about it. Winging it ain’t gonna cut it.
6) The plan doesn’t take into account that there might be obstacles on the way.
You set up the perfect plan, but you need to keep in mind that there will be obstacles along the way. You might get injured, you might have too much work at your job. There could be myriads of other things happening. Your plan needs to be flexible enough to accommodate all these potential challenges. If you get injured, you need to take some time to heal, but then be ready to come back strong.
You need to allow for these potential long-term obstacles, but also keep in mind potential short term obstacles. When setting up a plan, you also need to include room for flexibility in it. It will be impossible to stick to your plan 100% every day and so you need to take this into account.
For example, you might have planned that every Monday after work, you will go to the gym for an hour and a half. However one Monday, you need to stay longer at work and cannot go to the gym. You should be flexible enough to move your gym session to Tuesday or some other day, or have some other contingency plan.
7) The plan is not set up in such a way as to be able to change it up quickly and continuously improve the process.
If something doesn’t work then change it. I often see guys at the gym doing their own little shitty routine, and even if they have been regularly going to the gym for years, they still remain their own little puny selves. They don’t tweak their routine, they don’t learn from mistakes, they don’t acquire any experience. The process of achieving your goal needs to be agile and you always need to be working on improving the process.
8) There is no sense of accountability for the goals.
Oftentimes, a good way to keep yourself motivated is to let other people know that you are trying to achieve a goal. They will motivate you and cheer you on. If you find other people that are working on the same goal, that’s even better. However just getting your goal out there among other people is a good way to keep yourself accountable.
9) Not tracking your progress.
You should always be tracking your progress. Studies show that people who track their progress are more likely to achieve their goals. Whether it is by keeping a journal or having an elaborate app, tracking your progress can be a good way to see the results you have gotten and also to keep in mind what else you need to do.
10) Not having the willpower and self-discipline to carry things through.
We live in an instant gratification society, and most people lack the willpower and self-discipline to carry things through. They have no willpower to persevere and not give up. Willpower is like a muscle and needs to be trained. The good news is that the more you train your willpower, the bigger your reserve gets, which will help you achieve more and more things.
You should always be striving to change routines into positive habits. That way you will use up less willpower and instead conserve it for other things. You will then have it ready whenever you need an extra push and be able to pull through when you need it most.
11) Not setting up a proper environment.
In order to keep yourself from straying, you need to set up a proper environment around you. If your diet is important, stock up your fridge with healthy things like fish, milk and vegetables, instead of ice cream and frozen pizza. So then whenever you get a craving and open up your fridge, you will always be forced to grab something healthy.
Also work on creating triggers for your habits. For example, if you want to go to the gym after work, bring your gym clothes to work and go to the gym straight after work, instead of going home. Oftentimes if you make it home, you won’t want to go out again.
A big part of the environment around you are the people you surround yourself with. If they are negative people who like to complain and don’t actually try to do anything about their problems, then that can have a negative impact on you. On the other hand, if you hang out with positive people, then that can have a positive impact on you and your mindset.
12) Not charting out which other factors might have an effect on your wellbeing.
You also need to chart out some potential long-term problems that might affect your well-being, for example depression or problems at work. These are constant drains on your willpower, but if you take them into account when setting up your plan, you can figure out ways to work around them.
You see why it is so easy not to achieve your goal and why most people fail? Any of these reasons could be behind your failure. The list is also regressive, with the top one being the most important reason, while the other ones follow the reasons on top.
If you don’t set up SMART goals, then you are likely to fail right off the bat. Even if you set up SMART goals, but set up unrealistic goals, you are likely to fail. And even if you set up realistic goals, but don’t have a plan, you will also likely fail at some point.
Reflect on how you usually set up your goals and how often you succeed and fail. Then try to examine which types of mistakes you made, and which ones caused you to fail.
These common mistakes can be rectified by having a proper system in place that will help you set goals and carry out everything necessary to achieve them.