Well, there went New Year’s…
Nearly two weeks gone by already since people all over the world vowed to never do “THIS” again… or to finally get down to doing “THAT”…
And no doubt after a couple weeks, the gyms are already emptying out again… as life transformation hopefuls everywhere start to get more “realistic.” Typical, right?
On the other hand, it’s possible you didn’t set a New Year’s resolution this year at all.
With a growing cynicism around resolution failure rates, many of us just shrug them off as an exercise in futility. And then plenty just procrastinate until January slips off into the distance and yet another chance at life renewal passes by…
But Look, January Isn’t Over Yet!
And if there’s one thing the cynics DO get right about New Year’s Resolutions, it’s this – there’s no magic power tied to the specific date of January 1st. So if you’re kicking yourself already, wondering if you should have jumped on the self-improvement train before it was gone, it’s not too late to set goals for 2023 at all.
Here’s something to keep in mind.
All these studies regarding the resolution failure rate are all over the place! They make great headlines, but do a quick Google search and you immediately see articles from various sources claiming anything from around 40% all the way up to 80% of people fail their resolutions.
Perhaps a more important question is this: how often do people fail their attempts at life change OTHER times of the year? I think we all know the answer — a lot, right?
Because change is ALWAYS a challenge.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop trying to improve your life.
So Are There Actual Benefits To Setting Goals Around The New Year?
Or is this custom just as silly as hoping the Easter bunny drops off colored eggs in April?
LiveScience writes: “A 2002 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that those who made a New Year’s resolution were 44% more likely to succeed in that goal after six months than those who did not make a resolution but were interested in changing a problem later.” So yes, embracing the tradition of renewal pinned to the start of the New Year may actually be a great way to get your life on track, no matter what the cynics say.
Reporters love a controversial headline. But mentioning high failure rates of resolutions without mentioning the higher failure rates of goals in other times of the year paints an incomplete picture.
Everything about the world we evolved in moves in cycles.
So whether or not the exact date of January 1st “means anything,” per se, syncing yourself up with cycles aligns perfectly with the human tendency to follow seasons of birth, death, and renewal as we move through life. Instead of getting cynical about it, why not embrace the fact that this is how human individuals and societies have functioned as long as we’ve existed?
By taking it seriously, you can leverage it as a source of motivation and enthusiasm, an opportunity to think about how things went last year and set out some ways you want to improve coming into 2023 (even if it’s not the 1st anymore).
Add in the power of rituals and placebos to change your results in life, across the board, and there’s really no reason NOT to take the tradition very seriously.
Also, keep this in mind…
Starting Late Offers A Chance To Avoid Common Resolution Mistakes
Instead of beating yourself up for procrastination, let’s look at the bright side.
Many 2023 goal-setters have already begun to give up and fail…
But by starting now, you have an opportunity to sit down and get more intentional – rather than just making a knee-jerk resolution because it seems culturally appropriate or because a couple of your friends thought it would be a good idea.
Some of the common mistakes people make in their resolutions include:
- Being Too Ambitious (Or Too Conservative) With Your Goals – Overly-ambitious or unrealistic goals can create excitement, but it’s also a great way to set yourself up for failure. On the other hand, goals that are too small and easy can feel pointless. Some experts will warn you away from audacious goals completely, but think about it this way: not quite reaching something huge is a whole lot better than crushing it at something insignificant. You may very well end up a lot further ahead in life by “failing” at the former. Plus, if you consider the let-down many high achievers report when they do get to their own finish line, it doesn’t hurt to always leave yourself something to strive for. My advice? Set goals that light your fire but then break these bigger goals down into milestones so you can create a little momentum starting out and yet still have something left over to work towards.
- Failing To Engage In Systems Thinking – Another pitfall when people strive for change, regardless of the time of year, is their goals are focused more on outcomes than the system or process that produces said outcome. Yes, failing to plan or create a roadmap that gets you from A to Z is a great way to strike out with your resolution in 2023. Whether you’re trying to achieve something or stop doing something, define exactly what that looks like, and then define exact steps that will get you there. Finally, define times when you will implement these steps. The process of change doesn’t happen with good intentions alone — you need ACTION. (Read my “27 Mind Hacks” article for how-to advice on systemizing behavioral change.)
- Leaning On The Social Media Brownie Points – Of course, this is a huge problem in today’s attention-addicted social media society. Perhaps you’ve been told you need to hold yourself accountable to a goal or behavioral change by leaning on support from the community and making a big announcement. But this article from Psychology Today tells us people who publicly share their goals are less likely to follow through on them (and getting compliments on progress makes it even worse!). Why? It’s possible you get an emotional reward from a social media announcement (“Hey, look at me and how driven and disciplined I am”), and this may dampen the allure of actually working toward that goal and achieving it. So forget the social media brownie points, or at least save them until you’ve actually earned them!
- Not Getting Specific Enough With Your Resolutions – Again, it’s about setting clear, measurable goals – not making some broad, vague intention. “I will lose X pounds in X months” is way more powerful than “I will get slim again.” Write down exactly what you want to accomplish, and if possible, attach it to a specific time-frame or deadline so there’s zero question at all when you finally hit your target. Some other examples include “I will increase sales revenue by X in the first 3 months of 2023,” or “I will put $X in a savings account every single month in 2023.” (Here’s another article on how to create clearly defined goals.)
- Trying To Do Too Many Things At Once – Finally, don’t fall for the trap of shooting for too many big changes at once. Sure, we’d all like to quit drinking, cut down to a 6-pack, seduce an attractive new lover, and build a successful million dollar per year business… all in 2023, please… but let’s pace ourselves here. In his article, “The Scientific Argument For Mastering One Thing At A Time,” James Clear makes a convincing, research-backed argument that even ultra-specific, time-sensitive goals work best when you stick with just one or two. If there are other areas of your life you want to improve in the meanwhile, keep your efforts in these areas small and manageable (perhaps by using the “Tiny Habit” method). You’ve only got to slay one big dragon at a time to create radical life momentum as the years go by. Alternatively, break your year up and focus your entire energy on different pursuits at different times.
Listen, Only YOU Can Decide To Be More Proactive This Year!
The difference between people who succeed at improving their lives…
…Versus those who don’t…
…Often comes down to the power of self-belief. As Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
And what could be more self-defeating than deciding you won’t even try? Just because some article on the internet told you that you’ve only got a 30%, 20%, or 10% chance of success?
After all, they give us a similar line about the business failure rate, and yet there are entrepreneurs all over the world who build their fortunes in business regardless – just like Ford did.
So my advice?
It’s still January and you’ve still got a whole year ahead of you. If you don’t believe there’s any magic in the first month of the year, what’s the harm in convincing yourself that there is?
The only thing worse than failing at a well-intended behavioral change…
…Is failing to even try.
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