Succeeding at this year’s resolutions








Every year we do it: Begin the year with a spanking new set of resolutions. It’s ritual; ingrained in our culture. And so is failing to achieve them year after year after futile, frustrating year.

The start of a new year seems like an ideal time to begin creating a better version of ourselves. Dust off the gym membership and get in better shape. Eat healthier and loscanstockphoto32380192e some weight. Stop smoking. Find a job we actually like and pays what we’re worth. Have a social life.

But for as many of us make resolutions (by some estimates upwards of 40 percent of Americans do), only a small segment of us (an estimated eight percent) ever achieve these goals. Sure, we start off just fine. But by the third or fourth week of January, most of our resolutions are things of the past, just like those moldy holiday leftovers stuffed in the Tupperware at the back of the refrigerator. Yes, that’s about as far as we make it.

Why on earth do we continue to this? Probably because there are things about ourselves and our lives that we sincerely want – and doubtless need – to change. Resolutions can provide considerable motivation to (at least) begin a process of self-improvement or (at most) begin to reinvent ourselves. Each of us recognizes that succeeding can improve self-image and confidence. But repeated failures can undermine our sense of self-worth and make us less likely to challenge ourselves to be better than we are.

Psychologists and productivity experts suggest we fail at achieving our resolutions because we really aren’t ready to change our behavior patterns, however self-defeating they might be. Perhaps the biggest mistake is failing to understand how to effectively set goals, which is all resolutions are.

Start by making sure your resolutions address issues you genuinely care about and then borrow from a process long used by businesses for setting “SMART” goals. Make your resolutions:

  • Specific – What, exactly, do you want to achieve?
  • Meaningful – How will accomplishing this make a difference in your life?
  • Action-oriented – What steps will you take to realize your goal?
  • Realistic – Is this something you can actually do?
  • Timely – What’s your deadline?

If you’ve made resolutions for 2016, here are some other suggestions for succeeding this time around.

  1. Don’t go it alone. Making a significant change is easier if you have a support system and even more so if someone is taking the journey along with you. This might include working out with a partner or involving family members in something that requires a significant behavior or lifestyle change.
  2. Create a plan. Without a well-defined strategy, a goal is nothing more than a wish.  Your plan should include specific action steps, each with its own timetable for completion, and a way of measuring your success at various intervals along the way.
  3. Don’t be overly ambitious. Meaningful resolutions require a lifestyle change. Trying to do too many things at once will overly complicate your daily routine and make it less likely that you will achieve any of what you set out to do. Focus on one or two things that will have a positive impact on your life.
  4. Don’t give up so easily. Missing a few days at the gym, giving in to your pizza craving, sneaking a cigarette, getting a rejection email from your dream job or being turned down for a date doesn’t make you a failure. Keep plugging away, learn from your setbacks and reward yourself for achieving interim successes.
  5. Believe in yourself. If you don’t trust that you can achieve your goals you’ve already failed and resolutions are a waste of time. Document your efforts along the way with a journal or log so you’ll be able to see the progress you’re making, replicate triumphs, and avoid repeating disappointments.



©2016 Robert Naylor Coaching & Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Robert Naylor is a journalist, journalism educator, consultant, certified coach, facilitator, and speaker who helps people become better leaders, improve workplace performance, and find focus in their careers and life. He is available for on-site training, private coaching, keynote presentations, lectures, and commentary. For more information visit naylorcoaching online or contact

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