Do you know that fewer than half of Americans make New Year's Resolutions?
Of those who do make them, the three most frequent resolutions are about weight loss (no surprise there), exercise, and stopping smoking. Also popular are ones dealing with better money management and debt reduction.
Have you noticed they all have to do with self discipline?
Now here's the not-so-good news: one week after the resolution is made (on January 1st), 75% of those who make them have continued with them. By the second week, 71% are still on board. At the one month mark, however, only 64% of those who made resolutions are still working on them, and after six months, it's down to only 46%. While that's less than half of the folks who started by making resolutions, it's still something. People are more likely to make permanent changes if they focus in on a concept.
The most common resolutions that show substantial success rates include consuming less alcohol, taking trips and vacations, learning a new skill, managing stress, and getting more education. A little less substantial (but with some success nevertheless) are resolutions like doing more volunteer work, saving money, getting fit, and losing weight.
The resolutions with the least likelihood of success include quitting smoking, overcoming emotional issues or addictions, overspending and debt management. People just don't stick with these.
So, if you're going to make New Year's resolutions, here are five key points to know about making them and making them stick:
1. Keep them very specific. "I'm going to lose weight." No. "I'm going to lose 5 pounds by April." Make it specific.
2. Make them realistic. You can wish upon a star but in real life you have to pick something realistic. "I want to be rich and famous and powerful" would be more sensible phrased as: "I want to figure out a way to be more productive at work, and I probably can do that by getting in there a half an hour earlier." Again, keeping your resolutions realistic and focused.
3. Make them known. When you just say things in your own head, nobody knows and you're less likely to follow through. That's why, for example, marital commitments are made in front of community, family and friends, because you're making a statement for everyone to hear. So make them known.
4. Make them measurable by time. "Every week I'm going to have 2 fewer cigarettes...drink 3 less drinks during that week...walk 2 more miles." Put numbers or dates on them. Put in deadlines.
5. Make them fun. It's not much fun if you're obese and trying to lose weight, but you could make it fun if you made little pictures, like, "That's what I used to look like; this is what I look like now..." And you can have little pictures on the wall that you drew, showing percentages of weight lost. Every time you see it, it's very motivating. So you can find a way to make resolutions cute and fun -- you can.
Summing it up: make sure your goals are clear and specific, do them in some kind of measurable time so you can actually measure progress, but the big thing is you're either going to be master of yourself or a slave to your impulses. You'll either have discipline and commitment or you won't and that's a quality of character. I know people don't like to hear the word "character" -- they want to hear the word "addiction" because that takes out any issue of character; that means there's nothing in your control. We all know that's bull. Your character is what is measured by you following through on what you put your word to.