Why New Year Resolutions Donít Work!

Every New Year’s Eve millions of people all over the globe make resolutions for the coming year. Every year they look back disappointed that yet another year has come and gone and their goals haven’t been achieved again. They feel like losers and they lie to themselves again by solemnly pledging to shape up, be stronger and do better next year.

It seems to be the custom to make a resolution to change some situation in our life that we’re not so happy about. However, by the time you are reading this article a few months of 2004 will have passed. How are you doing? Are you still on track with your goals? Is it getting harder and harder to work towards your goals, compromising every once and a while? Or have you already forgotten your resolution now that you are back into the noise of everyday demands?

Why is it then, that even though resolutions rarely succeed, we still make them year after year? Remember the definition of insanity? “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result…” Are we really all insane? I don’t think so; I think the reason most resolutions fail is because most people lack the understanding of how they work. Here are some reasons why traditional resolution setting doesn’t work, and what you can do to overcome these common traps.

Use these ideas to double-check the resolutions you made for 2004. It’s never too late to change course! Doing the right things vs. doing things right Most resolutions are made at the last minute of New Years Eve without consideration and are then hard to take seriously. You don’t have to start your resolutions on January 1. Give yourself enough time to define resolutions that you really want for yourself.

Remember that doing the right thing is much more important than doing things right. Ask yourself these questions for each goal to find the right ones for you at this time in your life:

• What do I want?

• Is this something that I really want, or is it something that I think I should want, or that other people think I should want?

• Why is this important to me?

• Why is now the right time?

• Why do I deserve this change?

• Who will it make me become?

• Am I prepared to give it the energy, time and other resources that are needed to reach it?

• Where, in the hierarchy of all my goals, does this fit? Is it most important? Secondary? Where?

• After surveying all of my competing goals, is this one that I still choose?

• What is going to help me accomplish it? What resources do I need?

• What else do I need to consider before making a firm commitment to this goal?

• When do I want to start? When to finish? When will I do it?

• What is the first thing that I need to do to start towards this goal?

Once you have a list of goals, ask these questions:

• Are these all the things I want to achieve, or are there others that I have put behind that would still bring me joy if I added them or brought them back to my goal list?

• Are there other goals that would prevent, or work against me reaching this goal? If so, are they more important, or less important, than this one?

Often the resolution tries to fix a symptom instead of the real underlying issue. It is important to dig deep enough to get to the bottom. A technique I use while working with my clients is to ask “Why?” five times in a row. For example a resolution might be to lose weight. Why? So that I look and feel better. Why? That I can be and do more. Why? So that I can impress people. Why? That they admire me. Why? So that I feel loved… Aha! Maybe your resolution could be “I will love myself immediately, in order to be loved by others…” Instead of “I need to lose weight”.

Align your goals with your values Ask someone you trust like your partner, buddy, mentor or coach to help you align your goals with your values. There are certain things in life that each individual values. Family, honesty, spirituality, having fun, wealth, community, power, things, knowledge, aesthetics, etc. Goals that are not aligned with your values are doomed to fail. Become crystal clear to why you need to make this resolution real so that they are an authentic expression of your self. Once your goal is clear, emotionally commit to achieving it.

Never be afraid to review your goals, evaluate whether you are still 120% committed to them, and re-commit to achieving them. If your values, or choices have changed, change your goals accordingly, and be honest about it. The power of positive wording Resolutions are made to stop or lose something and that means that our resolutions have negative contexts to them. This forces us to push ourselves instead of being pulled and as we all know it is hard to push ourselves when things get tough. When we state that we want to stop smoking or stop eating sweets our unconscious mind filters out the word stop or lose and focuses on the rest i.e. smoke, weight, sweets, etc. Use the words gain or start instead of stop and lose.

Make it something you really want to run towards rather than away from. One of my clients is a golfer. From the moment his ball lands on the green until he sinks the putt, he repeats over and over “I will make this putt”. Do you think he would be as successful if he spent those moments thinking, “I just hope I don’t miss it”? Tell yourself what you really want to hear. Are your goals realistic, precise and measurable? Setting goals that depend on someone else don’t work.

You can’t delegate your success to others. How can you change what you cannot control? “Getting promoted” isn’t in your control. “Gain the highest client satisfaction ranking every month” however is. Vague goals are not motivating and are a major reason why they are abandoned. Be very precise in order to succeed. Express a realistic goal that can be measured. When you can measure the outcome, your chances of success go way up.

There is reinforcement and motivating power that comes with seeing yourself succeed. Define your goals as change in behavior. Examples:

• Instead of “stop smoking”, say “Breathing exercise three times daily. First thing in the morning while sitting on the edge of the bed, after a light lunch, and while falling asleep at night.”

• Being thin is an image; losing 23 pounds is ok; “Walk around the block every evening 5 seconds faster than the previous evening” is more specific and positive.

Is your resolution fun and rewarding? Find a way to be rewarded as you go; a runner sips water continually; doesn’t gulp it down at the end. In order for a goal to be achievable it must be personally rewarding and little rewards along the way make achieving your goal much more fun. Enjoy the journey. Never wait to have a party.

Set a special reward when you succeed in your resolution, a trip, or gift, something that commemorates your achievement. Set up so that you only get the reward after succeeding.

• Every time you lose 10 pounds buy a new outfit and donate the old ones.

• Once your business plan is complete take the day off and go fishing, play golf etc.

• Each deposit in your savings account deserves a checkmark on the calendar and a hug from your partner.

Every step toward your goal should be documented and celebrated. That is why it’s a good idea to have a written plan or checklist. When you get discouraged or have doubts, your record of past successes will quickly get you back on track. Do you think a marathon runner counts each mile on her way to the finish line? You bet! Celebrate each and every milepost on your path to victory. Think, speak, write, model and materialize Spoken resolutions vanish fast. Write your resolution down.

This is basic, and one of the oldest, simplest and most powerful techniques. Writing down specific, vividly envisioned goals are an absolute requirement for success. Describe precisely what you want; how to get it, when you know you have it and the benefits you’ll receive by achieving it. Write the details, colors, shapes, and dates. Look around you. Everything you see started as a thought, then was put to paper, then modeled and finally manufactured. Materialization goes from higher frequency thoughts to lower frequency things. Write down your resolution and post it in a place where you can read it every evening and morning.

It can help to create a model, drawing or collage to add more reality to your goals. Have a plan, create a map, use one of my free checklists for getting there and put dates on it. A goal to retire at age 40 has no meaning without a savings strategy. A goal to create your own business is just a fantasy without a business plan to attract investors, find a location, hire staff and sell your goods or services. The beauty of a plan is that it allows you to take daily action, measure your success and motivates to keep going. With this strategy, you will achieve your aim because you will know precisely what it is you want.

You will be able to see it, feel it and experience it in your mind. Goals are dreams with deadlines Lifelong habits are hard to change overnight. Overambitious timetables, not unrealistic goals are the issue. Give yourself challenging yet doable goals and timelines. Know the next goal you want to accomplish, even before you have fully started on the immediate goal; this creates perspective and context, making the current goal look much easier!

Measure your gradual success with monthly milestones and daily intentions. This helps subdivide your large goal into baby steps. If you want to write a novel, write a chapter this week and every week after that. To open your business, read a business magazine today. To create a loving family, give someone a hug today. To be salesperson of the year, make a phone call right now. Eliminate the consequences of nonperformance and just work on taking daily actions instead – get your juice from taking actions vs. comparing to the goal. Usually we start out very excited and enthusiastic about our new resolution then after a while they start to gather dust and lose their glamour.

Sticking with it and taking daily action is vital. How do you walk 100 miles? By putting one foot in front of the other, step by step. Or as an ancient Chinese saying “The longest journey starts with the first step.” Every evening before you go to bed record on the corner of your day planner a short description of your goal where you will see it all day long the next day. This also allows your subconscious mind to work on preparing the next day while you sleep.

If your goals are not worth a few minutes of your time, they aren’t worth pursuing. What is the one thing you could do every day that will help propel you towards your goal? It’s not the big spectacular events that get us where we need to be. It’s the little things we do everyday. Work toward your goals daily. Chip away at that block until you have what you want. Accountability and support systems What people, things and processes can provide you encouragement?

Good support systems include active participation like a buddy, partner, mentor, role model and coach. They also include passive tools such as tapes, books, videos, magazines, affirmations, journaling and checklists. There is no reason to recreate the wheel; identify time savers. Why spend countless hours creating a business plan from scratch when there are templates, samples and software to accelerate your progress. Once you’ve defined your goal and committed yourself to achieve it, start talking about it with people who unconditionally support and nourish you.

Tell 3-5 people your goals with your values. Sharing your goals with others helps you become more accountable. If you want to lose weight, don’t blame your spouse for buying ice cream if she doesn’t know your goal. Talking about your goals makes them real and powerful.

Be sure the people don’t have a hidden agenda but are supportive and positive. Many of my clients say that one advantage of working with me is that I hold their feet to the fire to stay on track and not slack off. Support systems give you the edge to stay on track and hold you accountable. Measure your success and stay on track, so that you can look back on the year with a great feeling of accomplishment.


Dr. Karl Ruegg is a Small Business Marketing Strategist and published Author. He can help any Small Business Owner find a minimum of $10,000 in additional revenue in 45 minutes and will do this all for free - guaranteed!

He offers a FREE Video titled "Everything You Know About Marketing Is WRONG!" and his Book is available in Book Stores, on Kindle and as Audio Book.

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