Right before the new year, a friend of mine posted a note on Facebook that New Year’s resolutions actually start the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the new year. It occurred to me that taking this approach might actually extend some resolutions into the year longer than they might last otherwise!

In fact, an Inc. article by Peter Economy from Jan 1 of this year indicates that research on resolutions shows that about 60% of us admit that we make New Year’s resolutions, but only about 8% of us are successful in achieving them. Only 8%!

How do you buck this discouraging trend? How do you make a resolution stick? Or, how do you set yourself up for the success of achieving goals in the new year and becoming part of that 8%? From our experience, there are three essential elements to setting and sticking to resolutions or goals:

  1. Your “Why”
    Why are you doing it? Why does it matter? Why is it important to you? Quite frankly, having a truly meaningful goal or resolution serves as a catalyst to draw out your intrinsic motivation and create the right mindset for achievement. If the change you are trying to make is significant and important enough to you, you will be more motivated to follow it through and you will manage your efforts more intentionally. When you are clear about why you are pursuing something and the outcome you’re trying to achieve, you will have a sturdier foundation upon which to build your success. Start by choosing things that you value enough to create focus, make the right effort and keep working toward.
  2. Your Strengths
    How will you tap into your natural talents and strengths to help you achieve the goal? When we work with professionals in strengths-based development, this is a question we discuss frequently. What’s interesting is that a lot of people don’t always think about their strengths when it comes to resolutions or goals. When you are setting goals, you are more likely to succeed if you can bring an innate talent to bear – the way you already naturally think, feel, or behave.   For example, if you have a CliftonStrengths® theme of Strategic, Futuristic, Maximizer, or Woo, etc., how can you “aim” that strength toward your goal? If you haven’t done CliftonStrengths®, think about areas in your life where you have experienced successful performance and what personal strengths contributed to that success. Then, consider how those could be applied to your current resolutions or goals. Wharton professor Stuart Friedman calls this concept “Talent Transfer”. The bottom line is, be sure you purposefully reflect on, incorporate, and apply your talents and strengths toward achieving your goals.
  3. Your Positive Performance Experiences
    How will you keep going? How do you maintain momentum? As professionals, we are motivated by positive performance experiences. Thus, when we set resolutions or goals, we need to think not only about the plan (e.g., the action steps, timing, resources, accountability, positive reinforcement partner, etc.) but also about how we will measure our progress and assess our own personal success. How can you “chunk down” the steps of the goal to feel a regular sense of achievement? For example, if you want to start meditating, perhaps your measures include increasing the length of the sessions (10 mins, then 15 mins, etc.), the frequency of the sessions (daily, 3x a week, 5x a week, etc.), your consistency (completing one week, then one month, then three months, etc.). Regardless of what you choose, be sure you set interim milestones to be able to experience small wins along the way, not just at the end.  These positive performance experiences promote momentum and help you build toward success.

As we embark on a new year, opportunities for continuous improvement and growth abound. Think about what you want to change (i.e., doing something new, dropping a habit, achieving a specific milestone, etc.) and be intentional in defining what it is you want to achieve. Be sure it is something that matters to you, that you apply your talents and strengths, and that you set yourself up for positive performance experiences. If you do these three things, you will be much more likely to join the 8%!