People make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, but many give up before the end of January.
How many, exactly? Well, that depends on which research you consult. One study from 2002 showed that 46 percent of people keep resolutions for at least six months, and 8 percent for the entire year. On the other hand, some experts claim that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail after six weeks.
If you have made work-related New Year’s resolutions, you may feel like the stakes are pretty high. But even the promise of greater productivity or a chance at promotion might not keep you on track. If you’re hanging on to your resolutions by a thread — or looking to recommit to promises that have already faded — it may help to understand why resolutions are so hard to keep in the first place.
Goals vs. Resolutions
Writing at Wavelength, Jessie Wood suggests that goals and resolutions are not the same thing.
Wood writes: “Goals are things like, ‘increase sales revenue 30%’ in the next year, or ‘hire 25 more people’ by the end of the quarter.” A resolution, on the other hand, is “more qualitative than quantitative,” e.g. “support work/life balance for the team.”
When you break down your resolution into steps, it’s important to be specific. For example, instead of resolving to leave on time more often, you might resolve to leave on time three days out of five, or leave on time every Friday to spend time with family. Specificity helps you maintain focus and increases chances of success.
In addition to creating goals that are too generalized, another reason people fail is that their resolutions were too large or too numerous. It’s easy to feel invigorated while making resolutions, but a few weeks into it, you might feel overwhelmed by all the new behaviors you expect of yourself. It’s too much to do at once.
Let’s go back to our “leave on time” example from above. “Leave on time on Friday to spend time with family” is one small change in work/life balance that can make a big difference. And, because it’s one small resolution, you give yourself a fair shake at succeeding.
Make a contract with yourself that you will leave and spend time with family on Friday night. Stay later on Thursday if necessary to make it happen.
Don’t be a Perfectionist
Okay, so you couldn’t leave early one Friday because your boss called a meeting. It happens. This is when anxiety and perfectionism take their toll, and one missed Friday equals complete and total failure. Except that it doesn’t.
Perfectionists feel that if anything goes wrong, they have failed. And that failure creates a sense of shame. And that shame makes them want to give up on that goal or resolution, because it is painful and embarrassing to deal with.
Don’t let setbacks get you down. Learn to accept a setback as a part of life, and look forward to next week when you will leave on time on Friday to spend time with family.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you managed to keep your resolutions so far? We want to hear from you. Tell us how you did it in the comments or come talk to us on Twitter.