Why we make New Year’s Resolutions

new year's resolutionsEveryone loves a clean slate. It’s nice to know that however badly the previous year has gone, you can start fresh when Jan 1 rolls around. In the business world, goal-setting is an important part of starting a new year so that as time goes by, you can gauge your success. But New Year’s resolutions are so much more than identifying goals. Setting resolutions are about acknowledging your imperfections and moving forward to become the best you.

Writer Laurie Dove says that “New Year’s resolutions are all about hopefulness. And it’s always been that way.” She explains that even as far back as 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians made promises to the gods in hopes for good fortunes in the coming year. And the tradition has stuck.

Today, many people’s resolutions center on just a few topics that we feel determine our greatest happiness: health, money and family. The top five resolutions in 2015, according to Nielson were:

Stay fit and healthy 37%
Lose weight 32%
Enjoy life to the fullest 28%
Spend less, save more 25%
Spend more time with family and friends 19%

So with such an important process, why do so many resolutions fail? Part of the problem is people set resolutions without actively engaging in the goal setting process. They simply name something that might be nice to achieve without putting together a plan for making it happen.

Back to the business world, we consider good goals ones that meet the SMART criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Think about New Year’s resolutions you’ve set before. Have you ever thought about measuring your progress? Probably not. And that’s just one reason resolutions don’t stick.

Another is because people don’t see them in terms of setting new habits. And guess what? Habits take time to form. Most people consider a habit formed after 21 days of practicing. That means until it comes naturally, you need to be mindful about doing it each day.

So if you’re interested in setting some serious goals this year, consider following these steps.

  • Write it down and share it with others to keep yourself accountable.
  • Make small changes in your behavior and reward yourself when you achieve them.
  • Use SMART goals and track your progress toward your goals.
  • Remember that everyone has setbacks, so don’t let them stop you from continuing.

Sources: Porter Hills, How Stuff Works, Nielson, Houston Chronicle

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