Do you have the resolve for your resolution?

Have you ever noticed how New Years is the day most people set some pretty awesome goals? Of course you have… In fact, I’m sure everyone reading this has had some zingers in the past. One of my personal favorites was to get six pack abs… That lasted about 3 weeks… Then my resolution slowly faded to a list of excuses and proof to myself that I didn’t have the resolve to attain that goal. 
I don’t know if I will ever attain that goal in my life, but I don’t feel so bad about my lack of follow through on that particular once important goal since that year I fit into the rest of the 92% of Americans who failed to achieve their resolution goal. You read that right… Studies suggest year after year that only about 8% of people who set these new year’s goals actually achieve them. 
Most goals have a little more purpose to them than my abs goal, including the number one every year, you guessed it, “lose weight” followed by getting organized and spending more time with family and saving money, so why is it that people fail to achieve these goals? 
The answer is certainly complicated and varies from person, but generally speaking we all have three common things that are reasons we fail.

-They are unspecific

I’m going to not spend money on frivolous things” or “I’m going to save more money” the problem with these statements is that they lack specificity that is needed in order to follow through on them. When someone says to me as part of,their budgeting that they are going to not spend money on things they don’t need. I ask “how do you define the things you need?” One person’s definition of frivolous is certainly different than another’s. I say that from experience being a pretty frugal person, seeing people almost daily spend money on things I see as frivolous. At one point I calculated that I spent about $1,500 at Dunkin’ Donuts. Thats just a coffee and breakfast sandwich or bagel 5 days a week… It adds up. It wasn’t a new year’s resolution that saved me that money the following years, but a generic goal to, save money and eat healthier that led me to specify this area of spending and eating in my life as something I could do something about, and I did. 
-They are unrealistic
I am going to run 6 days a week” Really? It sure would be great if you did, but in working two jobs and going to school full time, and the fact you ran three times all summer last year… You may want to rethink that one. Part of our problem in goal setting is that we think in idealism and not realism. We all know ourselves pretty good when we take the time to think about it. Ask yourself “I know I have a lot of motivation right now to do this, and I want to have the follow through, but is 6 days a week of an activity I don’t enjoy that much really something I will still be doing in 9 months?” A more realistic goal of 2 days a week is probably better suited… Reaching too far and not attaining your goal will only serve to demoralize you, and cause guilt. Pick something you can actually achieve… Don’t be a 92 percenter because you didn’t take the time to know yourself and what you are capable of.
-Even though our willpower has faded in the past we trust it will see us through again
You can’t ride your goal into the next year with sheer willpower. Just because you want to achieve something, doesn’t mean you have what it takes to achieve it. We all wish it worked that way… it just doesn’t. Put some of your energy into proven systems that work with achieving that goal. Is your resolution to quit smoking? How many times have you tried that and failed it? 5?… 10?… Don’t even remember? Did you try reading a few things on the internet and do it your way? Did you feel the willpower wearing thin and then failure seeped in? Have you gone to a smoking cessation class before? How about a nicotine patch? Maybe your resolution isn’t quitting smoking per se, but to “try” one of those things.
– Why New Year’s?
I agree that it is helpful to have something that prompts you to make a change, but why wait until New Year’s? If you had a moment where your favorite pair of jeans didn’t fit when you went to put them on, why didn’t you make the change then to go to the gym more? When you had a moment of panic when you realized you had overdrawn your checking account with a debit card purchase on a pair of shoes that you really didn’t need, why didn’t you sit down and make a budget and a plan to save money? When you saw a Facebook post from a friend on vacation in some awesome place and wished you were there, why didn’t you sit down and plan a trip and the way to pay for it right then? 
We all have moments of realization every day that we should be doing something different, or could be doing more, or shouldn’t be doing something… Why wait until a pretty ball drops in times square to make a blanket statement and some over zealous action to move towards that end? 
Do it…  do it now… do it with conviction, do it intelligently, do it with help where it is needed, do it because it is hard, do it because it is time to take that part of your life into your own hands, but most importantly, do it for yourself, not because a magazine subjectively says you are too fat, or a book says you are too poor, or because someone else says you are disorganized, but because you want to be healthier, more financially secure, or more organized… That is the only way you will see it through.
As I write this, 3 days before new years, I have run 184 miles in training towards my goal of running a marathon in 2016… I started in October after a good conversation around a campfire… For whatever reason, it clicked in my head that day, that I was going to run a marathon as soon as I was trained for it. Had I waited until 1/1/2016 I would have been 200 miles behind… In 2016 I resolve to make resolutions as they come to me, and wait on no one and nothing to start achieving them.
Rory K. McLaughlin, CEO
Happy New Year from the Northwood’s team!
For more information on setting SMART goals check out our blog on that topic.