Studies I’ve read over the years show that people that set New Year’s goals don’t actually meet them. In fact, of the 41% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 9% were successful in keeping them.
Research can even predict which day you will quit your New Year’s goals. Strava documented over 800 million user-logged activities in 2019 and found that most people toss in the towel on January 19, which Strava succinctly dubs “Quitter’s Day.”
If you want to break the cycle of your own annual quitting ritual, do what the other 9 percent of successful goal-setters and goal-achievers do consistently well.
1. Set specific and challenging goals
Research found that when people followed these two principles — setting specific and challenging goals — it led to higher performance 90 percent of the time. The more specific and challenging your goals, the higher your motivation toward hitting them. That explains why easy or vague goals rarely get met. For example, if your goal this year is to lose 30 pounds, that may be challenging for you, but it may not be specific enough. You’ll want to eliminate vagueness and make it more achievable by articulating it like this: During the summer months of June, July, and August, I will lose five pounds each month by cutting off sugar and all fast food, and walking 45 minutes four times per week. When you have that much clarity around your goal, your chances of hitting the mark increase dramatically.
2. Set goals that you want to pursue with relentless drive and passion
The 8 percent of successful goal-setters want it, and badly. Check in with yourself before setting the goals and have an honest self-dialogue. Are you totally sold out for reaching your goal? When obstacles pop up along the way, will you do whatever it takes to keep going? The relentless 8 percent have an internal compass that keeps them locked in until they reach the top of the mountain. It’s having a mindset of “doing whatever it takes” that comes from an intrinsic drive at the core of their being. Questions to ask yourself: How badly do I want it? Who’s holding me accountable to the end? Is my heart truly in it from the start? What’s life going to look like once I complete the goal? In the end, will it be worth it?
3. Get a support system
We’re all bound to procrastinate or lose motivation, it’s human of us. To counter these unproductive behaviors, your chances of hitting a specific goal increase greatly if you’re getting frequent feedback that will keep you on track. Successful goal-achievers benefit tremendously from feedback and accountability from coaches, trainers, or trusted friends. They surround themselves with those who will support them on their journey.
4. Focus on smaller goals to hit your big goal
To hit a big goal this year, work on several smaller chunks to complete that one, big goal. Focus on knocking one small chunk down at a time, then move on to the next one. As you break the big goal down into smaller chunks, each of those chunks should have its own deadlines. For example, if your big goal is one that will take many months or the whole year to reach, take action now by setting realistic target dates to reach your objectives in the immediate future. In other words, find something you can do this week to begin taking some type of action now for next week or next month. If the overarching goal is to save money, make a budget this week for the following week. If it’s to lose weight, develop a plan to commit to losing two pounds the following week.
To bring it home, remember the words of Aristotle, who nailed it more than 2000 years ago when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” By practicing these skills, expect to dramatically improve your rate of finishing the year on target.